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(Classic Film Review) Kelly’s Heroes

Sam Sheppard



I am constantly stunned whenever I begin to rant to someone about the glory that is Kelly’s Heroes by the blank imbecilic stares that they return me. Surely I am not the only person who has seen this brilliant film?

Set during the arse end of WWII, Clint Eastwood (Kelly) is a one-time lieutenant who has been busted down to private, due to infernal army bureaucracy. Just as his apathy reaches its crescendo, he stumbles across coordinates to a sparsely guarded Nazi gold reserve that is located a day’s drive behind enemy lines, from a captured German Colonel. Kelly takes the only logical step in such a situation. He convinces his platoon to go AWOL and steal the gold.
If this sounds familiar then you’ve probably seen the David O. Russell film Three Kings. The writer of that film, John Ridley, even admits he used the premise behind Kelly’s Heroes when he created the story.
As a war/comedy, Kelly’s Heroes is in an exceedingly difficult sub-genre to achieve successfully. While hilarious in most places, the comedy does not detract from the horror of war. Instead, it twists our perspective of the insane events that occur in war, granting the characters a common sense that many of their comrades lack.
Forget Mystic River. Here’s where Clint is totally in his element. Tough but softly spoken, he leads the platoon through enemy lines with an ease that confounds his superiors as they attempt to emulate his advance. Donald Sutherland plays a partially insane tank commander who is willing to help Kelly for a cut of the gold, as long as it doesn’t interfere with his hectic social life on the front line, while Telly Savalas embodies the role of the grizzled sergeant.
I know, I know: Sounds brilliant doesn’t it? Watch it, I command you.
Director: Brian Hutton
USA/Yugoslavia 1970