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There will never be a cast of characters brought together for one movie which could compare to this one. Clint Eastwood shows that he can be good at being quite serious, humorous, and even let other people steal scenes without losing presence. The real difference though lies in the rest of the cast which is a group of All-Stars who excel at certain type characters the likes of which you can not find today. Examples: Telly Savalas showing why he would become a MAJOR TV star later, Don Rickles being Don Rickles but keeping his movie character true to the film, Carroll O'Connor showing that greatness was just around the corner for him, and Donald Sutherland is just too good for words. What really makes this movie though is unlike other movies which bring together a lot of big names and top character actors, Kelly's Heroes did not lose focus on the importance of the plot. THe story never gets lost to the characters. Absolutely great job!
Interesting enough, reading through the comments on this film, I noted only one detractor, some sorehead from Canada who completely missed the point of the film. No, Sr. Canadiense. This is not a serious film about WW2. Read some of the excellent commentaries here about the social and temporal context of this film, i.e., the height of the Vietnamese war. Yes, Sutherland, your fellow countryman, was an active anti-war protester and fully embraced the anachronistic hippie role. The mad-cap story which tweaks the nose of the "establishment," in this case, the military establishment, is plausible when you let go of the blood, guts and glory of the war film genre. And, it is a damn funny film. Eastwood is at his clenched jaw, cynical best; Savalas is great as the Sergeant big-guy; Carrol O'Conner is riotious as the general; Rickles is, well, Rickles. But, Sutherland steals the show. The scenes where they tanks come out blasting the Germans to the tune of twangy Country-Western music is hilarious. Sutherland's out-of-time-sync "...no negative vibes... hey, man...yeah, baby..." is side-splitting. The final confrontation scene between the three striding up to the German tank commander, with Sutherland loosening his side arm, ala Clint Eastwood in Fist full of Dollars is a riot. This film is full of funny stuff. And, you can see it again and again and find new business to laugh about. Buffs will delight at seeing Harry Dean Stanton in a pre-Repo Man role and Richard Davalos who played James Dean's doomed brother Aron in East of Eden. This is a great piece of satire that was overlooked, cast aside and has still survived to the delight of those of us who enjoy it again and again. But, hey, don't just take my word for it. Of the 30 or so commentaries here-- and do read them, as there are some excellent ones-- only one was a detractor.
Kelly's Heroes does not try to trivialize war. It portrays a comedy
within the boundaries of war's absurdity. (Quite frankly, I did not
like the film MASH because I felt it did try to trivialize war).
What makes Kelly's Heroes a success is that the director never forgot that the point of comedy is to make us laugh. There's no message here; just pure entertainment.
The film is believable because it stretches, but never steps over, the line of plausibility. The story is preposterous, but in the confusion of war we can believe something like this could happen. Those who have served in the military have all met characters like the ones in Kelly's platoon, even Oddball. Yes, Donald Sutherland was clearly cast out of time, from the 60s, but he somehow personified the rebel in all of us, and that spans generations. If anything, Oddball subliminally told us it was okay to view the film from our vantage point of 1970. His character worked. And so did all the others.
On top of that, the filmmaker spent the extra time and expense to insure reasonable technical accuracy. The uniforms were authentic and I was most impressed by the fact that the vehicles and equipment, for both sides, were accurate. (My biggest gripe about 'Patton' was that it used M-41 tanks for both sides, just painted differently).
The structure of the film is excellent. We believe everything is real. The early scene where the platoon is sitting on the side of the road while a seemingly endless convoy of Sherman tanks passes is a perfect example. There may have only been a few tanks but the way they were looped about continuously gave the impression of 'a cast of thousands'. The Yugoslavian backdrop was reflective of WWII Europe.
Watch this film a few times and you'll catch the slight nuances not normally found the first time through. It's classic how seemingly unimportant early events or dialog enhance the humor of later scenes. For example, when Oddball first shows Kelly his tanks he says they have loud speakers to calm their nerves and paint in their shells to scare the Germans. Early Sherman tanks had a low velocity shell that was ineffective against German armor. Later we roar when Kelly catches a Tiger from its vulnerable rear, but Oddball forgets to fire an anti-tank round and instead splatters it with pink paint! The railroad yard attack scene, (which is superbly choreographed, and tactically accurate) becomes absolutely riotous when Oddball's crew plays 'I've been working on the Railroad' after destroying the place and rumbling away.
