This World War II melodrama – approached from the distaff side – is set in Nazi-menaced Yugoslavia during 1943 and concerns five Yugoslav women who are punished by partisans for consorting with a German. They subsequently join the guerrillas but still allow their hearts to rule their heads.
ln 1943, five Yugoslav girls – Jovanka (Silvana Mangano), Daniza (Vera Miles), Marja (Barbara Bel Geddes), Ljuba (Jeanne Moreau) and Mira (Carla Gravina) – have their hair shorn by partisans for fraternising with Sergeant Keller (Steve Forrest), a member of the Nazi occupying forces.
They take to the hills and join Velko (Van Heflin), a fanatical partisan group leader, and his men – Branko (Harry Guardino), Svenko (Alex Nicol), Milko (Tiberio Mitri) and Milan (Sidney Clute).
Ljuba captures Reinhardt (Richard Basehart), a German captain, but – despite Velko’s warning that their work requires a strict moral code – Branco is attracted by Daniza. Ljuba falls for Reinhardt, and Mira discovers she is going to have Keller’s child.
Later, Branco seduces Daniza while they are on guard duty together, thus permitting a German patrol to infiltrate the encampment. The Nazis are killed, but a partisan court-martial sentences the lovers to death.
There are further shenanigans, but the partisans carry on their war against the Germans, and finally, Jovanka and Velko find romance.
The staging – like the characterisation and the dialogue – is sharp, and the combat sequences are realistic, but oh, for an occasional laugh.
Barbara Bel Geddes
Captain Eric Reinhardt
Sgt. Paul Keller
Il comandante dei partigiani
Il partigiano della seconda brigata
Il secondo jugoslavo coi tedeschi
La madre di Jovanka
Il generale Jaeger
Il colonnello von Elm
Il fratello di Ljuba
Giacomo Rossi Stuart
La guardia forestale