Had some slow spots (used 120X FF) but this was typical of old school black and white movies. The action scenes were great for their time period. A must for war, Steve McQueen and young Bob Newhart fans!
McQueen Brings It To Life
Reviewer | 09/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Gritty realism and a riveting performance by Steve McQueen highlight the World War II action/drama "Hell Is For Heroes," directed by Don Siegel. The setting is France, 1944, and American troops are spread thin across a sector of the Siegfried Line. When heavy action in another area precipitates troop movement, a squad of six men is left behind to hold the position until reinforcements arrive, which means a day or maybe two of making the Germans believe they are actually up to strength with a full complement of men. Not an easy task, but like the man said, war is hell. With Sergeant Larkin (Harry Guardino) in charge, and left to their own devices for survival, the men of the 2nd Squad dig in for what just may be the longest night of their lives. And for some, it will prove to be not only the longest, but their last. In the shadow of a murderous pill box held by the enemy, the soldiers make their stand and add yet another footnote to another chapter in the history of the eternal struggle for freedom. Filmed in stark black&white, Siegel's film succinctly captures the fatal brutality of war, in terms perhaps not as graphic, but every bit as effectively as Steve Spielberg would do some thirty-six years later with his monumental film "Saving Private Ryan." Siegel may not have had the special effects in 1961 that Spielberg had at his disposal in 1998, but he did have an excellent screenplay (by Robert Pirosh and Richard Carr) from which to work. He tells his story in a direct, unromanticized way that maintains the focus and conveys the sense of urgency of the moment, through which he builds the tension and suspense that makes the peril of the situation immediate and real. Siegel had two predominant elements going for him that helped him achieve success with this venture: One was an instinctive knowledge of what works and how to deliver it; but most of all, he had Steve McQueen to sell it. McQueen plays Pvt. John Reese, a veteran soldier who transfers into this particular outfit on the very day they are ordered to the front line. And that's just the way Reese wants it. When he reports for duty (three days late), he runs into Sergeant Pike (Fess Parker), who had served with him in another campaign. It's late evening, and the troops are assembling at an old church outside of town that now serves as a makeshift barracks; Pike sees Reese and asks him how he is. "Thirsty," Reese replies. "Town's off limits," Pike tells him. The very next scene shows Reese walking into town and finding what appears to be the only bar on a lonely street. Stepping up to the counter, Reese asks the bartender (a woman) for a bottle. "One pack or two?" he asks. "We aren't allow to serve soldiers--" she says. "Two," he replies, and setting the cigarettes on the counter, he walks around and takes a bottle. And now, without a doubt, we know exactly who and what Reese is; the personification of the iconoclastic loner, embodied to perfection in the form of Steve McQueen. By all accounts, McQueen was not only a tough guy on screen, but in real life as well; tough meaning that he was always up for a challenge of any kind, and determined to live by his own set of rules, no matter what the cost. But he was a complex individual, and that was but one side of his true persona. To play Reese, McQueen went to that dark, stoic side of himself, exaggerated it, and the result was one of the most intense characters he ever created. Reese is a force of one, adamant and relentless, single-minded and fatalistic. At the moment he's on the Siegfried Line, but for him it's just another battle in a war he's been waging with life since the day he was born. And he knows deep down that it's a war he's never going to win; it's just a matter of time before his hand plays out, and being on the line is just as good a place as any. For him, it's not a matter of options, but of inevitability. It's an exemplary performance, and one for which McQueen never received the acclaim he was due, which unfortunately was not an isolated instance in his career. There was Vin in "The Magnificent Seven," Frank Bullitt in "Bullitt" and Tom Horn in "Tom Horn," as well. And that's but a sample of the work he did for which he never received enough recognition. His only real acknowledgement came with his creation of Jake Holman in "The Sand Pebbles," a role for which he was nominated and should have received the Oscar for Best Actor. But Reese was one of his first, and one of his best. The supporting cast includes Bobby Darin (Corby), James Coburn (Henshaw), Mike Kellin (Kolinsky), Joseph Hoover (Captain Loomis), Bill Mullikin (Cumberly), Nick Adams (Homer) and Bob Newhart in his film debut as Pvt. Driscoll. Hard-hitting and with unforgiving realism, "Hell Is For Heroes," though on a smaller scale, perhaps, than Spielberg's "Ryan," is one of the most effective and memorable war films ever made; Siegel gave it direction and focus, McQueen brought it to life. And it's quite simply one of the best of it's kind you'll ever see."
One of the all-time greatest War movies! Not to be missed!!
G. Enos | 08/09/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was born in 1954 and went to see this one when it first came out. I was all of eight years old. What an extremely profound impact it would have on my life. I eventually went on to serve as an officer in the USMC, partly because of the heroism depicted in this movie. Each time that I watch it now, I sympathize with the characters that are sent to cover a sector of the Sigfried line and one morning wake to find that the rest of the company has pulled leaving only their squad to defend the company-sized front. How desperate their reaction! They do the right thing - they go on the offensive! I won't spoil it for you. It is an excellent movie well worth adding to any collection. No war movie collector would be without it. Great performances by Fess Parker, Steve McQueen, Nick Adams, Bobby Darin, James Coburn, Bob Newhart, Harry Guardino and others who also went on to become famous character acters. Well worth owning at any price!!!"
