Widely ignored upon its release in 1970, Hornets’ Nest is set during World War II. Reanoto, Italy, 1944. After residents refused to give up the location of Resistance partisans, the Nazi’s open fire, massacring the entire village. Weeks later, American commando Turner (Rock Hudson), and his team are parachuted into Italy to blow up a strategic dam. Turner’s team is ambushed and he’s the only survivor. “Rescued” by a group of Italian orphans led by a boy named Aldo (Mark Colleano), they patch Turner up so he can teach them how to shoot their cache of stolen machine guns. However, Turner badly injured and needs more medical attention than they can offer. As a result, the boys lure German doctor Bianca (Sylva Koscina) to their hideout and force her to treat him.
For Turner it comes down to this: help the boys avenge their parent’s deaths and then they’ll help him blow up the dam. While Turner and the boys reluctantly agree to work together, their disagreements result in frequent shouting matches. Turner also knows they must dodge German Army Captain Von Hecht’s (Sergio Fantoni) determined efforts to track them down. Meanwhile, Bianca, a Nazi supporter, tries escaping by attacking Turner with a pair of shears; he responds by raping her. Oddly, this seems to warm her to the enemy cause. When the others slaughter numerous Germans in a surprise attack, she joins in.
Given the ongoing war in Vietnam, it’s not surprising that most critics attacked Hornets’ Nest for its depiction of children in war and the two incidents of sexual assault. More than forty years later, those aspects of the film are still hard to take, but raise some interesting questions about morality and the heat of battle. Director Phil Karlson (Kansas City Confidential, Walking Tall) provides some excellent action scenes and just two years earlier Rock Hudson had one of his biggest box office hits with Ice Station Zebra. Given all of that, the success of Hornets’ Nest likely seemed inevitable. However, audience indifference was likely rooted in some of things critics pointed out. Viewers expected Rock Hudson’s character to be not only a hero, but a moral man. To have him playing a character that would rape a woman, was, if nothing else, extremely uncomfortable,
In the end, Hornets’ Nest is a disturbing World War II actioner where there really are no absolute heroes and no real winners. In war, everyone pays a price.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer from Kino Lorber doesn’t look like it was made today, but has no major issues to interfere with the viewing experience. Colors tend to look slightly faded throughout, though greens remain particularly vibrant. Skintones appear natural. Detail is above average, particularly in close-ups. Locations appear expansive and blacks look solid. The image does have some minor scratches and specks, but considering the film’s age, this is a fine transfer.
The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix isn’t anything special, but it does the job. Dialogue is clear, if straightforward, show little range when voices are raised. The score is clear and presented in a workmanlike manner. Atmospherics are acceptable, capturing the sounds of war in a more limited way than surrounds would obviously offer.
English subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:39)