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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital Mono
  • German: Dolby Digital Mono
  Subtitles
    English, French, German, Dutch, English - Hearing Impaired, Danish, Swedish, German - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 1 Theatrical trailer

Kelly's Heroes

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 138 mins . M15+ . NTSC

  Feature
Contract

Thirty odd years before George Clooney and Mark Walhberg went behind enemy lines in search of Iraqi gold in the darkly comedic seat-squirmer Three Kings, Clint Eastwood and Telly Savalas were cutting a swathe through war-torn France in pursuit of Nazi gold in Kelly’s Heroes. A deft mixture of wartime action and character-driven comedy, Eastwood’s second teaming with Where Eagles Dare director Brian Hutton is a World War Two epic; part high adventure, part heist, and filled to the brim with tongue in cheek humour.

Recently busted from lieutenant down to private as the scapegoat for a military bungle, Kelly (Eastwood) is a disillusioned GI on the slow and dangerous march from Normandy to Berlin. However, when Kelly captures a German intelligence officer and learns of a fortune in gold bars sitting just 30 miles behind enemy lines, here finally he has found something worth fighting for. Enlisting the help of the local supply sergeant and all-round hustler ‘Crapgame’ (Don Rickles), Kelly starts to gather munitions and supplies for a secret sojourn into German territory. Overhearing the conspirators, a hippy tank captain known only as ‘Oddball’ (Donald Sutherland) joins the operation with the offer of his three ‘modified’ Sherman tanks.

Soon Kelly has only his squad-mates and their battle-hardened sergeant ‘Big-Joe’ (Savalas) left to convince, and although against the idea, Joe finally agrees to lead the mission. With a crack squad of men and machines now assembled, Kelly’s nefarious operation begins. But, as the troops face various obstacles in their push through the German line, and with their need for support increasing, word begins to spread about Kelly’s little operation...

With its epic production values, intelligent script, and star-studded cast, Kelly's Heroes is a wonderfully entertaining genre-crossover film. One of several WWII adventure films to appear during the '70s, it provides a perfect balance of tense, action-filled military set-pieces interspersed with laughs-a-plenty. Coming straight off Where Eagles Dare, director Hutton imbued the film with a high degree of authenticity; the various locations, from army camps to small French villages, all look completely genuine. But where Hutton earns the most kudos is in his perfect balance of comedy and action, maximising the impact of each without weakening the other.

That the mix works is due mainly to the film’s fine cast. Made at the height of his popularity, Eastwood brings his signature ‘cool loner’ to the part of Kelly, and is happy to play the straight man around which the rest of the cast capers. Telly Savalas is perfect in the role of Big Joe; he’s tough as nails, whilst also providing impeccable comic timing. Don Rickles is also entertaining, adding his particular brand of cynical New Yorker to proceedings. But the scene-stealer is most definitely Donald Sutherland’s ’40s hippy ‘Oddball’; upstaging all and sundry, and delivering some of the film’s most memorable lines. Coming straight off his star-making turn in M*A*S*H, this is Sutherland at his best; and without doubt his funniest.

All in all, Kelly’s Heroes is a film with a little something for everyone. Whether it’s action, humour, or more action that you’re looking for, then you could do a lot worse than a night in with Clint and the boys. After watching Saving Private Ryan some years ago I’ve been avoiding war movies like the plague. But thankfully, Kelly’s Heroes is gore-free, and both my wife and I were able to dodge the bullets and laugh ourselves stupid without fear of mental violation. What more could you ask for?

  Video
Contract

For a film that’s now over thirty years old, Warner’s anamorphic (2.35:1) transfer of Kelly’s Heroes is a beauty to behold. Mastered from an amazingly clean print and with only the odd white speck visible throughout, the resulting image is amazingly crisp and sharp without distracting aliasing or moirč. In terms of colour the film itself is quite muted, with predominantly dusty locations and filled with washed out army grey, but the perfect skin tones indicate that the colour is correctly balanced. The muted colours certainly highlight the impressive level of contrast in the image, and the deep, solid blacks also play their part admirably.

During the daytime scenes, the sharp image provides a wealth of detail; plumbing the depths of film’s wonderfully gritty locations. The film appears to have been shot on location in Europe (if it wasn't I’m impressed indeed), and the war-torn French villages that Kelly and his gang reduce to rubble are reproduced beautifully by the transfer. As is typical for a film made in the early seventies, shadow detail is quite low, and this is painfully evident during the night scenes comprising the film’s first 20 minutes. On the flip-side, however, the film displays none of the grain that is all too common for films of this age.

In terms of compression artefacts, well, there aren’t any. Not a one. Warner have done an absolutely amazing job here, no doubt taking considerable advantage of the space afforded by the dual layer format (see the dearth of extras below). Even the layer change went by unnoticed. Indeed, in its digital form, Kelly’s Heroes is one of the best looking films from the seventies that I have yet seen released in this region.

  Audio
Contract

It’s often hard to judge a soundtrack that has been remastered from original mono source material into a spanking new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. On the one hand, the film may sound infinitely better than it did when first released, but typically the results still aren’t a patch on contemporary films. Some purists also rage against what they see as the rape of the director’s original creation. Well I don’t know about all that. Certainly this remixed version of Kelly’s Heroes does not compare to the Private Ryan’s of this world, but even the purists would have a hard time arguing that the remastering effort has been in vain.

Whilst to a large extent the film retains its mono foundation (the majority of the sound still emanates from the centre channel), it’s during the battles and in the handling of the score that the extra 4.1 channels come to the fore. During the wonderfully staged battles, explosions boom and artillery shells scream all around the viewer. When the score is brought up, it is balanced nicely between the front and rear channels. The effect is a reasonably immersive viewing experience.

The LFE channel also gets a good workout; kicking in for the explosions and the wide variety of tanks, guns, and other munitions that are a constant feature of the soundtrack. It also helps out with the dramatic score, lending it some much needed low-end. During all this the dialogue remains clear and distinct from the centre channel.

There really is no doubt that Warner’s remastering efforts have been well rewarded. Certainly, you have never heard Kelly’s Heroes sound like this before, and fan’s of the film will no doubt be well pleased with the results.

  Extras
Contract

We’re supplied with nothing but a wonderful looking, anamorphic (1.85:1) theatrical trailer. Hardly worth the effort is it?

  Overall  
Contract

Kelly’s Heroes is a big budget war epic that is as entertaining today as it was way back in 1970. With great performances, exciting action-sequences, a well-conceived heist and sharp, tongue-in-cheek humour, what's not to like? Presented with a beautiful image and remastered soundtrack, Warner's DVD release of Kelly's Heroes is without doubt the film's definitive version, and I highly recommend this wonderfully entertaining boys-own adventure to all. Even your wife will enjoy it. No really!


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      And I quote...
    "Thankfully, Kelly's Heroes isn't Saving Private Ryan, it's a highly entertaining, boys-own adventure that even your wife will enjoy!"
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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