An excellent, gritty WWII film
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 04/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This low-budget war film boasts a terrific ensemble cast, with an early performance by the dynamic Steve McQueen, and one of the few examples of Bobby Darin's fine acting skills, as he, as well as fellow cast member Nick Adams, both died when they were 37. Others in the cast include Fess Parker, Harry Guardino, James Coburn, and Bob Newhart, who was famous at the time for his stand-up comedy routines of one-way telephone conversations, and lightens the tension with a hilarious scene where to fool the Germans who have placed a "bug" near the telephone, he pretends to talk to the commander.
Based on a true story (which took a few years to be declassified and written about), it takes place near Montigny, France, in 1944, and is about a small squad that is outnumbered by the enemy, who is protected in a pillbox surrounded by mines; the script is tight and the pacing marvelous, with direction from Don Siegel, who would go on to direct so many great Clint Eastwood action films. I have seen this film countless times since its theatrical release in 1962, and it never gets stale; the performances are all excellent, with a modernistic score by Leonard Rosenman that adds to the atmosphere, and Harold Lipstein's black & white cinematography capturing the muddy, gritty feel of the foxholes, the fear felt by all, and the incredible heroism that some men can rise to. Total running time is 90 minutes. "
This Is the Only Movie About the Siegfried Line Campaign
G. Enos | Rochester, New York United States | 02/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've seen them all, and this is solely about the campaign from September, 1944, until the Battle of the Bulge in December, 1944. Since the Newhart character mentions his Division headquarters being at the French town of Thionville, it means that this fictional outfit was located at the sector just a few miles east, i.e., south of Trier, Germany and probably a part of Patton's Third Army. My uncle fought in that campaign. His letters home confirm the rough time his outfit had in September and October, 1944. Most of the units were understrength after a few days at the front line. The Germans had constructed their defenses so that the pillboxes, mostly camouflaged, had interlocking fields of fire so that they were mutually supporting. Also, they had excellent observation points for artillery fire direction. Thus, the "Amis" (the nickname for the U.S. troops given by the Nazis) were under fire at all times.The replacement troops usually were so green that they didn't last a month, and many died after a day or two without knowning even what outfit they belonged to. Thus, this movie captures the realism of what that combat was like. I especially liked the attention to detail, e.g., the night patrols, the minefield, the concertina wire, etc. Both sides sent out nightly patrols. These were the days before spy satellites and infrared or night vision devices. The only way to get good intelligence was to send out some men to capture prisoners for interrogation. That explains why Reese was so concerned about the Germans finding out how thin his sector was held, and why the squad tried to take measures to fool the enemy into thinking they were a larger force. Another good realism was having the mortar squads fire for effect on the approaches to the pillbox. However, in the real war the troops tried to outflank it. The veterans I have talked to say the best way to knock the pillbox out was to get in the rear of it and drop some grenades down the ventilation pipe. The Germans usually came out running after one of the grenades exploded. However, due to the need to provide a heroic end for Reese, the movie has him going directly in front of the firing aperture and making a fatal but explosive end to the machine gun.The U.S. Army lost about 50,000 troops during this 3 month campaign. The lines of supply were outstretched, and the equipment, e.g., tanks, trucks, artillery, were in need of resupply and repair due to the long trek across France. Hitler had the West Wall(the actual name for the Siegfried Line) defended to give his forces time to reorganize in preparation for the Ardennes Campaign in December, 44. My uncle's unit was restricted in its' battle against the West Wall to the point where the Division Artillery could only fire ten (10) rounds per gun per day!This movie has to be seen in order to understand how this happened, and to appreciate what our ancestors had to endure. This, in my estimate, is the best WW II movie before Saving Private Ryan since it captures the gritty and violent world in a realistic way, before all the advances in special effects."
An interesting film
Patrick King | Indianapolis, IN USA | 03/18/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I tend to shy away from WWII movies made from the 40's till the early 60's, because they lack a certain realism. This film is one of the first, however, to break out of that ultra-patriotic, propaganda ridden era that Hollywood defined as World War II. Within the censorship limits of the time, this movie shows warfare at it's ugliest. The film follows a squad from the 95th Infantry Division as they face the Siegfried Line in the fall of 1944. The filmakers have researched the technical aspects of the film fairly well. The G.I.s are correctly uniformed and equiped, which is somewhat of a rarity from Hollywood at the time. ( Unfortunatly the Germans in the film are not so lucky. They could have used a better tech advisor.) Overall a good movie. Someone must have gained inspiration from it when they made the movie WHEN TRUMPETS FADE in 1998. Very similar story line and just as well done."