Don Rickles should have won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Crapgame. He congeals all the other elements and characters in the film.
The parody scene of 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' is superb. Like Oddball, its being out of time somehow enhances its own effect.
I read somewhere that Clint Eastwood was a bit disappointed with this film because he was not allowed to give it one more edit before its release. I don't know how on earth he could have improved on it.
I'm the first one to rant at ridiculous war movies. The history has to be right, the uniforms, and so on and so on. Plots have to be creditable or I'm the first one to cry foul. But then there comes along movies like Kelly's Heroes. It's violent and meaningless really...but funny and very exciting. The gear is accurate for the most part, which is far more than I can say about the bulk of so called serious war films. Even with the infamous Tiger tank the film makers attempted to at least make the Russian built Yugoslav T53s they were using look like Tigers. I think they were T53s, they did such a good job of making them look like Tigers it's hard to tell. The whole film is a 1960s anti-establishment slant thrown on a pretty standard WWII story about GIs on a mission behind the German lines. In this parallel universe John Wayne type mission, these guys are out for number one. It's their mission, not the US Army's or the Allies. With a headlines crazy General chasing behind them with his photographer looking to pin medals on "his boys" for piercing the German lines and apparently leading his "charge", they're heading for a town full of Germans guarding a bank with three Tiger tanks. Clint Eastwood has to pick up the means to complete this personal mission along the way without the secret leaking out. We even have 1960s Hippies in this silly war torn 1940s world. Donald Sutherland is a riot as a stoned Sherman tank commander who seems to have stepped into a timewarp and emerged in 1944 and found himself at the helm of an armored unit. Several then unknowns are in the film, including Harry Dean Stanton and Gavin Mcleod. Beautiful scenery and photography shot in what was then Yugoslavia. Excellent attention to equipment detail. Good, if over the top, performances all around. Suspense and excitement. Very funny. And possibly the silliest pothole laden plot to ever pass itself off as a war movie. If you're a war movie buff with a sense of humor you'll love it.
This movie is simply great. The guy who wrote the other review is flat wrong. He contests that anyone no from the era won't like it. I was born in 1982, and it's in my top 5. It has one of the best casts around, with Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Donald Sutherland, and Carroll O' Connor. It has action and humor, what more could you want. It is a great film, hands down. Do yourself a favor and view its splendor. The Mike Curb song is great and catchy, the editing is on par with any other movie, and the plot, although improbable, is entertaining. All told, it gets a 9.5/10.
Utterly hilarious World War II adventure picture, with some great acting
all of the leads, fine action sequences and superb scenery.
Kelly (Clint Eastwood) captures a German colonel (David Hurst), who inadvertently tells him where the Germans are hiding $16,000,000 worth of gold bars. Kelly enlists the aid of his platoon to trek behind the German lines and steal the cash.
The movie features a top-notch cast of veterans and would-be stars. Eastwood (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY) has a quiet, serious role and floats through the entire picture. Telly Savalas (PANCHO VILLA) makes a great counterpart as the loud, short-tempered and cynical platoon sergeant. Donald Sutherland (THE EAGLE HAS LANDED) steals the show, though, in a very offbeat role as a hippie-style tank commander. He delivers some utterly 60s dialog with great style and is uproarious. Don Rickles is funny, too, in a smaller role as Crapgame - a rear-echelon supply clerk who goes along on the trek for a profit and gets more than he bargains for. Carroll O'Connor (THE DEVIL'S BRIGADE) has an un-necessary but zany role as General Colt, a blustering officer who can't understand why his red-blooded American soldiers aren't cutting through the German army. The role is obviously a knockoff of George C. Scott in PATTON, and O'Connor does an excellent job.
The supporting cast is fine, too, though not many make much of an impact. Jeff Morris is a hoot as Cowboy, a transplanted Texas hick, with Harry Dean Stanton in support as his sidekick; Stuart Margolin is a jittery radio operator; Len Lesser is a construction officer who gets conned into going along to build a bridge for the guys, and ends getting really screwed over by Kelly's boys; Hal Buckley is the platoon commander who only cares about getting his yacht to Paris; Gene Collins is the baby-faced youngster. David Hurst is lovable as the dim-witted German colonel, and it's really a shame he gets killed - especially by one of his own tanks. Karl Otto Alberty (THE GREAT ESCAPE) has a nice, small role near the end as a Tiger tank commander, and there's an anti-war spin when Kelly and crew let him escape unscathed. Watch for John G. Heller (OPERATION CROSSBOW) as the German patrol leader during the minefield scene.
