The famous Italian ‘Alpini’ were first created in 1872, and are the oldest dedicated mountain infantry still is existence anywhere in the world. Their primary role is of course the defence of the country along its mountainous northern border, and as usual with such specialised troops they are an elite of the Italian army. During both world wars and the cold war their skills were much in demand, and although their numbers have been reduced since the cold war came to an end, they remain a key element in Italy’s armed forces.
This set was produced in the late 1960s in card-backed blister packs, but there is no indication as to the intended date for these figures. There are, however, a lot of clues. To begin with, the classic Alpini felt hat all these figures seem to wear was introduced in 1910, although on some it is hard to be sure what they have on their head at all. All wear a tunic with open collar, which was a style first introduced in the 1930s, although unofficially some tunics had been worn with the collar open prior to this date. On the lower legs the men wear short anklets, which are a post-World War II device, as before then they wore puttees like the rest of the army. The webbing and equipment is very basic, with a waist belt holding two ammunition pouches at the front plus a knife/bayonet. Braces support this belt, and meet at the back to form a ‘Y’ shaped arrangement. This again is a post-1945 design. Each man has a water bottle on his belt, but no other equipment at all. Finally, three hold a rifle (far too undetailed to attempt any sort of an identification), and two have a submachine gun, again impossible to identify with any certainty. As with the set of Bersaglieri also made by this company, the chances are that these are generic troops of no particular period, but probably loosely based on contemporary troops, so for the 1960s perhaps. Of course you would expect much more kit (such as helmets) and more sophisticated weapons on such figures, but these were only ever a toy.
Many sets made around this time had only a handful of poses, so the five you get in this set are no surprise. However the designer has gone for drama and action over anything particularly realistic, which might work well as a toy but to our modern eye looks unfortunate. The man waving his submachine gun in the air failed to impress, while both the man using his rifle as a club and the one apparently using a knife would seem to be extremely unlikely poses for combat in the 20th century, and certainly not what we would have chosen if there were only five poses to be made. The second figure from the left and the marching man are much more reasonable, but the range of poses is both small and mostly poor, reminiscent of some of the more eccentric Atlantic poses.
Standards of sculpting were much lower in the 1970s, perhaps as the children that bought them would care little about such things, but compared to what has been made in more recent decades these inevitably look poor. There is little detail and the general quality of the way clothing, faces and hands are done is basic. The shape of the characteristic hats is very poor indeed, and most have no more than a nominal blob for the feather that should sit proudly on the left side. Weapons as we have said are equally crude, doubtless meant to resemble a rifle without worrying about which one. There is also a good deal of flash more or less everywhere, and their bases are unusual in being a parallelogram, though they work perfectly well.
As military miniatures in the modern age these struggle to offer anything beyond some curiosity value to the collector. If they are indeed post-war then you would expect helmets etc., and while wearing helmets is not always popular in very cold climates, these would hardly seem credible facing Warsaw Pact armies for example. Of course they and their identical 1/32 scale cousins were primarily toys, so were never meant to be reviewed like this. They are fairly typical of toy soldiers at that time, and if nothing else demonstrate how far plastic miniatures have improved in recent decades.