JT Film Review

93 – Kelly’ Heroes (1970)

Kelly’s Heroes REVIEW

4/5 stars

Director – Brian G. Hutton

Cast – Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Carroll O’Connell, Donald Sutherland, Gavin McLeod, Harry Dean Stanton, Len Lesser


Kelly’s Heroes features Clint Eastwood as an Army officer who discovers the location of a bank which contains millions of dollars in Nazi gold. With WW II in full swing around him, Kelly gathers a few men, including Donald Sutherland as a tremendously entertaining pseudo hippie tank commander, and plunges behind enemy lines toward the loot.

Kelly’s Heroes reunited Clint with his Where Eagles Dare director for a movie which is decidedly more fun and generally better than the former. It is a simple movie that uses its premise well, never really diving into the motivation of the war or its participants. This is essentially a heist film, the only difference being that in this film the heroes can kill with a clear conscience, because hey, they’re just Nazi’s. For some reason Nazi’s make great villains, as proven by the Indiana Jones franchise. This is probably because they have great uniforms, a menacing accent and their ideology is repugnant. No one need feel a thing when rows of them are gunned down, or at least that is the tone this movie takes.

The performances are key to the movie. Donald Sutherland is a wonderful standout as the possibly deranged and aptly named Sgt. Oddball. Carroll O’Connor (“All in the Family’s” Archie Baker) has a great extended cameo as a Major General who mistakenly thinks that Kelly and Co. are merely pressing forward out of pure courage, and Telly Savalas plays Kelly’s tough commander. Also, keep a look out for Harry Dean Stanton (later to appear in Alien), and a younger Len Lesser, who would go on to play  Uncle Leo in “Seinfeld”.

I read on Wikipedia that this film is considered one of the movies released to cash in on the success of The Dirty Dozen, produced 3 years before. I find that interesting, as both Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland were in The Dirty Dozen, and prove their range here by playing totally different characters.

Clint Eastwood is perhaps not as good as the rest in his role, as he takes his usual hard, tough, annoyingly quiet character and almost parodies it. I guess I have never been as fond of Eastwood’s acting as others seem to have been. It looked like he was trying to be cool and tough, rather than letting his actions speak for themselves. In A Fistful of Dollars and its sequels this style fitted the tone of the movie perfectly. Here, not so much.


Kelly’s Heroes is tough, funny, energetic, and brawny. The acting is great, except for Eastwood, and the movie never forgets to have fun. It is very much a “guy’s movie”, along the line of The Dirty Dozen, though this one has a bit more of a satirical edge. I would recommend this to most people, especially if they have a fondness for the war movies of this era, which I must admit to. With a more charismatic lead this would have been better, but it is still an admirable and fun flick.



“Kelly’s Heroes” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



June 9, 2010 - Posted by | Film Review, Genre - War, Year - 1970-1979 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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