Kelly's Heroes

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Kelly's Heroes
Kelly's Heroes film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Jack Davis
Directed by Brian G. Hutton
Produced by Gabriel Katzka
Harold Loeb
Sidney Beckerman
Written by Troy Kennedy Martin
Starring Clint Eastwood
Telly Savalas
Don Rickles
Carroll O'Connor
Donald Sutherland
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Gabriel Figueroa
Edited by John Jympson
Production
  company
Avala Film
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Katzka-Loeb
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s)
  • June 23, 1970 (1970-06-23) (US)
Running time 146 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $4 million[2]
Box office $5,200,000[3]

Kelly's Heroes is a 1970 war comedy film directed by Brian G. Hutton, about a group of World War II soldiers who go AWOL to rob a bank behind enemy lines. The film stars Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Carroll O'Connor, and Donald Sutherland, with secondary roles played by Harry Dean Stanton, Gavin MacLeod, and Stuart Margolin. The screenplay was written by British film and television writer Troy Kennedy Martin. The film was a US-Yugoslav co-production, filmed mainly in the Croat village of Vižinada on the Istria peninsula.

Plot[edit]

In World War II France in early September 1944, units of the 35th Infantry Division are nearing the town of Nancy when one of the division's mechanized reconnaissance platoons receives orders to pull out while under attack from the Germans. Kelly (Eastwood), a former lieutenant who has been demoted to private following a disastrous assault some time earlier, captures Colonel Dankhopf of German Intelligence. When Kelly notices that his prisoner has a gold bar in his briefcase, he gets him drunk to try to get information about the gold. Before he is killed by an attacking German Tiger tank, the drunken Dankhopf blurts out that there is a cache of 14,000 gold bars stored in a bank vault 30 miles behind enemy lines in the town of Clermont.

Kelly recruits the rest of his platoon, including skeptical Master Sergeant "Big Joe" (Savalas), to sneak off and steal the gold. With their commanding officer, Captain Maitland (Buckley), neglecting his duty to sample his personal spoils of war while denying them to his weary men at the same time, the platoon is only all too eager to sign up for the expedition. Eventually, others have to be recruited (or invite themselves) into the scheme, such as an opportunistic supply sergeant "Crapgame" (Rickles); and a Sherman tank commander from the 6th Armored Division, "Oddball" (Sutherland).

The expedition successfully breaks through a German-held town during a mortar barrage that has been arranged by Kelly. An American fighter plane mistakes Kelly's group for the enemy, strafing their vehicles and destroying them with rockets, forcing them to continue on foot, and three of their number die in a subsequent skirmish in and around a minefield. Meanwhile, Oddball's tanks battle their way through the German lines, but their route is blocked when the last large bridge is blown up by Allied bombers, prompting Oddball to let a bridge engineering unit in on the deal. When intercepted radio messages of the private raid are brought to the attention of gung-ho American Major General Colt (O'Connor), he misinterprets them as the efforts of aggressive patriots pushing forward on their own initiative and immediately rushes to the front line to exploit the "breakthrough".

Kelly's men race to reach Clermont before their own army. There, they find it defended by three Tiger tanks (unit numbers 112, 113 and 115) from the 1st SS Panzer Division with infantry support. The Americans are able to dispatch most of the German infantry and two of the Tigers: #112 knocked-out in the initial moments of the ambush and #113 blown-up in a narrow alley while chasing the Sherman. As they prepare to take on the last tank, which is parked right in front of the bank, Oddball's last Sherman breaks down and cannot be repaired. Powerless to defeat the tank, Kelly offers the German tank commander a share of the loot. After the Tiger blows the bank doors off, the assembled crew finds the gold cache. After dividing the gold, the men go their separate ways, just managing to avoid meeting the still-oblivious Colt, who is delayed by celebrating town residents.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The film was going to have a female role, but prior to filming, it was cut from the script. Ingrid Pitt, who was cast in the role revealed that she was "virtually climbing on board the plane bound for Yugoslavia when word came through that my part had been cut."[4] The filming commenced in July 1969 and was completed in December[2] and was shot on location in the Istrian village of Vižinada in the former Yugoslavia and London.[5] Yugoslavia was chosen mostly because earnings from previous showings of movies there could not be taken out of the country, but could be used to fund the production.

Several years after the film was released, Eastwood claimed that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had made additional cuts to Hutton's final version of the film, eliminating scenes that gave depth to the main characters. Kelly's Heroes was the last non-Malpaso film that Eastwood agreed to appear in[6] until In the Line of Fire (with the further exception of Bronco Billy (1980), which was made by a company set up by Eastwood's close friend Robert Daley specifically for that production, due to Eastwood's divorce at the time.)

