Sudden Impact (1983)

SuddenImpact_B2-1-500x692Country: United States
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Pat Hingle, Bradford Dillman, Albert Popwell
Music: Lalo Schifrin

I am sure that I do not have to introduce the character of Dirty Harry Callahan. Sudden Impact was the fourth film in the Dirty Harry series, preceded by Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, and The Enforcer. And preceding The Dead Pool.

I have very mixed feelings about Sudden Impact. On one hand, it is a sleazy repugnant little film. Easily the worst of the Dirty Harry films. But for me, it represents one of the rites of manhood. The film was released in 1983, with a ‘R’ certificate, which meant that in Australia, no one under the age of 18 years could see the film. I would have been around 15 years old when the film was released, and therefore was too young to go to a screening.

At this time, I still lived in the country, up north on the Murray River. But frequently the family would make trips on the weekend to Melbourne. We would often stay at my aunt and uncle’s place and sleep on the floor, as it was cheaper than hotel accommodation. One of these trips coincided with the release of Sudden Impact. And somehow, I managed to convince my father and my uncle to take me to see the film. My thinking was, that if I was accompanied by two men who were clearly over 18, then the staff at the cinema would not question my age. So it was, the three of us went into the heart of the city to see Sudden Impact on a Saturday night.

I remember walking beside them, proud as punch. I also remember, the sex show spruikers asking us to “step this way gentleman, show starts right away”. With a firm hand on my shoulder, my dad steered me past these temptations, and towards the movie house. There was no trouble at the cinema whatsoever, and we all enjoyed the film. And that is one of the things about Sudden Impact; it is a film, that should be seen on the big screen and with a crowd. The film has quite a few comedic moments, and these play a lot better with a crowd. When the crowd laughs, you laugh. And this comedy balances out the more sleazy aspects of the film.

This is something that I noticed years later when the film became available on video. On television, and without a crowd behind me, my reaction to the film was very different. Initially, at the cinema, I thought the film was fantastic. An exciting blend of blazing Magnum action, and witty dialogue. But on video, with much of the humour diluted, you’re left with a tale of rape and revenge, and even Callahan’s motives are dodgy. At the end of the film, he puts himself above the law, allowing a killer to go free.

But the film reached a level of popularity beyond its story, when Ronald Regan – President of the United States at that time – quoted the ‘Make My Day!’ line from the film. Much like Rambo: First Blood Part II, the film and its loner hero came to epitomize the new America – a country that was regaining its sense of worth after the Iran hostage situation. Many words have already been spent analyzing the political content in the Dirty Harry films – so I’ll move on, leaving that to the experts.

The story is quite simple. Sondra Locke plays a woman who, along with her sister, was gang raped by a bunch of students led by a psychopath. Many years later, she starts seeking revenge shooting the offending members. After the few few deaths, the psychopath cottons on to what’s happening, and decides to strike back. But naturally enough, standing between both parties is Harry Callahan – armed with a new weapon – the .44 Magnum Automag. Gun-porn fans rejoice.

It almost seems funny looking back at it now, and seeing how far Harry Callahan had changed from the original Dirty Harry, to the stylized and somewhat sleazy mayhem in Sudden Impact. It’s only Eastwood’s presence and the .44 magnum that ties it all together.

As I said, I have very mixed feelings about the film. I know it is not very good, but maybe because of the built in affection I have for it, I cut it more slack than most.

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Sudden Impact (1983)

Dirty Harry (1971)

dirty_harryDirector: Don Siegel
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Andrew Robinson, Reni Santoni, Harry Guardino, John Larch, John Mitchum, John Vernon
Music: Lalo Schifrin

I don’t have to introduce police inspector Harry Callahan to many people. I am sure most people reading this review have seen one film in the series (or at least know the character I am talking about). I discovered Dirty Harry twice. The first time was when I was a young teenager, then later as an old teenager.

