The Great War


1h 58m 1961

Brief Synopsis

Two reluctant Italian army draftees try to avoid going to the battle front during World War II. When they are sent into town for supplies they scam a way to spend the night partying and falling in love. The next morning, they wake up to find that their whole battalion has been killed. It changes t

Film Details

Also Known As
La grande guerra, La grande guerre
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
New York opening: 30 Aug 1961
Production Company
Dino De Laurentiis Cinematografica S.p.A.; Gray Films
Distribution Company
Lopert Pictures
Country
France

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 58m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

In Italy shortly after the outbreak of World War I, Giovanni Busacca is ordered to enlist in the army in exchange for amnesty from certain criminal charges. At the enlistment center he bribes Oreste Jacovacci to obtain a deferment, but Oreste does nothing to help him. Later, the two men are sent to the front on the same troop train and forget their differences as they pool their wits to avoid arduous tasks. On the eve of a battle, the company goes AWOL, and Giovanni spends the night with a prostitute, Constantina, who steals his wallet. The next day he is forced to fight in a bloody battle that results in the capture of some Austrian installations. Sent with Oreste to obtain supplies in town, Giovanni with difficulty wrests his wallet from Constantina but realizes that he loves her. Rather than participate in the battle that is raging at their camp, the two friends admit their cowardice and spend the night in town. In the morning they find that their company has been decimated, but the townspeople, thinking that they are among the survivors, welcome them with an incongruous patriotic display. Giovanni and Oreste decide to desert rather than face more enemy gunfire, but a meeting with the wife of a comrade who has been killed in battle so moves them that they rejoin their outfit. They are sent on a special mission to deliver a message to another installation but are captured by the Austrians, who demand information about an emergency pontoon bridge the Italians are building to bring in relief troops. Giovanni, who knows where the bridge is, refuses to betray his comrades and is shot. Oreste, who does not have the information, also is killed in spite of a hysterical effort to save himself. The major, remarking on the absence of the two rascals from the next battle, assumes that they have once more managed to goldbrick their way out of combat. [Sources disagree on the precise ending of the film. According to some sources, both friends are shot when they refuse to betray their comrades.]

Film Details

Also Known As
La grande guerra, La grande guerre
Release Date
Jan 1961
Premiere Information
New York opening: 30 Aug 1961
Production Company
Dino De Laurentiis Cinematografica S.p.A.; Gray Films
Distribution Company
Lopert Pictures
Country
France

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 58m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Foreign Language Film

1959

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

Opened in Rome in October 1959 as La grande guerra; running time: ca135 min; in Paris in May 1960 as La grande guerre; running time: 128 min. Venice Film Festival running time: 140 min.

Miscellaneous Notes

Co-Winner of the Golden Lion for Best Picture and Winner of the Best Director Prize at the 1959 Venice Film Festival.

Released in United States 1961

Released in United States September 8, 1959

Shown at the Venice Film Festival September 8, 1959.

CinemaScope

Released in United States 1961

Released in United States September 8, 1959 (Shown at the Venice Film Festival September 8, 1959.)