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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Wheels of Terror
Wheels of Terror
Scorpion Releasing // R // January 6, 2015
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted October 16, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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Wheels Of Terror (AKA: The Misfit Brigade):
I'm not entirely sure who was clamoring in 1987 for a World War Two comedy about Nazi Germany's 27th Panzer tank division, but here you go. I'm sure author Sven Hassel's novel 'Wheels Of Terror' is quite good, otherwise it wouldn't have gotten made into this movie more commonly known as The Misfit Brigade, but for the record, there is no terror in Wheels Of Terror and those wheels should more accurately be called tank tracks anyway (unless you consider the wheels of terror put into motion to bring this wartime misfire to your screen).

Wheels opens with a shaggy dog (or cat) story of our lovable Panzer misfits (purportedly ex-prisoners, and all of them iconoclastic to a fault) rescuing a woman's baby from a war-torn, collapsing building. From such lofty beginnings, we're treated to 100 minutes of episodic foofaraw, including awkward introductions to the tank crew, brutal fights, romps in a brothel, skinny-dipping, and anything else you can think of to clumsily pad a movie going nowhere (though I'm quite sure Hassel's novel did better with the crew).

What we don't get much of are top-billed stars (and ultimately the biggest draws for anyone considering this) Oliver Reed and David Carradine. While Carradine pops up with some frequency to upbraid the troupers, Reed's appearance is left until the tail end of the movie, during which he clearly puts in what amounted to a half-day's work for three cases of whisky (and it's really the best part of this movie that will challenge even the most stout viewer).

I really don't have much else to say regarding Wheels Of Terror, as a reviewer responsible only to myself and my readers, I'm not going to search for critical consensus before passing my woeful judgment on this movie. What you get for your time, (waiting vainly for Reed) is too much time spent with a bunch of irritating post-frat loser types, vicious jerks with not much to recommend themselves other than loyalty to each other and the occasional magnanimous gesture. There's not much in the way of combat to be found, although the boys do every so often mow down those against whom they are pitched with machine-gun fire. Otherwise, the smug bastards are left to defend themselves through the devices of director Gordon Hessler, who, with the aid of Nelson Gidding's screenplay, simply presents a series of comedic or mildly poignant/violent events with no emotional grounding.

Good war movies were being made in the late '80s. They were just being made by geniuses, about more contemporary wars. Wheels Of Terror tries to lure you in with the names Oliver Reed and David Carradine, but what it represents is a mildly irritating series of uninvolving, somewhat comedic events featuring also-ran actors and uninspired direction. Skip It, unless you are a war completist with a strong constitution.

The DVD

Video:
Scorpion Releasing strikes with this 1.66:1 ratio transfer, additionally pillar-boxed in a 4 x 3 ratio, (a note from the Imprint reveals that this was the only acceptable source they could find) meaning you get a pillar-and-letterboxed image that's much like watching a non-anamorphic widescreen DVD. Withal, the image looks pretty decent, actually. Colors are rich and saturated, looking nicely naturalistic. Details are sharper than I would have expected, while the source is quite clean and free of damage, with some nice film-grain to boot. (Stock footage sequences, and there are a few, fare worse.) No compression or authoring problems crop up.

Sound:
Dolby Digital Mono Audio in English is not great, but adequate. An overly theatrical, florid, and nostalgic score is front and center, sounding great. Dialog for some indoor scenes, is at times hollow and tinny, and otherwise tends to compete with the volume of the score.

Extras:
Including a few Scorpion Releasing Trailers, (in rough shape, but the movies look fantastic) Wheels delivers three On-Camera Interviews with the real stars of the movie, Bruce Davison, David Patrick Kelly, and Keith Szarabaka. Bruce and David get 17 minutes each, Keith has 30 minutes, and all are voluble, funny, and of course will force you into grudging respect for the movie.

Final Thoughts:
Good war movies were being made in the late '80s. They were just being made by geniuses, about more contemporary wars. Wheels Of Terror tries to lure you in with the names Oliver Reed and David Carradine, but what it represents is a mildly irritating series of uninvolving, somewhat comedic events featuring also-ran actors and uninspired direction. Skip It, unless you are a war completist with a strong constitution.

- Kurt Dahlke

~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com

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