Kelly's Heroes

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Kelly's Heroes
Kelly's Heroes film poster.jpg
Directed byBrian G. Hutton
Produced byGabriel Katzka
Harold Loeb
Sidney Beckerman
Written byTroy Kennedy Martin
StarringClint Eastwood
Telly Savalas
Don Rickles
Carroll O'Connor
Donald Sutherland
Music byLalo Schifrin
CinematographyGabriel Figueroa
Edited byJohn Jympson
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • June 23, 1970 (1970-06-23) (US)
Running time
146 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$4 million[2]
Box office$5,200,000 (rentals)[3][4]

Kelly's Heroes is a 1970 American war film, directed by Brian G. Hutton, about a group of World War II American 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.


During a thunderstorm in early September 1944, units of the 35th Infantry Division are nearing the French town of Nancy. One of the division's mechanized reconnaissance platoons is ordered to hold their position when the Germans counterattack. The outnumbered platoon also receives friendly fire from their own mortars.

Private Kelly, a former lieutenant scapegoated for a failed infantry assault, captures Colonel Dankhopf of Wehrmacht Intelligence. Interrogating his prisoner, Kelly notices the officer's briefcase has several gold bars disguised under lead plating. Curious, he gets the colonel drunk and learns that there is a cache of 14,000 gold bars, worth $16,000,000, stored in a bank vault 30 miles behind enemy lines in the town of Clermont. When their position is overrun and the Americans pull back, a Tiger I kills Dankhopf.

Kelly decides to go after the gold. He visits the opportunistic Supply Sergeant "Crapgame" to obtain the supplies and guns that will be needed for the operation. A spaced-out tank platoon commander known as "Oddball" and his three M4 Sherman tanks from the 6th Armored Division invite themselves into the plan. With their commanding officer, Captain Maitland, busily pursuing opportunities to enrich himself and seriously neglecting the welfare of his troops, the men of Kelly's platoon are all eager to join Kelly. After much argument, Kelly finally persuades cynical Master Sergeant "Big Joe" to go along.

Kelly decides that his infantrymen and Oddball's tanks will proceed separately and meet near Clermont. Oddball's tanks fight their way through the German lines, managing to destroy a German railway depot, but their route is blocked when the bridge they need to cross is blown up by Allied fighter-bombers. This forces Oddball to bring a bridging unit in on the caper. An American fighter plane mistakes Kelly's group for the enemy, destroying their vehicles and forcing them to continue on foot. They stray into a minefield, and Private Grace is killed. Kelly's troops engage an enemy patrol; PFC Mitchell and Corporal Job, still stuck in the minefield, are killed.

The two units rendezvous two nights later. They battle their way across the river to Clermont, losing two of the three tanks and leaving the bridging unit behind. When intercepted radio messages from the private raid are brought to the attention of the gung-ho Major General Colt, he misinterprets them as the efforts of aggressive patrols pushing forward on their own initiative and immediately rushes to the front to exploit the "breakthrough".

Kelly's men find that Clermont is defended by three Tiger tanks of the 1st SS Panzer Division with infantry support. The Americans are able to eliminate the German infantry and two of the Tigers, but the final tank parks itself right in front of the bank and Oddball's Sherman breaks down, leaving them stalemated. At Crapgame’s suggestion, Kelly offers the German tank commander and his crew an equal share of the loot.

After the Tiger blows the bank doors open, the Germans and Americans divide the spoils and go their separate ways, just barely managing to avoid meeting the still-oblivious General Colt, who is blocked from entering Clermont by the French residents who have been deceived by Big Joe into thinking that General Charles de Gaulle is coming. Not long after the freelancers have gone, Captain Maitland enters the bank, to find a Kilroy and the words "Up Yours, Baby" painted by one of Kelly's crew on the wall.



The project was announced by MGM in November 1968 under the title of The Warriors.[5] Filming commenced in July 1969 and was completed in December.[2] The film was made and released during a time of great turbulence for MGM.[6] It was shot on location in the Istrian village of Vižinada in Croatia (then part of Yugoslavia) and London.[7] One of the reasons for the selection of Yugoslavia as the main location was that, in 1969, it was one of the few nations whose army were still equipped with operating World War II mechanized equipment, both German and American. This simplified logistics tremendously.[8]

Pre-production, George Kennedy turned down a role despite an offered fee of $300,000 because he did not like the part.[9] The original script included a female role which was removed just before filming began. Ingrid Pitt had been cast in the role (she worked on Where Eagles Dare with Eastwood and Hutton the previous year). She later said she was "virtually climbing on board the plane bound for Yugoslavia when word came through that my part had been cut".[10] In the film's climax, there is a nod to the ending of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, another Eastwood movie, right down to a very similar musical score, and the overdubbing of the sound of non-existent jangling spurs.[7]

Deleted scenes[edit]

Approximately 20 minutes were cut from the film by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer before theatrical release. Eastwood said later in interviews that he was very disappointed about the re-cut by MGM because he felt that many of the deleted scenes not only gave depth to the characters, but also made the movie much better.[11][12] Some of the deleted scenes were shown on promotional stills and described in interviews with cast and crew for Cinema Retro's special edition article about Kelly's Heroes:[13]

