Screen: A War Mission:Rock Hudson Starred in 'Hornet's Nest'

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Phil Karlson's "Hornet's Nest," which opened yesterday at the Victoria and neighborhood theaters, pits Rock Hudson along with 15 young boys against a significant portion of the Nazi forces occupying Italy in 1944. Rock Hudson wins, and thereby saves not only himself and the boys but also Sylva Koscina, a German army doctor who proves her goodness by shooting fellow Germans when the chips are down, and Sergio Fantoni, a German captain who proves his goodness by a) hating the SS, b) admiring Rock Hudsons military genius and c) evidencing a kind of sly fondness for the boys, who are rapidly cutting his troops to ribbons.The importance of Hudson's mission (he has been parachuted behind the German lines in order to blow up a dam) is never really made opaque, let alone clear. And this is merely one of so many faults on almost every level you can imagine, that I could understand anybody's temptation to dismiss "Hornet's Nest" as a bad movie that does not even satisfy its own fairly modest ambitions.A bad movie, perhaps, but interesting enough in its characters (though always faintly ridiculous in its actions) and with a sufficiently complex performance from Rock Hudson to merit attention and some respect.Although Miss Koscina trails along for, I guess, sexual as well as medical purposes, and although Hudson has at her in one very perfunctory rape, the real interest in "Hornets' Nest" has to do with the antagonism, acceptance and, ultimately, love that passes between Hudson and the boys — especially their leader, Mark Colleano.The Phil Karlson movies I most admire—out of a long and active career these include "The Phenix City Story" (1954), "The Brothers Rico" (1957), "Hell to Eternity" (1960)—are strong in their understanding of male relationships that in some cases are also family relationships.If "Hornets" Nest' is about anything, it is about such relationships—in effect, about the difficult and uneasy bringing together of a father and a son. And on this level, as opposed to all other levels, the film is alive and responsive to the emotional potential of its dramatic progress.Christmas is coming, at least at the neighborhood showcases, some of which unveiled "Horror House" yesterday. This atrocious hack-'em-up bundle from Britain involves a group of young Carnaby Street parasites in the mysterious butchery of a haunted mansion outside London. The young swingers actually get outswung by a glistening butcher knife."Teddibly noisy in hyah," murmurs one of them, shortly before getting a seasonal carving.Customers at the New Amsterdam on West 42d Street weren't spared after The End. In a pell-mell rush came three successive previews of coming attractions, retaining the spirit. First we saw a sailor quartering crewmen with an axe. Next was a peek at a goody about the transplanting of living human heads.In the third tantalizer, mother was a vampire, bidding her son farewell with a tender chomp on the neck. Deck the halls and run.

The CastHORNETS' NEST, directed by Phil Karlson; screenplay by S. S. Schweitzer, based on a story by Mr. Schweitzer and Stanley Colbert; cinematographer, Gabor Pogani; music by Ennio Morricone; produced by Stanley S. Canter; released by United Artists Corporation. At the Victoria Theater, Broadway and 46th street, the 86th Street East Theater at Third Avenue and neighborhood theaters. Running time: 110 minutes. (The Motion Picture Association of America's Production Code and Rating Administration classifies this film: "GP—all ages admitted, parental guidance suggested.")
Captain Turner . . . . . Rock Hudson
Bianca . . . . . Sylva Koscina
Von Hecht . . . . . Sergio Fantoni
Major Taussig . . . . . Jacques Sernas
Aldo . . . . . Mark Colleano
Dino . . . . . John Fordyce
Carlo . . . . . Mauro Gravina
Tekko . . . . . Daniel Keller
Giorgio . . . . . Daniel Dempsey
Franco . . . . . Joseph Cassuto

A version of this article appears in print on Dec. 10, 1970 of the National edition with the headline: Screen: A War Mission:Rock Hudson Starred in 'Hornet's Nest'. Order Reprints Limit the Use of My Sensitive Information