I love the way Oliver Reed can go from the pure brute force anger filled badboy roles to lighthearted comedic sweet roles, Hannibal Brooks is by far the latter. Ollie plays reluctant soldier, Stephen ‘Hannibal’ Brooks, a captured prisoner of war, imprisoned at the Stalag VII-A camp near Munich. Brooks gets the chance to help out at the local zoo, feeding and shuffling poo, giant poo at that. The bringer of said big poo is Lucy the Elephant (Aida). Brooks is shocked by the sight of Lucy but it’s not long before the two become great friends. Lucy quickly warms to Brook’s sweet, calming nature and obeys every word he says. It’s not long before these two friends will be spending a lot of quality time together.
With allied bombing raids raining down across Germany, a few devastating bombs hit the Zoo, pushing the need to evacuate all the animals to Austria. Just before Lucy is to be packed on a train a moody SS Colonel Von Haller (Wolfgang Preiss) commandeers the train. Leaving Brooks and Lucy to endeavor a dodgy road trip across the mountain ranges to the safe haven of Austria. They are not alone in their mission, being escorted by hard nosed, pissed up German soldier Kurt (Peter Carsten) a benevolent Austrian soldier Willi (Helmuth Lohner) and a sweet Polish girl called Vronia (Karin Baal). Now the arduous journey can begin.
There is another character to add to the mix, an annoying and cheeky American soldier with nothing but escape on his mind. What Packy (Michael J. Pollard) might lack in size he certainly makes up with in pure brazen determination and luck. With a habit of turning up all over the place with comedic timing, he starts to gather a little army of resistance fighters hell bent on sabotage against the Nazi war machine.
Can Hannibal Brooks and his lady friend Lucy get to freedom before the Nazi’s catch up with them? Could the lure of neutral Switzerland make a better destination path? It’s well worth looking out for this little movie if you haven’t seen it. With landscapes and sceneries looking like perfect postcard pictures of beauty, it makes the perfect weekend matinee film. Light hearted in nature but you still get a sense of foreboding dread of a war movie. Directed by Michael Winner so he still seems to find time to imply there could be a little rape in there somewhere! Not involving the elephant you will be pleased to know!
Whereas Ollies keeps it all smiles and caring heart on the screen, we all know he’s a force of nature when it’s time to unwind. Reading some of the tales on set, it sounded like his boisterous manner must of completely terrorised the locals! And what with Michael J Pollard getting on the sauce and Michael Winner’s bad temper, it could of been only a horrifying time for the local residences. I bet they still sit around the table to this day, sipping schnapps and eating strudel reminiscing that fateful few months of filming. You can read a few of the on set stories here on IMDB Trivia.
I had vague memories of seeing this as a young boy sometime in the 70’s but didn’t have a clue what it was apart from a war film with an elephant. It was a real pleasure to have stumbled upon it and what joy it was watching Oliver Reed in such a sweet role. But wait on watching this I recalled another Ollie I couldn’t remember, a film involving the crown jewels. Low and behold it’s another Winner film called The Jokers. The wonder of films and their connections. Can’t wait to watch that this weekend.
As always have fun at the movies. Thanks for popping on by the wolf den and if you wanna, say hello below. Keep watching the screens…. Mikey