When I was thirteen, I went through a big Clint Eastwood phase. I hate to admit this, but this is probably because I was taken to see Every Which Way But Loose at the local drive-in. After that I tried to see every Eastwood movie I could. This is before video really took off in Australia. So, to see these films I had to rely on terrestrial television. Back in the early 1980’s television censorship in Australia was very severe. We had what they called AO MOD TV movies – standing for Adults Only Modified for Television. Well the censors worked overtime on Dirty Harry, cutting out whole scenes and great chunks on dialogue. It is a testament to the strength of the movie that despite the removal of the violence and swearing, it was still a bloody good film. The cuts obviously diluted Dirty Harry from how it was originally intended to be seen, but in others ways opened up the film to a new youthful audience.

Four or five years later and I finally got to see an uncut version of Dirty Harry, and if you’ll forgive the Harryesque wordplay, I was blown away. I couldn’t believe what a powerful and incredibly different movie viewing experience it was.

But that’s enough reminiscing. For the three people out there who haven’t seen it, Dirty Harry opens in the city of San Francisco, with a girl taking a swim in a roof top pool. On another adjacent rooftop, which overlooks the first, Scorpio (Andrew Robinson) takes aim at the girl with an assault riffle. He fires and she dies. It is not a revenge killing or the result of a relationship gone bad. Scorpio is a psychopath and has killed her, just because she was there.

As the titles run, police arrive at the crime scene. Inspector Harry Calahan (Clint Eastwood) scouts the vantage points from which the sniper could have fired. On one of the rooftops, attached to a television antenna is a note from Scorpio addressed to the Mayor of San Francisco.

Scorpio wants money. If he doesn’t get it, he will shoot a Catholic priest or a negro. After a meeting with the Mayor, a message is put in the newspaper agreeing to pay Scorpio, but it is merely a ploy to gain time.

But Scorpio never really appears that interested in the money. Sure he goes through the motions of trying to collect it, but for him it’s more about the killing. And he plans to kill again. And kill he does.

Soon after Scorpio kidnaps a young girl and demands a ransom. Harry agrees to take the money to Scorpio, but this only begins a cat and mouse game between the two protagonists.

Dirty Harry features an interesting bunch of characters, and actors to portray them. First is Clint Eastwood. At the time, Eastwood had some success with his trio of ‘Dollar’ Spaghetti Westerns and a few other films, but Dirty Harry really launched him into the stratosphere. Sure, there had been loner cops before, but had any of them had the impact of Dirty Harry? The character, with his droll sarcasm, and cool one-liners became a blueprint for so many action heroes that were to follow. It has been reported that the role of Harry Callahan had originally been offered to Frank Sinatra. While I have no doubt that Frank would have made a fine tough cop, I doubt the character would have gone on to become the cinematic icon that he has. It also must be mentioned, a lot of Harry’s success must be attributed to his choice of handgun, the 44 magnum. The gun is almost a character in itself. Harry’s determination to stop crime at any cost, is really symbolised by ‘the most powerful handgun in the world’.

The next character we have is Chico Gonzalez; portrayed by Reni Santoni. Films often have sacrificial victims to make the heroes journey seem more personal and perilous. Not that Chico dies, but he is the sacrificial victim in this movie. He gets shot up pretty good. As much as Clint and Harry became a template for the loner cop, Chico and Santoni set up the template for the unwanted junior partner in police films. The progeny of his character can be seen in the films of Chuck Norris, Steven Segal, and even in the sequels to Dirty Harry itself. By the time of the fourth sequel, The Dead Pool, the junior partner had almost become a joke. As an adjunct, it’s great to see Santoni went from unwanted partner in Dirty Harry, to experienced ‘wanted’ partner, Sergeant Gonzales in Cobra with Sylvester Stallone in 1986.

Andrew Robinson brings a totally new style to interpreting psychopathic characters. Compare Scorpio to James Cagney as Cody Jarret in White Heat. Both characters are unhinged, but Jarrett was only really a threat to the police and other criminals. But Scorpio’s victims were random. Robinson is absolutely unsettling and unpredictable in his characterisation. One minute he is laughing and cackling; the next he is ranting and raving. Again his portrayal was groundbreaking and many imitators followed. Since I have already mentioned Cobra, it is worth noting that Robinson changed over to the side of law and order, and plays Stallone’s superior, Detective Monte in that film.

