ⓘ The Best of Enemies (1961 film)


ⓘ The Best of Enemies (1961 film)

The Best of Enemies is a 1961 Italian film directed by Guy Hamilton and Alessandro Blasetti set during the World War II East African Campaign, but filmed in Israel. It stars David Niven, Alberto Sordi and Michael Wilding. It was nominated for three Golden Globe awards in 1963.


1. Plot

In 1941 "Abissinia" Ethiopia in Italian East Africa during the Second World War, British Army Major Richardson Niven is taken prisoner by an Italian detachment on the march in the desert when the pilot Wilding of his reconnaissance airplane manages to crash. He is questioned by Captain Blasi Sordi, but gives only his name, rank and serial number. A British night attack is repulsed, but Italian Major Fornari is killed, leaving Blasi in charge. As time goes on, Blasi and Richardson come to irritate each other.

Blasi decides to let the two escape to tell their superiors how ineffectual his force actually is in the hope that the British will not think them worth bothering about. However, Richardson is ordered to take his motorized squadron and round up Blasis unit. Blasi and his men reach a fort, where supposedly the rest of their forces are rallying, but they find only abandoned equipment. Minutes later, Richardsons armored cars show up. Blasi, under the prodding of his friend Bernasconi, reluctantly agrees to surrender, though he is angry at what he considers his betrayal at Richardsons hands. He balks at Richardsons terms and has his Italian infantrymen sneak out the back, ordering most of his African soldiers to remain behind and surrender in an hour given as a deadline.

Furious at being made a fool of, Richardson chases them into hilly terrain, against Captain Rootes advice. After Blasi dismisses four African tribal warriors for misbehaving, they sneak behind the British and set a fire in the forest which destroys their armored cars and supplies. Both sides flee to an island in a nearby lake.

After the fire dies down, they start marching across the desert, the outnumbered Italians as prisoners of war. When they reach a native village, the headman states he supports the Allied side and asks for the Italians weapons and the Italians themselves, but Richardson refuses to part with either. They stop in an abandoned village because a British officer is too sick to be moved, only to find themselves surrounded by many hostile natives, led by the headman Richardson dealt with before. While they wait, Richardson and Blasi become acquainted. Richardson makes the decision to arm the Italians, but then discovers they left the Italian ammunition behind. He decides to have everyone sneak away, six at a time, down a gully, but that just makes it easier for the natives to capture them. After their weapons and boots are stolen, they are allowed to leave and take their war away with them.

They reach a road. Blasi is delighted to find a road sign that indicates they are 150 miles behind Italian lines. He and his men march away. Shortly afterward, however, Richardson encounters a British convoy on its way to a victory celebration; the Italians have been defeated. Blasi and his men are recaptured. The two units meet again at a railway station. Richardson has his men present arms to show his new-found respect.


2. Cast

  • Michael Wilding as Burke
  • Noel Harrison as Lieutenant Hilary
  • Michael Trubshawe as Colonel Brownhow
  • Alessandro Ninchi as Second Lieutenant Del Pra
  • Duncan Macrae as Sergeant Trevethan
  • Giuseppe Fazio as Sergeant Spadoni
  • David Opatoshu as Bernasconi
  • Alberto Sordi as Captain Blasi
  • David Niven as Major Richardson
  • Ignazio Dolce as Sentinel
  • Harry Andrews as Captain Rootes
  • Tiberio Mitri as Private Moccia
  • Ronald Fraser as Perfect
  • Robert Desmond as Private Singer
  • Noel Harrison as Lt. Hilary
  • Amedeo Nazzari as Major Fornari
  • Pietro Marascalchi as Corporal Bortolini
  • Kenneth Fortescue as Lieutenant Dicky Thomlinson
  • Bruno Cattaneo as Private Mattone
  • Bernard Cribbins as a soldier
  • Aldo Giuffre as Sergeant Todini

3. Release

The Best of Enemies was distributed theatrically in Italy by De Laurentiis on 26 October 1961. It grossed a total of lire domestically. It was released in the United States on 6 August 1962.

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