Kelly’s Heroes really is a beautiful mother
bridge film - yet not a ‘proper’ real gritty war film as such -
though the start of the film certainly has that vibe and look - before somehow naturally evolving into a laid-back heist film set in World War 2.
Not many films have a character where Clint Eastwood plays the lead role - and is then outshone - by the one and only Donald Sutherland’s Oddball - possibly the first hippy of World War 2…
The film boasts a cracking cast - Telly Savalas (on great form as ‘Big Joe’ - despite being an anti-social type), Don Rickles, Carroll O’Connor, Gavin MacLeod, Harry Dean Stanton, Karl-Otto Alberty & Stuart Margolin - and the ensemble nature really comes to the fore with some quality performances throughout.
A kickback and rest-up film - ideal for a lazy Sunday afternoon whilst drinking wine, eating some cheese, catching some rays… or coming back home from the pub late & drunk, finding this on tv and tuning in with a big goofy smile on the face - knowing what is to come…
The memes, gifs, impressions, beards, memorable quotes etc have all been done before… the Oddball character has inspired many a cult tribute down the years 😉 and the film itself is an enjoyable caper / robbery movie of sorts - from the writer of The Italian Job (the 1969 version).
Oddball - ‘The Greatest American Hero’ - 10 minute youtube video
Kelly’s Heroes – some of the best quotes - article from WarHistoryOnline.com
Kelly’s Heroes - some more great quotes - from Great-Quotes.com
Film Synopsis (from IMDB) - ‘During World War II, Lieutenant Kelly learns of a German bank located behind enemy lines containing 16 million dollars in gold bars. His platoon, led by Big Joe, has three days of R&R coming, so, with the aid of hustler Crapgame, anachronistic hippie Oddball, three Sherman tanks and a touch of irreverence, Kelly leads his men deep into French territory to steal the gold for themselves.’
A bit of trivia - The film is based on a true incident. The caper was covered in a book called “Nazi Gold: The Sensational Story of the World’s Greatest Robbery–and the Greatest Criminal Cover-Up” by Ian Sayer and Douglas Botting. The heist was perpetrated by a combination of renegade Nazi and American officers. It was also listed as the “biggest” robbery ever in the Guinness Book of Records, in the 1960s.
A bit more trivia - In the 1990s a group of Swedish war game enthusiasts started to build a 1/72-scale model of the town where the robbery takes place. Trying to make their model as accurate as possible, they even traveled to Vizinada - which is now in Croatia - and in fact hired a pilot and plane to get aerial photos of the town. Croatian authorities thought they were foreign spies and arrested them. Reportedly, they were released after a couple of hours.
Trivia you likely already know - Donald Sutherland contracted spinal meningitis during filming, there were no antibiotics around and he went into a coma. His wife received a telegram telling her to come immediately - yet also warning her that he would probably be dead before she arrived. Thankfully the big man pulled through - and then continued filming.
A last bit of trivia - One of the nuns walking through the village as Oddball’s Sherman rolls by is… production assistant and later Hollywood movie director John Landis.
The film can usually be picked up brand new for around £5 / $5 on dvd or blu ray - and is seemingly playing on TCM or some other similar tv channel every month or so 😃
Theme Song - the memorable ‘Burning Bridges’ by The Mike Curb Congregation
Rotten Tomatoes page
Kelly’s Heroes’ Facebook fan club page
‘30+ things you may not have known about Kelly’s Heroes’ - an article from TheVintageNews.com
My film rating…
(4 woofs from 5)
If you haven’t seen it yet then have I hope you do get the chance to view it sometime.
If you haven’t seen it for a while it’s well worth a re-watch with so many positive waves.