Theatrical release poster by Jack Davis
|Directed by||Brian G. Hutton|
|Produced by||Gabriel Katzka
|Written by||Troy Kennedy Martin|
|Music by||Lalo Schifrin|
|Edited by||John Jympson|
|Distributed by||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1970,original) Warner Bros. (2000, DVD, 2010, Blu-Ray)|
|Running time||146 minutes|
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.
The film opens during a thunderstorm in early September 1944 in World War II France; as units of the 35th Infantry Division are nearing the town of Nancy one of the division's mechanized reconnaissance platoons receives orders to hold their position whilst under counterattack from the Germans; the out-numbered platoon are also on the receiving end of mortar fire from their own side…
Private Kelly (Eastwood) and another soldier have captured Colonel Dankhopf of German Intelligence. Interrogating his prisoner, Kelly notices the officer is carrying several gold bars in his briefcase. Curious, he gets the Colonel drunk to try to get information about the gold. 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. In the subsequent withdrawal as German Tiger tanks overrun their position, Dankhopf is shot and killed by the attacking Germans.
Kelly spends the next day assessing his information, with the help of an opportunistic supply sergeant nicknamed "Crapgame" (Rickles) who is persuaded to ‘bankroll‘ the heist for a piece of the action ( “I need fifteen Thompson’s, two thirty calibre machine guns, two Bazookas, two field radios and rations and equipment for a platoon of men in the field for three days…” “Is that all…?”) After he calculates that 14,000 bars equates to $16,000,000 worth of gold, Crapgame needs no further urging.
Mortar cover is arranged with a golden bribe to sergeant Mulligan (George Savalas). Others have to be recruited (or invite themselves) into the scheme, such as a spaced out Sherman tank commander from the 6th Armoured Division known as "Oddball" (Sutherland), and his three Sherman tanks. At this point it is revealed that Kelly used to be an officer, though now broken back to being a disillusioned private. In the words of Crapgame, “He used to be a Lieutenant. Pretty good one too. Then one day he was given orders to attack the wrong hill. Wiped out half a company of GI’s… Someone had to get the blame and he got picked…”
Kelly recruits the rest of his platoon, finally including sceptical Master Sergeant "Big Joe" (Savalas), to sneak off and steal the gold. Their commanding officer, Captain Maitland (Buckley), neglects his own duties to sample his personal spoils of war; a privilege he denies to his own weary men (“Don‘t mess around with the women, their husbands carry guns… and remember, the penalty for looting is death…” “Loot What? There’s nothing here to loot…”). With this in mind, the platoon is only too eager to sign up for the operation.
The expedition successfully breaks through a German-held town during the mortar barrage. 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. 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; three of their number die in a subsequent skirmish in and around a minefield. The two parties finally meet up and press on to Claremont.
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 reach Clermont before their own army. On arrival 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. Number 115 parks itself right in front of the bank, but Oddball's last Sherman has broken down and cannot be repaired leaving them powerless to defeat the Tiger. At Crapgame’s suggestion, Kelly offers the German tank commander an equal share of the loot (roughly an equal share in 65,000,000 German Marks).
After the Tiger blows the bank doors off, the assembled crew recovers the gold cache. After dividing the spoils, the men go their separate ways, the Germans and the platoon by truck, Oddball and his men in the Tiger that they bought from the Germans. They all just managing to avoid meeting the still-oblivious Colt, who is delayed by celebrating town residents ( they think he‘s General de Gaulle…).
- Clint Eastwood as Private Kelly, a former Lieutenant and the platoon's de facto leader. Lost his rank (before the film) when he got orders to attack the wrong hill and wiped out half a company of G.I.'s. Someone had to take the blame and he got picked.
- Telly Savalas as Master Sergeant "Big Joe", the platoon's de jure leader and Kelly's de facto second-in-command
- Don Rickles as Staff Sergeant "Crapgame"/"Hustler", the supply sergeant who's always looking for a profit.
- Carroll O'Connor as Major General Colt, the division commander
- Donald Sutherland as Sergeant "Oddball", the quirky "proto-hippie" leader of three Sherman tanks from the 321st.
- Gavin MacLeod as Moriarty, Oddball's bow machine-gunner and mechanic.
- Shepherd Sanders as the Turk, a member of Oddball's tank crew.
- Stuart Margolin as Private "Little Joe".
- Jeff Morris as Private First Class "Cowboy".
- Hal Buckley as Captain Maitland, the platoons commanding officer and the General's nephew.
- Dick Balduzzi as Private Fisher.
- Richard Davalos as Private Gutowski, the team's sniper.
- Gene Collins as Private "Barbara" Babra.
- Perry Lopez as Private Petuko.
- Tom Troupe as Corporal Job, a close friend of Big Joe's.
- Harry Dean Stanton as Private Willard.
- Len Lesser as Sergeant Bellamy of the 42nd Engineers Bridging Unit.
- David Hurst as Colonel Dankhopf, a German intelligence officer.
- George Savalas as First Sergeant Mulligan, mortar section commander.
- Karl-Otto Alberty as Waffen-SS Tiger tank no. 115 commander.
- Ross Elliott as Major Booker.