There is a nod to Eastwood's spaghetti westerns in the standoff with the Tiger tank – a tongue-in-cheek remake of the ending of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, right down to a very similar musical score, and the overdubbing of the sound of non-existent jangling spurs.[5]

The three Tiger I Tanks used in the film were actually ex-Soviet Army T-34 tanks, converted in great detail by specialists of the Yugoslav army for the 1969 movie The Battle of Neretva.

Reception[edit]

The film mostly received a positive reception. The film was voted at number 34 in Channel 4's 100 Greatest war films of all time.[7] The film grossed $5.2 million in the United States when it was released in June 1970.[8]

Musical score and soundtrack[edit]

Kelly's Heroes
Soundtrack album by Lalo Schifrin
Released 1970
Recorded April 21 and June, 1970
TTG Studios Hollywood, California
Genre Film score
Label MGM
ISE-23ST
Producer Mike Curb and Jesse Kaye
Lalo Schifrin chronology
Che!
(1969)
Kelly's Heroes
(1970)
Rock Requiem
(1971)

The film score was composed, arranged and conducted by Lalo Schifrin and the soundtrack album was released on the MGM label in 1970.[9]

The soundtrack was released on LP, as well a subsequent CD featuring the LP tracks, by Chapter III Records. This album was mostly re-recordings. An expanded edition of the soundtrack was released on by Film Score Monthly in 2005.[10] The main musical theme of the movie (at both beginning and end) is "Burning Bridges," sung by The Mike Curb Congregation with music by Schifrin. There is also a casual rendition of the music in the background near the middle of the movie. The Mike Curb Congregation's recording of "Burning Bridges" reached number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on March 6, 1971.

The soundtrack to the film also contains the song, "All For the Love of Sunshine," which became the first No. 1 country hit for Hank Williams, Jr.. The inclusion of the song is one of the film's many anachronisms since it was not released until 1970, 25 years after the end of the war.

Track listing[edit]

All compositions by Lalo Schifrin except as indicated

  1. "Kelly's Heroes" – 2:52
  2. "All for the Love of Sunshine" (Schifrin, Mike Curb, Harley Hatcher) – 3:49
  3. "Burning Bridges (instrumental)" – 2:10
  4. "Tiger Tank" – 1:58
  5. "Clairmont Waltz" – 2:15
  6. "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (Traditional) – 2:58
  7. "Burning Bridges" (Schifrin, Curb) – 2:44
  8. "Quick Draw Kelly" – 3:12
  9. "All For The Love Of Sunshine (instrumental)" – 2:50
  10. "I've Been Working on the Railroad" (Traditional) – 3:43
  11. "Commando Opus" – 2:37

Musicians[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the anime series Girls und Panzer, the film is referenced several times, including by main character Yukari Akiyama once calling herself "Sergeant Oddball"[11] and as reference material for urban tank-to-tank combat by the protagonist Rabbit Team.[12] The latter reference includes an animated version of the sequence in which Kelly and Oddball take out the second Tiger tank in the streets of Clermont.[13]
  • The noise made by electric motors of the Tigers' turrets was later used for the movements of the power lifters in Aliens.
  • John Landis, at the time a production assistant, had the idea for his film American Werewolf in London while working on Kelly's Heroes.
  • The end credits of the BBC TV series, Top Gear, 'Burma Special' first broadcast in March 2014 were played with "Burning Bridges" as the background music and the credits text was in same style as the Kelly's Heroes ending credits.
  • A clip of this movie (as the soldiers advance through the minefield) appeared in We Are Marshall, as the movie two of the characters watch in a cinema when they receive the news of a fatal plane crash.

References[edit]

  1. ^ BBCF: Kelly's Heroes, running time Retrieved 2012-11-01
  2. ^ a b Hughes, p.194
  3. ^ "Kelly's Heroes, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved May 26, 2012. 
  4. ^ Munn, p. 102
  5. ^ a b McGilligan (1999), p.183
  6. ^ McGilligan (1999), p.184
  7. ^ channel 4 – 100 greatest war films of all time
  8. ^ Hughes, p.196
  9. ^ Payne, D. Lalo Schifrin discography accessed March 15, 2012
  10. ^ Film Score Monthly Website accessed March 19, 2012
  11. ^ Girls und Panzer, ep. 5: "An Experienced Sherman Army Corps!"
  12. ^ Girls und Panzer, ep. 10: "This Fight Won't Be Dismissed!"
  13. ^ Illogicalzen.com: Girls und Panzer – Review

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]