Kelly’s Heroes

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Don Rickles, Carroll O’Connor, Telly Savalas
Extras: Theatrical Trailer

’Kelly’s Heroes’ is a war movie in much the same way that ’The Dirty Dozen, ’ ’Operation Petticoat,’ or ’Three Kings’ can be considered war movies. While the conflict provides the setting and the main characters are all military men, the actual story within the movie has very little to do with any historical event whatsoever. The war is just the background for what, in this case, is really a comedic caper film with tanks.

Clint Eastwood stars as Private Kelly — recently busted down from his previous rank of Lieutenant after taking the fall for a failed mission. In plying a captured German officer with drink, he discovers that there is $14 million in gold bullion locked away in a bank 30 miles behind enemy lines. Setting out on his own to ’recover’ this loot, Kelly soon meets up with a wide range of characters whose unique skills he needs to accomplish his mission. Among this colorful cast are Oddball (Donald Sutherland), the pre-1960s beatnik who likes to spout lines of peace, love, and harmony, and shoot shells full of paint from his tank in an attempt to make his targets pretty; Crapgame (Don Rickles), the consummate schemer whose job it is to amass whatever supplies and information the gang needs; and Big Joe (Telly Savalas), the serious career sergeant who comes along in an attempt to keep his greedy platoon alive. Together, this band of misfits launches what turns out to be a full-scale attack on a small occupied French town in their attempt to grab the gold.

The DVD is presented in a stunning 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen format. The image is very sharp with deep, accurate colors. Brightness and contrast are both solid, providing fine detail in even the darkest of scenes. Some slight wear and tear of the film elements is present, along with a bit of grain in a few scenes, but on the whole this is a great video transfer and the movie has never looked this good on home video.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a brand-new remastering of the original mono mix which, unfortunately for the sake of audio purists, is not available on the DVD. The musical score has a very full effect across the front soundstage and surrounds and has clearly benefited the most from this new mix. Dialogue and sound effects are very firmly anchored to the center channel, with only an occasional burst of sound spreading across the full set of speakers. The LFE does kick in for some of the more impressive explosions but deep bass is not present throughout most of the film. All in all it’s a fine remastering job for a film this old.

While set in the 1940s, the dialogue and attitude of the characters is very firmly entrenched in the disillusionment of the Vietnam era. Sporting dark humor along the same lines as ’M*A*S*H,’ which was released the same year, ’Kelly’s Heroes’ is full of laughs, great action, and even a few bona fide military moments. Sporting newly remastered video and audio, this DVD, while lacking any real extras, is a wonder to behold and comes highly recommended.