1970 - PG - 145 Mins.
|Director: Brian G. Hutton|
|Producer: Sidney Beckerman, Gabriel Katzka, Harold Loeb|
|Written By: Troy Kennedy Martin|
|Starring: Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Carroll O'Connor, Donald Sutherland, Gavin MacLeod |
|Review by: James O'Ehley
One of the few movies my old man genuinely likes, the other one being “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly” . . .
Cause war is hell ya Hockey Puck!
It is World War II and a group of American soldiers led by Kelly (Clint Eastwood) goes AWOL for a few days – not to do the usual hanging out in bars and brothels or whatever, but to rob a bank where a huge stack of gold bars are kept. The only problem is that the bank is 30 miles behind enemy lines and guarded by several troops and – worse! – three kick ass Tiger tanks.
Our group of GIs has some Sherman tanks, but if you’re the type who swats up on WWII armaments factoids then you’ll know that the American-designed Sherman tank was in general outclassed and outgunned by the superior German Tiger tank. To make things worse, the Sherman tanks are led by one Oddball (played by Donald Sutherland in a scene stealing role), who appears to be a hippie magically transported from the future of the 1960s back to the 1940s. Oddball believes that it’s just as important to get out of a bad situation as it is to get into it, but his overall philosophy it appears it would be better not to get into any trouble in the first place.
Of course, Kelly’s Heroes isn’t really about the Second World War, but rather about the senselessness of the Vietnam War, raging at the time the film was released. Playing as part action movie and part black comedy, Kelly’s Heroes has more in common with the military comedies such as “MASH.” and “Catch-22” (both of them also released in 1970) than with straightforward WWII heroics depicted in movies such as “The Longest Day”, “Saving Private Ryan” and “A Bridge Too Far”.
The comic, action and the war-is-hell sentiments do not always gel, but “Kelly’s Heroes” remains a memorable film mostly for Donald Sutherland’s hippie character (one he would repeat years later in “Animal House”) and the sing-along theme song by the Mike Curb Congregation. All together now: “Burning Bridges Lost For Ever Moreeee . . .”
Some notes: the movie's finale parodies a gun fighter sequence out of one of the Clint’s spaghetti Westerns that made him famous, probably “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly” as Lalo Schifrin mimics Ennio Morricone’s famous waah-waah sound in the vocal stylings of this movie.
Thirty or so years later the plot would be rehashed in the Mark Wahlberg/George Clooney flick “Three Kings” set during the first Iraq War (you know, the one which George Dubya’s daddy fought). Like “Kelly’s Heroes” the tone of “Three Kings” would be stridently black humoured and anti-war. Times have changed however. Not knowing who the Yanks would have to invade next to find gas to fill up their huge wasteful SUVs, the American public wasn't quite up for an anti-establishment movie like “Three Kings.” It flopped at the box office.
In the 1970s however the world was still coming off the high that was the ‘Sixties and “Kelly’s Heroes” was a huge hit. It is easy to see why. The movie still has a lazy charm to it, and while the action climax may leave special effects saturated teens dissatisfied, “Kelly’s Heroes” is never boring and always entertaining.
Check it out on DVD which may have a dearth of extra features but does an admirable job at presenting a clear quality image and serviceable sound. Besides that, it also preserves the film’s original widescreen compositions. Remember: there is only thing more evil than war causing SUVs and that is pan ‘n’ scan videos . . .