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Laramie Movie Scope:
Battle of the Bulge: Wunderland

Low-budget, poorly written war movie

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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August 1, 2021 – I did some research on this movie (after buying the blu-ray) and discovered that although it might seem to be the 2020 film “Battle of the Bulge: Winter War,” it is, in fact, the 2017 movie “Wunderland.” The similarity in names makes easy to confuse the two movies. It appears both of these films might be direct to video releases.

The confusion also arises from the fact that both movies are about the Battle of the Bulge, are written and directed by the same man, Steven Luke (who is also sometimes credited as Luke Schuetzle) and both movies have some of the same cast members playing the same roles. Some argue that the second film is a sequel, but there are continuity problems if that is the case.

To add to the confusion, there is an earlier short film, also written, directed, produced and starring Steven Luke in 2013, also called “Wunderland,” featuring some of the same actors and characters who appear in the two later films.

“Battle of the Bulge: Wunderland,” released on video in 2018, is impressive in the way it makes the most of its small budget to put together effective battle scenes with practical effects, vintage armored vehicles, period weapons, uniforms, etc. Unfortunately, the screenplay, with its wooden, awkward dialog is so bad it drags the rest of the film down with it.

Steven Luke plays the heroic Lieutenant Cappa, charged with holding a vital Belgian crossroads against a fierce German offensive at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944. Cappa's war-weary platoon is originally placed near the crossroads to rest, since the brass did not anticipate a major winter offensive there.

There are many discussions between Cappa and Sgt. Rock (for real, played by Mikeal Burgin) and Maj. McCulley (played by veteran actor Tom Berenger of “Platoon” and “Inception”) about strategy and the lack of information about what the Germans are up to. The movie doesn't show you what is going on in the Battle of the Bulge, but it does tell you.

Since this is obviously a low-budget film, it opts for battle scenes which illustrate the Battle of the Bulge, but on a small scale, in one specific location. Problems arise when the film tries to approximate the extremely harsh weather conditions (in the real battle, 17,000 Allied troops were hospitalized because of the cold). Some scenes in the movie have no snow at all on the ground, while other scenes do show a lot of snow on the ground.

Despite attempts to create the illusion of snow where it is not falling and doesn't exist, it is obvious this movie was filmed in different locations at different times of the year. The lack of snow cover in some scenes, as well as leaves on the ground, marks the differences in time of year, or perhaps, location.

Steven Luke does have a strong screen presence and he makes for a good action hero, although some of his actions seem foolhardy and his troops might well resent Lt. Cappa's decisions to repeatedly put them at risk by choosing to attack superior enemy forces.

The movie does opt for a realistic plot in the end, however (it is said to be based on a true story). In the final credits, considerable space is given to the 20 Medal of Honor recipients who fought in the Battle of the Bulge with ample summaries of what each one of them did. This is followed by a puzzling post-credits scene, which seems to be inconsistent with what happens earlier in the movie.

I have not seen the 2020 movie mentioned above. Even so, I have to admire Steven Luke and his fellow filmmakers for their determination and effort in getting these three movies made. Even if these films were not released theatrically, it is an impressive achievement that they were made at all.

As much as I admire the determination and effort it took to make “Battle of the Bulge: Wunderland,” with its surprisingly effective, low-budget battle scenes, it simply is not a good movie, mainly because the screenplay, particularly the dialog, is so substandard. This film rates a D.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2021 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]