- Fred Pearlman as Private First Class Mitchell.
- Michael Clark as Private Grace.
- George Fargo as Private Penn.
- Dee Pollock as Private Jonesy.
- John G. Heller as German Lieutenant.
- Yves Montand as German Sturmbannführer (uncredited).
- John Landis as Nun (uncredited).
- Tom Signorelli as Bonsor (uncredited).
- Hugo De Vernier as French Mayor (uncredited).
- Robert MacNamara as Roach (uncredited).
- Read Morgan as U.S. Lieutenant (uncredited).
- Tony Wheeler as General Colt's Driver (uncredited).
- Joe Mantell as General's Aid (uncredited).
- Donald Waugh as Roamer (uncredited).
- Sandy McPeak as 2nd Tank Commander (uncredited).
- Phil Adams as 3rd Tank Commander (uncredited).
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." The filming commenced in July 1969 and was completed in December and was shot on location in the Istrian village of Vižinada in the former Yugoslavia and London. 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 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.
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. The film grossed $5.2 million in the United States when it was released in June 1970.
Musical score and soundtrack
|Soundtrack album by Lalo Schifrin|
|Recorded||April 21 and June, 1970
TTG Studios Hollywood, California
|Producer||Mike Curb and Jesse Kaye|
|Lalo Schifrin chronology|
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. 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.
All compositions by Lalo Schifrin except as indicated
- "Kelly's Heroes" – 2:52
- "All for the Love of Sunshine" (Schifrin, Mike Curb, Harley Hatcher) – 3:49
- "Burning Bridges (instrumental)" – 2:10
- "Tiger Tank" – 1:58
- "Clairmont Waltz" – 2:15
- "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (Traditional) – 2:58
- "Burning Bridges" (Schifrin, Curb) – 2:44
- "Quick Draw Kelly" – 3:12
- "All For The Love Of Sunshine (instrumental)" – 2:50
- "I've Been Working on the Railroad" (Traditional) – 3:43
- "Commando Opus" – 2:37
- Lalo Schifrin – arranger, conductor
- Maurice Harris – trumpet
- Lloyd Ulyate, Dick Nash, Dick Noel, George Roberts – trombone
- Vincent DeRosa, David Duke, Bill Hinshaw – French horn
- Ronnie Lang, Bud Shank – woodwinds
- John Ellis – oboe
- Tommy Morgan – harmonica
- Ralph Grierson – piano
- Carl Fortina – accordion
- Tommy Tedesco, Howard Roberts, Bob Bain, Alton Hendrickson – guitar
- Ray Brown – bass
- Emil Richards, Larry Bunker, Joe Porcaro – percussion
- Israel Baker – concert master
- David Frisina, Anatol Kaminsky, Sam Freed, Marvin Limonick, Alexander Murray, Herman Clebanoff, Thelma Beach, Irma Neumann, James Getzoff, Dorothy Wade, Joseph Stepansky – violin
- Dan Neufeld, Myra Kestenbaum, Robert Ostrowsky, Joseph Di Fiore – viola
- Gloria Strassner, Edgar Lustgarten, Armand Kaproff, Justin Di Tullio – cello
- Robert Helfer – orchestra manager
- David Axelrod, H.B. Barnum, Dick Hazard – arranger
- Lloyd Basham – orchestra manager
- Unnamed orchestra conducted by Don Peake (tracks 2 & 10)
- Hank Williams, Jr (track 2), The Mike Curb Congregation (track 7) – vocals
In popular culture
- In the anime series Girls und Panzer, the film is referenced several times, including by main character Yukari Akiyama once calling herself "Sergeant Oddball" and as reference material for urban tank-to-tank combat by the protagonist Rabbit Team. 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.
- 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.
Kelly's Heroes was released to DVD by Warner Home Video on August 1, 2000, in a Region 1 widescreen DVD (one of several solo DVD's marketed as the Clint Eastwood Collection) and also to Blu-ray on June 1, 2010 as part of a double feature with Where Eagles Dare.
- BBCF: Kelly's Heroes, running time Retrieved 2012-11-01
- Hughes, p.194
- "Kelly's Heroes, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
- Munn, p. 102
- McGilligan (1999), p.183
- McGilligan (1999), p.184
- channel 4 – 100 greatest war films of all time
- Hughes, p.196
- Payne, D. Lalo Schifrin discography accessed March 15, 2012
- Film Score Monthly Website accessed March 19, 2012
- Girls und Panzer, ep. 5: "An Experienced Sherman Army Corps!"
- Girls und Panzer, ep. 10: "This Fight Won't Be Dismissed!"
- Illogicalzen.com: Girls und Panzer – Review
- Hughes, Howard (2009). Aim for the Heart. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-84511-902-7.
- McGilligan, Patrick (1999). Clint: The Life and Legend. London: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-638354-8.
- Munn, Michael (1992). Clint Eastwood: Hollywood's Loner. London: Robson Books. ISBN 0-86051-790-X.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Kelly's Heroes|
- Kelly's Heroes at the Internet Movie Database
- Kelly's Heroes at AllMovie
- Kelly's Heroes at the TCM Movie Database
- Castle Beočin in Serbia (Major General Colt's headquarters)