KELLY'S HEROES - 1971
Clint Eastwood, stands at one end of a town street; on the left side of the frame the camera focuses on his gun hanging down by his hip and on the right side of the frame in the background we see Clint’s enemy at the other end of the deserted desolate town street, Clint’s two amigos flank his sides, with their guns, cool and focused. Clint’s right hand is ready to draw, he twitches his head left to right, the audience knows he can draw, shoot and be done with it all before you can say the words “spaghetti western”. The theme from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly plays in the background, the three brothers in arms start walking towards the bad guy….except hang on a minute this isn’t The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, hells it isn’t even a western. Clint and his amigos are wearing allied army battle fatigues, brandishing sten guns and semi automatic pistols. The town isn’t a deserted mid Western ghost town, it’s a French rural town with a medieval era bell tower. And the enemy at the end of the street isn’t any gringo or villainous bad man, oh no it’s nothing as threatening as that, it’s just the German army’s most feared ground attach weapon…a Tiger tank. I’m talking about one of the funniest World War 2 movies, ‘Kelly’s Heroes’
This scene would have to be rated as the second best spoof scene in movie history. The best scene, of course, is the Apocalypse Now reference in Hot Shots Part Deux with father-son duo Martin and Charlie Sheen spontaneously saying “I loved you in Wall Street” to each other. Check out this ultra fantastico scene here
Released in 1970, Kelly’s Heroes, starring Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, and Telly Savalas amongst others, is set in the immediate aftermath of the D Day landing of June 1944. Clint Eastwood is “Corporal Kelly”, an ex-officer who took the fall for a strategic level error and ended up hating officers in turn , is now all set to make himself a multi-millionaire by stealing 16 million dollars worth of Nazi gold hidden inside a bank in German held France. Telly Savalas, is “Sergeant Big Joe”, a no nonsense leader who commands absolute respect and faith from the men under him and whose first priority is to get his men alive to Berlin and second is to ensure they get every possible opportunity to be amongst women, clean linen, women, hot showers, women, great food, women…Donald Sutherland is the spaced out flower power Sherman tank commander named “Oddball”.
Telly Savalas has dished out the best performance in Kelly’s Heroes. Every scene involving him is masterly, every dialogue he says makes one believe in Big Joe. Savalas steals the thunder from under Eastwood in this movie. The scene where Savalas and his men argue about whether or not to go ahead with the 16 million dollars gold heist is one of the most life like scenes I have ever seen. Savalas wants to point out to his men the unspoken rules of surviving in a war, he wants their safety at all costs but they want him, their leader and saviour, to see their point that this time they’ll risk their lives for themselves, they want him to head it because they know he’s the best and he will take care of them. Savalas is strong, Savalas is genuine, Savalas is concerned, Savalas is experienced, Savalas is practical, Savalas is tough talking, Savalas is human, Savalas is a man, Savalas is real, Savalas is all knowing, Savalas in our Sergeant, Savalas is God, or in other words Savalas is just a Greek raised in NY.
Clint Eastwood doesn’t play Corporal Kelly, he plays Clink Eastwood. Standard Eastwood fare with lots of tough monosyllabic emoting thrown in for good measure. Of course it is a high standard.
And yet it is Donald Sutherland as Oddball who absolutely runs away with the movie. In between the gypsy café set up for his tank squad in the middle of a war zone, his constant love affair with positive waves, his reliance on music played loud out from his tanks' speakers to confuse the Germans, his multi coloured paint firing shells, his faith in karma and the power of positive thinking, and his lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamonds inspired facial expressions one can only think about how Oddball must be the progenitor of all the hippies of the world. All through the movie, Donald Sutherland seems genuinely happy to be playing Oddball. It’s as if in real life he’s Oddball who plays Donald Sutherland while off the set. Maybe he is. I’ve given some of his best dialogues at the end of this review.
Movie run-time is approximately 2:15 minutes and perhaps 15 minutes too long. The final battle sequence could have been a bit shorter. However the cinematography is top notch, and the panoramic shots of the French town from the medieval bell tower accomplish the task of putting the viewer right into the battle sequence. Most of the war props and equipment are authentic or quite close to it.
Eastwood, Sutherland, and Savalas made many other movies before and after Kelly’s Heroes but this movie will always feature in the best movie list for all three of them.
Will Kelly, Big Joe, Oddball, Crap Game, Cowboy, and the rest of the men make it alive, will they be able to get through behind enemy lines and into the town, will they be able to dodge their gung ho red bathrobe with 3 stars pinned on it wearing general, will they get the gold, and will they be able to negotiate the Tiger tank?
Sample some of the choicest dialogues from Kelly’s Heroes:
Oddball: “Oh yeah man….(mumble)….(mumble)….I mean…(mumble)….no sweat”
Oddball: “ Oh man, don’t hit me with those negative waves in the morning. Think the bridge will be there and it will be there”
Oddball: “ To a New Yorker like you a hero is some type of a sandwich, not some nut who takes on three Tigers”
Oddball: “Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here?”
Crap Game, referring to a German : “ Make a deal, maybe the guy’s a Republican, business is business”
“Oh Oddball, that nut’s gotta be nuts”
“He maybe nuts but he’s not crazy”
“Is this why we pay taxes, to be bombed by our own airforce?”
Kelly's Heroes is not the best war comedy ever, there are other contenders for that title such as "1941" but Kelly's Heroes is a MUST SEE MOVIE