Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Short Attention Span Review: Kelly's Heroes (1970)

I dig Clint Eastwood.  Who doesn't?  He has starred in so many wonderful movies and he has made quite a name for himself as a director as well.  Few performers have ever had such a presence and managed to piece together a career so ripe with quality ventures.  While I treasure his westerns and his gritty thrillers, some of his lighter films also rank among my favorites.  One of the Eastwood pictures that seldom gets its due that I'm particularly fond of is Kelly's Heroes, an irreverent gem.  While we live in an era where the very notion of a comedic and borderline absurd take on WWII might sound downright blasphemous, it should be noted that Kelly's Heroes isn't all fun and games.  In addition to poking fun at the establishment and lampooning the military, it does have a bit of heart, and there are some serious themes buried under all the bluster.  Yet Eastwood's cool lead (his Kelly may be totally fearless--or maybe he just has a serious hard-on for gold bars) and the fantastic supporting cast never fail to entertain and the movie consistently drops big laughs on us while the Germans do their best to drop bombs on our heroes.  Telly Savalas is fabulous as Kelly's hard-nosed commander and Don Rickles is equally captivating as Crapgrame.  However, the true star of the show is Donald Sutherland as Oddball.  Yes, the character belongs to another era, but Kelly's Heroes is far more interested in entertainment than plausibility--though it never grows so outlandish that it becomes an outright farce.  Sutherland is a joy to watch in Kelly's Heroes and I'm pretty sure that he is the only performer to ever steal the show from Clint Eastwood.  Lee Van Cleef was surely Clint's equal and B-movie veteran William Smith made a game attempt at upstaging Clint in Any Which Way You Can (another of Eastwood's lighthearted yarns--as well as another of my personal favorites), but I can't think of anyone aside from Sutherland who flat out walked away with an Eastwood vehicle.  Purists probably don't favor Kelly's Heroes as much as I do, and modern audiences who are more familiar with films like Saving Private Ryan or Fury (read my scathing review of that one here) may not appreciate this quirky romp either.  I also enjoy gritty and realistic war movies, but I may enjoy a quality satire even more.  Kelly's Heroes is a fun movie with several major stars firing on all cylinders and I highly recommend it.

Bonus Points: I find the opening reel to be among the best title sequences of all time.  The way the images and the music clash set the stage for something totally unique.  Additionally, the big tank showdown that closes out the picture is equally impressive and even takes the satire to another level by managing to pay homage to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Final Grade: A+
Attempting to steal the show in a Clint Eastwood film  might sound
like an impossible dream, but Sutherland does just that in Kelly's Heroes.


  1. It seems like the type of film you could appreciate. Also, I think you may be the "Oddball" in our little circle of friends. That's high praise, in my humble opinion.