  • Oddball and his crew pack up to go across the lines to meet up with Kelly and others while local village girls are running around half naked.
  • The platoon encounters a group of German soldiers and naked girls swimming in a pool.
  • While they wait for Oddball in the barn at night, Kelly and Big Joe talk about their disillusionment with the war and why Kelly was made a scapegoat for the attack that resulted in his demotion. Another scene was deleted from this part where the platoon decides they do not want to continue with the mission, and Gutowski threatens Kelly at gunpoint, but Big Joe and Crapgame side with Kelly.
  • General Colt is in bed with some women when he gets a call that Kelly and others have broken through the enemy lines.
  • During the attack on the town, production designer John Barry had a cameo as a British airman hiding from the Germans.
  • One promotional still shows Kelly finding a wounded German soldier among the ruined houses during the final town attack.
  • Kelly, Oddball and Big Joe discuss tactics while standing on an abandoned Tiger tank before the scene where they negotiate with the German tank commander.
  • When Kelly and platoon drive off at the end, a bunch of soldiers yell at them that they are headed in the wrong direction.


The film received mostly positive reviews. It was voted at number 34 in Channel 4's 100 Greatest War Films of All Time.[14] The film earned $5.2 million in US theatrical rentals,[15] making it the 25th highest-grossing film of 1970.[16][unreliable source?]

Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 76% based on 21 reviews, with an average rating of 6.9/10.[17]The website's critical consensus reads, "Kelly's Heroes subverts its World War II setting with pointed satirical commentary on modern military efforts, offering an entertaining hybrid of heist caper and battlefield action.".[18]

Musical score and soundtrack[edit]

Kelly's Heroes
Soundtrack album by
RecordedApril 21 and June, 1970
TTG Studios Hollywood, California
GenreFilm score
ProducerMike Curb and Jesse Kaye
Lalo Schifrin chronology
Kelly's Heroes
Rock Requiem

The film score was composed, arranged and conducted by Lalo Schifrin and the soundtrack album was released by MGM Records in 1970.[19]

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 by Film Score Monthly in 2005.[20] 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 film. The Mike Curb Congregation's recording of "Burning Bridges" reached #34 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on March 6, 1971; but did much better in South Africa, where it was the #1 song on the charts for five weeks ending in November 1970, and in New Zealand, where it spent two weeks at #1 in March 1971. It reached #12 in Australia,[21], and in Canada the song reached #23 in March 1971.[22]

The soundtrack to the film also contains the song, "All for the Love of Sunshine", which became the first #1 country hit for Hank Williams, Jr.. The inclusion of the song in the film is an anachronism, because the song was not released until 1970, twenty-five years after the end of the war.


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 DVDs 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ BBCF: Kelly's Heroes, running time Retrieved 2012-11-01
  2. ^ a b Hughes, p.194
  3. ^ "All-time Film Rental Champs", Variety, 7 January 1976, pg 46.
  4. ^ "Kelly's Heroes, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved May 26, 2012.
  5. ^ "MGM Will Begin Nine Films in '69". Los Angeles Times. 30 Nov 1968. p. a5.
  6. ^ "Operating Loss of $l.9 Million Posted by MGM: Despite 2nd Period Deficit, Firm Earned $4.9 Million During 1st Half of Fiscal '70 Filming Costs Charged Off". The Wall Street Journal. 22 April 1970. p. 5.
  7. ^ a b McGilligan (1999), p. 183
  8. ^ Ben Mankiewicz introduction to Kelly's Heroes, Turner Classic Movies, 25 May 2015.
  9. ^ Knapp, Dan (23 Nov 1969). "'Cool Hand Luke' Gave Kennedy a Fair Shake: George Kennedy". Los Angeles Times. p. c1.
  10. ^ Munn, p. 102
  11. ^ Conversations With Clint: Paul Nelson's Lost Interviews With Clint Eastwood, Pages 51 - 54
  12. ^ "Kelly's Heroes - cut scenes?". Retrieved 2016-11-06.
  13. ^ "CINEMA RETRO'S "KELLY'S HEROES" MOVIE CLASSICS SPECIAL EDITION STILL A TOP-SELLER! - Celebrating Films of the 1960s & 1970s". Retrieved 2016-11-06.
  14. ^ "channel 4 – 100 greatest war films of all time". Archived from the original on 2009-03-26. Retrieved 2009-03-27.
  15. ^ Hughes, p.196
  16. ^ Top Grossing Films of 1970. Retrieved April 17, 2016.
  17. ^ Kelly's Heroes on Rotten Tomatoes
  18. ^ Kelly's Heroes (1970), retrieved 2018-12-30
  19. ^ Payne, D. Lalo Schifrin discography accessed March 15, 2012
  20. ^ Film Score Monthly Website accessed March 19, 2012
  21. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  22. ^ RPM 100, March 30, 1971


External links[edit]