We all loved the Sven Hassel books in my school days. His wartime exploits were gloriously gory, profane and with an infectious disrespect for authority. Wheels of Terror is, I believe, surprisingly the only film adaptation of his work. Like the hugely enjoyable Cross of Iron this film is one of the few to depict WW2 from the German point of view.
Our anti-heroes are a misfit gang in a penal tank regiment, including a simple-minded muscle-head, who loves blowing things up, a muslim (presumably an outcast from the Islamic SS Handschar), a youngster, a clown and, of course an actor playing Sven himself. Promised a transfer away from the Eastern Front if they undertake a virtual suicide mission, they naturally volunteer. What follows is some decent enough wartime action (including a surprising amount with tanks), a few crude laughs and plenty of enjoyable camaraderie.
All in all, this film's irreverent atmosphere captures the look and feel of the Hassel book pretty well, but with the gore, language and brutality toned down slightly to gain its 15 rating. Other criticisms? Well, as a kid, I built plenty of those Airfix tank kits and even played WW2 wargaming and I can recognize Russian tanks when I see them. T34s are used for the Russians, but the German tank destroyers (presumably meant to be Stug IIIs or Jagdpanzers) are also Russian SU-100s. There is also what looks suspiciously like a post-WW2 Soviet tank at the beginning. Finally, if you'll excuse this geeky aside, the Russian heavy tank Klimenti Vorisholov II or KV2 is referred to as a KW2. Unforgivable! Someone has already questioned the Germans' illogical tactics in the big tank battle, and that was fair comment too.
But did I let these quibbles ruin the film for me? Nah, not a bit of it! Get some beers in and Wheels of Terror is an absolute blast and took me back to surreptitiously reading a Sven Hassel book in class when I should have been doing something much more boring instead!