World War II Marathon: Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

Film #25 in the World War II Marathon is might familiar, mighty familiar indeed!

Written By: Troy Kennedy-Martin
Directed By: Brian G. Hutton

I should have realized what I was in for the moment I read the Netflix blurb about Kelly’s Heroes. The opening line read, “It’s The Dirty Dozen lusting after gold instead of fighting for clemency.” I’ve never taken it to be a good sign when the first thing you can say about a film is a reference to another more well known film. But, Kelly’s Heroes had Clint Eastwood in a starring role, so I figured maybe, just maybe this would be the movie to break the mold of the ominous reference.

Turns out that reference deserved to be ominous, because there wasn’t a second of Kelly’s Heroes where I felt that it wasn’t trying to be a different and better movie. It wants to be some weird combination of The Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape and The Guns Of Navarone, with a dash of the modern pop culture awareness of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid tossed into the mix for good measure. It wouldn’t be a stretch for me to say that Kelly’s Heroes has no identity of its own, that would be an instance of honesty. I have no problem with movies borrowing from the cinema that has come before them, but Kelly’s Heroes borrows so much that it isn’t a movie in its own right but rather a collection of ideas, themes, and whole scenes from other movies.

I guess I could compliment the actors in Kelly’s Heroes, they aren’t given much to work with but they do what they can with what little they are given. They are stereotypes, each and every single one of them, but with the exception of one particular actor they manage to infuse a little bit of life into said stereotypes. That one particular actor who stunk up the joint with his attempt at a hippie would be Donald Sutherland. Between Kelly’s Heroes and MASH I’d be hard pressed to name an actor I’ve seen in the 70’s in two prominent roles who turned in such bad performances, and in the same year no less.

The action scenes in Kelly’s Heroes were also well done, but yet again it’s another example of whole snippets of the film feeling like they are lifted straight from better World War II tough guy comedies. It’s not that Kelly’s Heroes is a bad film, it’s simply not its own film. Instead of watching Kelly’s Heroes I wanted to go put on The Dirty Dozen again, where the jokes actually hit and the tough guys were actually tough because they belonged in their film. At the end of the day that’s what I can tell you about Kelly’s Heroes, go watch The Dirty Dozen instead, because the original in this case is so much better.




6 responses to “World War II Marathon: Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

  1. It’s an entertaining film. It was quite interesting recently when I was researching a John Landis feature to learn he worked as assistant director on the film and conceived and worked on the script for An American Werewolf In London during its production.

  2. I wanted to be entertained man, but the whole thing fell flat for me. No matter how much I tried not to I couldn’t stop thinking, “I wish I was watching The Dirty Dozen instead,” and that was despite a good Eastwood performance where he plays it all suave instead of chewing up the scenery, ala Sutherland.

  3. This movie is very suspenseful and certainly entertaining

  4. I happened to disagree Ivan, but it’s all good.

  5. Bill…Your opinions on this film would have to improve significantly just to suck.
    Look at it for what it was intended to be. Fun, humorous and overall light hearted WW II movie. Yes, it splashed some drama but it wasn’t meant to be a blockbuster. It had some great characters and an entertaining storyline. Relax and grab some popcorn..

  6. Yes, the height of civil discourse is displayed when you start by telling someone that their opinion would have to improve significantly just to suck.

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