Dirty Harry is an iconic film. The style it set dominated police films for the next twenty years. It wasn’t until the arrival of The Silence Of The Lambs that police thrillers moved off into different, more dark territory. The massive amount of imitators, including it’s own sequels, have slightly dimmed Harry’s impact. If it was a stand alone picture, I am sure it would be considered an all time classic. When they compile top 100 films of all time, Dirty Harry should always be in the top 10. But as it stands, it will have to settle for being one of the greatest cop thrillers of all time. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s a film I revisit again and again. Highly recommended.

The Dirty Harry sequels are:
• Magnum Force • The Enforcer • Sudden Impact • The Dead Pool

And Harry was a character who was too big to remain solely on the cinema screen. A series of book was written to capitalise on his notoriety. I must admit, I found these books a little too violent, and in places very distasteful – but still read a good handful of them.

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I am pretty sure I downloaded these cover from the Pulp International website, but it has been a few years. My thanks to whoever originally uploaded them.

Dirty Harry (1971)

Gone to Texas

Gone to TexasAuthor: Forrest Carter
Publisher: Whipporwill Publishing
Original Title: The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales
Release Year: 1973
Pictured: Futura paperback 1976

I hardly ever read western novels, which is really strange because I love western movies, particularly those of Clint Eastwood. I could talk about the Dollars trilogy all day — and have done so, much to the chagrin of those around me. But Eastwood’s range extends far beyond his early spaghetti westerns, and I believe The Outlaw Josey Wales to be one of his better films. To paraphrase Orson Welles oft quoted opinion of Josey Wales, that if it had been directed by anyone else but Clint Eastwood, it would have won and Academy Award for best picture. Back in 1976, Clint’s reputation isn’t what it is today. He was considered a wooden, violent action star; that is despite some of his films, such as Dirty Harry, The Beguiled and his directorial debut, Play Misty For Me, being not only entertaining, but displaying an artistic quality not usually associated with an actor of Eastwood’s standing.

The Outlaw Josey Wales was based on a book called The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales, and later renamed Gone To Texas by an author named Forrest Carter. Carter’s story is a fast paced, knowing and quite and entertaining read.

As someone who has read a great deal of film novelisations, or even books which serve as the basis for films, I also enjoy comparing, or discovering the differences between the two mediums. And there are naturally enough differences between Gone To Texas and The Outlaw Josey Wales, most of which has to do with the villains. Gone To Texas does not really have a defined villain to hate. Captain ‘Redlegs’ Terrell (as played by Bill McKinney in the film) is not a part of the story. Nor does it feature Fletcher’s betrayal of his Confederate brothers. In the book it is a faceless enemy that hounds Wales (and the disparate family he picks up along the way).

Much of the dialogue in the film is faithful to the book, and the sensitive treatment of American Indians is transposed too. In the story, Indians are not shown as stereotypical ‘rampaging hordes’, or conversely ‘noble savages’, but as fellow human beings with all the foibles that go with the human condition – humour, love, loss, anger, pride and everything else.

All in all, Gone To Texas is a great novel, and will appeal to fans of the film as well. But there is more to the story than that. Let’s dig a little deeper, and look at the author, Forrest Carter.

Here’s Carter’s mini bio from the first page of Futura paperback edition of Gone To Texas (1976):

Forrest Carter, whose Indian name is Little Tree, is known as Storyteller in Council to the Cherokee Nations. Orphaned at the age of five, he lived with his grandpa (half Cherokee) and his grandma (full Cherokee) in Tennessee until their deaths when he was ten. He has been on his own ever since. He has worked ranches in the South and Southwest – calls Dallas County, Texas, home. History is his main interest, especially of the South-Southwest and the Indian; he uses the council storytelling method of the Indian in passing on the history of his people. A number of Indian organisations will share in the proceeds of this book.

The Education of Little Tree
The Education of Little Tree

From that bio, it is clear to see why Gone to Texas portrays Indians in such a positive way – as Forrest Carter was one. However that’s not quite the case, as we will discover.

Aside from The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales, Forrest Carter’s other literary claim to fame was that he wrote a highly regarded memoir called The Education of Little Tree. In Little Tree, Carter retold the tale of how he was orphaned at a young age and was brought up by his Cherokee grandparents, and in particular his relationship with his Scottish-Cherokee grandfather, who, and I am sure this is not a coincidence, was named Wales.

