‚??Autopsy‚?? director Armando Crispino‚??s historically inaccurate but wholly entertaining World War II behind-enemy-lines, secret-mission thriller COMMANDORS, with Lee Van Cleef and Jack Kelly, qualifies as a rugged, gritty, suspenseful combat epic. This cynical melodrama about a group of Italian-Americans masquerading as Royal Italian soldiers so they can capture an oasis on the eve of the North African campaign in early 1942 removes any traces of glamour about war. Crispino and fellow scenarists Lucio Battistrada of CRIME BOSS, Stefano Strucchi, and Dario Argento of SUSPIRIA drew their screenplay from a short story by Israel filmmaker Menahem Golan as well as a story by Don Martin of THE STORM RIDER and Teutonic producer Arthur Brauner of DR. MABUSE VERSUS SCOTLAND YARD. Mind you, the authenticity of the action doesn‚??t bear close scrutiny. Most military enthusiasts will recognize them immediately. For example, the Afrika Korps tanks are not the genuine vehicles. Instead, they are repainted U.S. Army Chaffee and Walker Bulldog tanks with German insignia and the M3A1 submachine guns that the Americans tote weren‚??t available for another year. Nevertheless, allowances must be made and overlooked since the German tanks were kaput while THE DIRTY DOZEN machine guns look cool. The themes of COMMANDOS include the inhumanity of war, experienced versus inexperienced officers in combat, fear on the battlefield, and the responsibility that an officer has both to his men and the mission. The irony is that the Germans and the Italians are depicted with greater sympathy than the tough guy Americans. Other instances of irony occur that heighten the philosophical posture of the film.
The bulk of the drama takes place between the Lee Van Cleef character and his commanding officer played by former MAVERICK star Jack Kelly who is an officer whose mettle has never been tested in combat.