Kelly’s Heroes

kelly27s_heroes_film_posterYear: 1970

Synopsis: Led by Private Kelly, a group of soldiers go AWOL in a scheme to steel millions of dollars worth of gold.

Pros:
• The seemingly impossible genre mix of comedy, war, and bank heist somehow just works.
• A true anti-establishment film that is also subtly anti-war.
• The whole cast clearly enjoyed themselves, and all the characters are more than memorable.
• The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Oddball is a perfect parody homage scene.
• Harry Dean Stanton has a small but noticeable role as Pvt. Willard.

Cons:
• The plot itself is somewhat implausible; Generals like Patton certainly would never have let anything like this happen under their watch.
• Not always consistent tonally.
• The theme song for the film, “Burning Bridges,” might be a bridge too far in lightening a tone already lightened by the talented cast, while it might not hold up well for the present-day ear.

Discussion:
What is interesting about WWII films as late as even 1970 is how many of the actors served in that war: Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Harry Dean Stanton, among others. That fact gives a de-facto authenticity to a war film. At the same time, Kelly’s Heroes is not a traditional war film. Comedy and War seem like as odd genre bedfellows as Horror and Comedy. War and Comedy might not even work all that well on their own, but this film is also a bank heist. As a result, this is really a film about the power of greed. All Kelly (Eastwood) had to do was show one gold bar, and most came to follow him, often instantly. The establishment did not matter, as the establishment came to follow in their own ways. The heroes technically did a lot of good in the fight against the nazis, but the gold, their greed was all that really mattered. Most do not really want war, and that gold proved how ridiculous war can look against anything else. Kelly’s Heroes is a unique film in its genre mixing that is a classic simply because it works.


AFI Catalogue Listing

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%

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