The movie also features some terrific action scenes. The minefield debacle is suspenseful and nail-biting, and eventually filled with tons of gunfire and neat explosions. The final battle, in which the dozen or so heroes manage to wipe out a garrison of Germans in a small French village is expertly filmed, with some great camerawork and lots of good, convincing special effects. Some major aspects of this sequence were ripped off in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN - Tiger tanks in the street, a sniper in a bell tower, machine gunners firing from bombed-out buildings - the whole general look of the sequence was completely conned.
The Lalo Schiffrin score is light-hearted fun, and Mike Curb Congregation's "Burning Bridges" theme is a good song but doesn't at all fit the theme of the movie. The film was shot in Yugoslavia to take advantage of lower production costs. It actually looks a lot like central France, with plenty of hedgerows, bombed out buildings and such - nothing like the mountains and rivers of THE BATTLE OF NERETVA.
I saw this movie on Turner Classic Movies, appropriately letterboxed at about 2.35:1 with hardly a flaw in the print. Colors are accurate and the image is pretty sharp. TNT used to play an awful, orange-looking print of the movie (with the dialog edited to pieces, also) The audio is fine and sounds clear and loud, but the gunfire and explosions lack intensity. The film is also available on DVD.
KELLY'S HEROES is a witty, lighthearted WWII adventure which I don't think any fan can miss. If you need to sit back and watch American GIs kick German butt for 2 and a half hours for a goal as lofty as pure, all-American greed then this is your flick.
This movie has top notch entertainment with virtually no cursing and excess
violence (a nice alternative to today's production standards).
Clint Eastwood and Donald Southerland are at their best, the story line and writing are excellent!
I watch this movie often - if perchance you have never seen this movie, rent it today. Enjoy!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story is in the funny-macho style of 'The Dirty Dozen', with more
emphasis on the fun... The film is set during World War II in
post-D-Day France... The plot is a simple one, guaranteeing the minimum
of complexity and the maximum of action...
Private Kelly (Eastwood) abducts a German colonel and accidentally discovers the whereabouts of a fortune in gold...
Being less interested in winning the war than in a little self-enrichment, he decides to liberate the hoard privately...
Being unable to take on the Nazi war-machine single-handed, he sees himself obliged to recruit some fellow conspirators... So he takes Telly Savalas, the top skeptical sergeant who initially vetoes the move, but changes his mind when it becomes clear that he cannot stop his men from going; Don Rickles, the hustler who can easily provide any weapon; and Donald Sutherland, the bizarre leader of a Sherman-tank squad, whose life style consists of getting high on drugs and meditating to unorthodox music... Sutherland, in fact, very nearly steals the film in his role of a spaced-out tank commander...
Certain amusing touches stand out in this piece of satire: The blazing battle led by Oddball's tanks, complete with inspiring music; the very suspenseful climax that makes the audience tingle with the fear that the soldiers' plan may fail; the title song, 'Burning Bridges,' which perfectly fits the mood of the film; and the wonderful parody of 'The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly,' with Eastwood and his gangster force advancing on a German tank guarding the gold to the strains of Ennio Morricone's memorable score...
Carroll O'Connor plays the egotist happy general who sees the move as nothing more than a group of dedicated soldiers taking the war into their own hand...
Kelly's Heroes is a difficult movie to describe -- somewhat a cross between a good war movie and a black comedy. The chemistry between Savalas, Eastwood, Rickles, and Sutherland really makes this movie. The combat scenes are some of filmdom's best...close to the Kubrick-directed scenes in Dr. Strangelove.
Kelly's Heros brilliantly mixes your average war movie with a bank robbery
movie to come up with a plot that's entirely unique.
Equipped with an all-star cast, Clint Eastwood and Telly Savalas play the straight guys to the comic antics of Donald Sutherland and Don Rickles. The movie makes no moral judgements about bad guys and good guys and simply shows the characters of both sides a path to redemption in the midst of war. In addition, the theme song, "Burning Bridges" is rendered with a youthful tone by the Mike Curb Congregation, which reminds us that in reality, people not much removed from childhood are the ones sent into battle.
We cheer when they get their just rewards.
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