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The Pigeon That Took Rome
Comedy, Favorite

1962 | 16:9 WIDESCREEN | BLACK & WHITE | Quality: Excellent

Charlton Heston

Elsa Martinelli



In WWII Italy, two soldiers (Charlton Heston and Harry Guardino) are sent on a secret mission in Nazi-occupied Rome. However, the organized resistance they are told to make contact with is a bit disappointing - it's just a smattering of inept souls who are barely keeping their own lives together, much less a resistance cell! So, the two soldiers must shack up with a dysfunctional family while doing reconnaissance on the German forces, and sending messages back to headquarters with homing pigeons. Things get even more fouled up when the U.S. pigeons are replaced with German pigeons (I won't give away how because it's truly hilarious) which causes Heston's sarcastic and humorously-written reports to go straight to German HQ, where they are taken literally and lead to some rather hilarious confusion and reactions - and inadvertently help to shape the course of events in the battle to liberate Rome.

While the above setup may sound more perilous than funny, the film is very much a tongue in cheek comedy. Filmed on location in Rome with some rather stunning imagery of classic sculpture and architecture, The Pigeon that Took Rome succeeds as comedy in spite of Heston's lack of experience in the genre. This is a smartly-written picture, with some very good dialog, MANY funny complications, and of course some romance. The script strikes a good balance between tense situations, touching scenes, and lots of humor - humor being a new element to WW2 films beginning in the 60s and 70s once memories of this god-awful war began to soften. Though this film received a lot of attention and awards when it was released, now it seems to be under-appreciated and not well known. Heston does a great job as the straight-man: the serious soldier on an off-beat mission surrounded by bumbling fools who try to help him but instead cause him no end of headaches. Ilsa Martinelli (far from plains of Africa) works as the fiery Italian love interest, and Gabriella Pallotta as her big-chested sister is certainly easy to look at. Harry Guardino is here in yet another GI role, and poor Barry Fitzgerald typecast as an Irish priest who drinks too much. Good character actors and some great bits by Randolph Anders as Werhmacht Oberst round out this solid comedy!

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