Wow. What a wacky mix of a movie. WWII film, but quite different from the standard WWII fare.
Minor spoilers follow.
Oliver Reed stars as Brooks, a British POW who ends up working with Lucy the elephant at the Munich zoo. The zoo wants to move her for safety to Austria, and Brooks, two German guards, and a Polish cook set out to walk her there. Of course, things happen, Brooks ends up on the run for Switzerland and freedom -- with the elephant. Throw in Michael J. Pollard as a crazy escaped American POW and... it's an off-beat, but rather delightful movie.
Of course, as a huge Oliver Reed fan, watching him and an elephant having adventures through a beautiful countryside just makes me grin. Brooks can't abandon the elephant, and I love that, because I couldn't have left her behind either. I liked his character a lot, as he tries to stay out of the war, but inevitably gets drawn in to the conflicts around him. He looks great too. (Also, opera alert: he sings the melody to La Donna è Mobile in one part, and that totally made me laugh.)
This movie is a mix of quiet times, fun times, and then serious war times. Sometimes, you forget there's even a war on, as they lead the elephant through different villages and smiling people come to see her and get rides. Then there's explosions and gunfights and chases and a break-in/rescue. There's also a very impressive train derailment. And let's just say having an elephant around in war isn't a bad idea. Also... ye gods! The cable car scene! That guy's really up there and it sure as hell looks like there's no safety ropes involved. This movie was a year after Where Eagles Dare came out... I guess climbing on top of cable cars was still in vogue!
This movie has very cool characters. Quite love Willi (played by Helmut Lohner), who ends up helping Brooks and heading for Switzerland as well. He's sweet and nice and doesn't want to be in the war and reminds me quite a bit of Hans, from a Combat! episode, "Barrage." And then there's Wolfgang Preiss as an SS Colonel who is chasing Brooks and Lucy, but then decides it might be time to get out of Germany himself. Maybe. I know Mr. Preiss best from Von Ryan's Express, but he pops up all over the place in older war movies. There's some side characters who help Brooks along the way, characters who could easily turn him in, but they don't. They help him and Lucy, and that's a beautiful thing too. Also, James Donald gets a small part in the POW camp. Reminded me a wee bit of his character in The Great Escape.
And then there's Michael J. Pollard's character, Packy (whose name cracked me up because I kept thinking Pachyderm every time I heard it. Can't be a coincidence in a movie about an elephant, can it?). At first I just wanted to smack him, cuz he kept trying to drag Brooks into his escape attempts (and he keeps calling him Brooksie, which also makes me want to smack him). Then their paths keep crossing, and even while he's trying to escape to Switzerland himself, he and his Resistance fighters keep fighting Germans where they can... and I ended up liking him by the end of the movie. He doesn't give up, he keeps fighting. Gotta respect that. But he's also quite loony. The part where his bomb doesn't go off, and he just shrugs was particularly funny. He's mad, but heroic... it's so very odd.
And there is absolutely gorgeous scenery. This movie would have been worth it for the scenery alone. Filmed on location and it is beautiful.
This movie also has the most unequivocal ending of all time.
And yes, that little black dot is a bouncing ball as a chorus sings those words. Seriously. It came out of the blue, because the rest of the movie was not corny. But then there's this. Wacky!