Kelly’s Heroes (1970) – A Review


A review of the 1970 action war comedy Kelly’s Heroes, starring Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Don Rickles and Carroll O’Conner

Kellys Heroes 1970 war movie Clint Eastwood Telly Savalas Donald Sutherland

It’s WWII and Private Kelly (Clint Eastwood) has gotten wind of a stash of gold sitting in a French bank being guarded by the Germans. Sixteen million bucks worth of gold! It looks ripe for the taking. These spoils of war just waiting to be snatched and could be the perfect heist. The big problem is that the town of Clermont where the gold is at is behind enemy lines. That creates a bit of a hurdle.

Kellys Heroes 1970 Eastwood Sutherland WW2 tank

Undeterred with the odds, Kelly recruits a ragtag crew that are lured in with getting a cut of this gold. With a bit of comedy, action and a whole lot of greedy determination, Kelly’s Heroes fight their way through the French countryside and whatever German resistance they encounter in order to get to that treasure!

This all sounds great. Great cast! Look at them – Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Donald Sutherland, Carroll O’Connor, Gavin MacLeod, Harry Dean Stanton. An fun,thrilling kind of story all taking place in a tense setting with some terrific locations.

We have all that, and it’s a movie I always wanted to love. It’s one of those star-filled movies on an epic scale when you see you want to say, “They don’t make movies like that anymore!”. I feel like I should love it, but there’s something about Kelly’s Heroes that always kept me from feeling it ever truly becomes something great. I classify it as ‘OK’.

The comedy is overall rather light stuff. It comes from these group of misfit characters butting heads. The big comedy reliefs are Sutherland and Rickles (not surprisingly). Sutherland really rocks as his burntout hippie tank driver. You might wonder how this character fits into a WWII movie. He seems better suited as character in the Vietnam era, but what the heck.

You like all these guys, but I never thought the comedy was very knee-slapping. The characters, all played by some great actors, just don’t really gel or butt heads in as much of an entertaining way as I hope.

Clint Eastwood Don Rickles Kellys Heroes 1970

On the other hand I’ll say the locations and action scenes are big and impressive. This looks like a big time production! Things do get a bit violent and deaths happen to some of our heroes. There’s a nice tense sequence in a minefield and watching these huge tanks go at it is quite exciting. All the action stuff holds up right there with any great older WWII movie.

Yet, with the excitement the battle scenes bring, the movie feels like it drags on too long. The pressure of a deadline to accomplish this mission gets sidelined until the last hour of the movie. There doesn’t seem like there’s much need to rush getting to this bank through most of the movie. Finally in the last act General O’Conner is racing towards the town and his presence adds some much needed urgency to things.

Perhaps, Kelly’s would have been better had it been cut down. At nearly two-and-half hours, there are too many points when it sags and I get antsy. There are good moments, and that’s how I always thought of Kelly’s Heroes. A movie that has good moments, that is stretched out over way too long a length.


2 thoughts on “Kelly’s Heroes (1970) – A Review

  1. Kelly’s Heroes is a FANTASTIC film!!! I’m sorry to say, this particular review is utterly wrong. The humor in this classic movie is just right for the setting and characters. And the film is certainly not too long. John, you need to go to Clint Eastwood’s house, ring the bell, drop to your knees, beg his forgiveness, and then let him repeatedly slap you hard on the face!

    If only Don Rickles were still alive… The things he would say about you! ; )

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