Thursday, 20 February 2020

Kelly's Heroes (1970)

Off-List: Kelly's Heroes
The first off-List movie of 1970 is “Kelly’s Heroes”, a movie which would never make it to the List, but nevertheless a perfect antidote to the wave of very serious and high-brow movies hitting me lately.

“Kelly’s Heroes” is certainly neither serious, nor high-brow, but fun and enjoyable, especially if you do not think too much about what you are watching.

During World War II a unit of the American army gets wind of a fortune in gold lying almost unguarded 30 miles behind the front. Kelly (Clint Eastwood), a demoted lieutenant, forms a small task force to secretly sneak in to pilfer this gold. Since the “insignificant” guard includes three of the dreaded Tiger tanks, Kelly recruits Oddball and his band of three Sherman tanks. Oddball (Donald Sutherland) is the only hippie in the American army and the source of much hilarity.

The movie follows the set-up, the move in and the attack on the town with a lot of focus on the banter and the shenanigans done to fool both the American brass and the Germans. That is all very enjoyable, such as Oddball hoping that positive vibes will ensure there will be a bridge for him. When it is blown up anyway, he makes a phone call from a French café to a bridging unit and orders a bridge to be delivered 30 miles behind the lines. This silliness is mixed with the usual fighting and shooting you would expect in a war movie resulting in this odd combination of a fun war movie.

The combination should not work and it probably would not today, but it did back then, at least until you start thinking about what you are watching. People die like flies and the unit takes some substantial losses with little more than a shrug and a “yeah, we a tough”. It takes a particular boyish gung-ho attitude to reconciliate this with the hilarity, but somehow “Kelly’s Heroes fly over that, as it does with all the historical inaccuracies. The battles around Nancy was in the autumn, not at the height of summer, there does not seem to be a Clermont near Nancy and the set in Yugoslavia carries only vague resemblance to France. Not to mention a hippie in WWII…

Yet, who cares, this is just fun and when Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland moves out, that is all that matters. A particular favorite is the scene where the three of them walk down the street to face the Tiger tank in front of the bank in Western style. This is totally high noon with a rip-off Morricone score, which seems to be a reference to Clint Eastwood’s Sergio Leone characters. It totally cracked me up.

Back in the day movie critics tore it to pieces, but its boyish appeal has made it survive the decades and it still occasionally pops up on television. That is a lot more than can be said about most other movies from 1970.

Enjoyable movies do not have to make a lot of sense or be particularly clever. Sometimes some gung-ho tongue-in-cheek is enough to carry a film. And of course Clint Eastwood. And some positive vibes.


  1. I love this movie so much. It's silly and goofy and fun as all hell.

    1. There is a part of me who feel guilty for liking it, but I enjoy it too much to care

  2. So nice to have something fun! I go to bad Godzilla movies but this sounds perfect too.

    1. Bad Godzilla movies should do it too, but there is also something to say for good production value