Partizani / Hell River
Rod Taylor plays Marko in this Yugoslavian action film about partisans
(Partizani) who battle Nazi invaders in a series of bloody confrontations
that culminate in the Battle at Hell River. (The U.S. video title of this
film is "Hell River.")
The movie, which bills itself as a true story, is set in 1941. The history
behind the events in the film reveal that it's a story worth telling: In
April 1941, Yugoslavia was overwhelmed by the German blitz, and the army
surrendered. But the Yugoslavian partisans -- a formidable guerilla force
-- fought on. Hitler's rage against the partisans resulted in Operation
Punishment, a brutal campaign that targeted Yugoslav civilians. However,
the German army took plenty of punishment in return, from the partisans.
Unfortunately, the film doesn't tell the story all that well, but it
does give a sense of the overwhelming odds the partisans faced. Explosions,
guns and tanks abound amid bleak conditions.
The character that Taylor plays is a Yugoslav-born, U.S.-educated man
who graduates from the University of California and returns to his homeland
only to learn of the horrors being perpetrated by a man named Hitler. So,
at age 44, Taylor is playing a character who's about half that age.
Another interesting casting note is Adam West -- "Batman" --
as a German soldier (from Austria) who vies with Marko for the affections
of the lovely Anna (Xenia Gratsos).
The film had a $2 million budget and a cast of more than 10,000, according to
a Los Angeles Times article on Dec. 10, 1973.