The truth however, is quite different. Carter was not an orphan, nor was he raised by Cherokee grandparents. And furthermore, ‘Forrest’ was a non de plume. His real name was Asa Earl Carter.

Quoting from that font of all wisdom; Wikipedia:

Forrest Carter
Asa Earl Carter (September 4, 1925 – June 7, 1979) was an American speechwriter and author, most notable for publishing novels and a best-selling, award-winning memoir under the name Forrest Carter, an identity as a Native American Cherokee. As Forrest Carter, he wrote a purported memoir, The Education of Little Tree, in which he said he had been orphaned into the care of Cherokee grandparents. In 1976, following the publication success of his western The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales, The New York Times revealed Forrest Carter to be Southerner Asa Earl Carter.

Of course, this issue was not that Carter had used a non de plume. Many writers use pen-names. The issue was that Asa Earl Carter was a Klansman and a segregationist, and his claims of being a native American were dubious. From Wikipedia:

Carter spent the last part of his life trying to conceal his background as a Klansman and segregationist, claiming categorically in a 1976 The New York Times article that he, Forrest, was not Asa Carter. The article details how as Forrest, Carter was interviewed by Barbara Walters on the Today show in 1974. He was promoting The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales, which had begun to attract readers beyond the confines of the Western genre. Carter, who had run for a campaign for governor of Alabama (as Asa Carter) just four years earlier in a campaign which included television advertising, was identified from this Today show appearance by several Alabama politicians, reporters and law enforcement officials. The Times also reported that the address Carter used in the copyright application for The Rebel Outlaw was identical to the one that he used in 1970 while running for governor. “Beyond denying that he is Asa Carter”, the Times noted, “the author has declined to be interviewed on the subject.”

When the story of Carter’s deception hit the news, it was inevitable that Clint Eastwood would be drawn into the controversy. From Clint Eastwood: A Biography by Richard Schickel, published by Alfred A. Knopf New York 1996:

Clint was on location, making Unforgiven, when this article appeared, and he sent a polite letter to the Times, pointing out that he had met the man he knew as Forrest Carter only once. He also observed, “If Forrest Carter was a racist and a hatemonger who later converted to being a sensitive, understanding human being, that would be most admirable.”

But maybe that wasn’t the case either — or possibly Eastwood was being diplomatic. Schickel also relates that Clint’s producer on Josey Wales, Bob Daley saw another side to Carter:

He saw a decent side to the man, reflected in warm, supportive letters he received from Carter on the death of his father. He also saw vicious anti-Semetism, directed at William Morris agents, when the arguments about money started up. He finally came to the conclusion that Carter was basically an opportunist, willfully burying – but not necessarily abandoning – his racism so that he could rejoin decent society.

I cannot know what Carter’s thoughts and attitudes really were. But the evidence, such as the bio, and his public denial that he was Asa Earl Carter, would support Daley’s claim that he was an opportunist, whose attitudes could and would be put to the side where financial gain was concerned.

But having said that, as the popularity of the books would attest, Carter was a good writer who wrote stories that were not racist, and depicted Indians in a light that had never really been seen in main stream fiction at that time.

Carter is certainly an enigma. And despite what his actual beliefs may have been, there is no denying that Gone To Texas is a great western story, and a thoroughly entertaining read.

Gone to Texas

The Dead Man: Face of Evil

Authors: Lee Goldberg, William Rabkin
Publisher: Adventures in Television
Published: February 2011
Book No: 1

This novella is not a spy story, but the story has its roots in the ‘Men of Action’ stories that were popular in the ’70s and ’80s – and many of them were spy stories. But first, I want to talk to you about ‘Dirty Harry’. When I was growing up I was a big fan of Dirty Harry. In fact I discovered Harry twice. The first time was when I was a young teenager, then later as an old teenager.

The first instance was before video really took off in Australia. Back in the early 1980’s television censorship Down Under was very severe. We had what they called AO MOD TV movies – standing for Adults Only Modified for Television. Well the censors worked overtime on Dirty Harry, cutting out whole scenes and great chunks on dialogue. It is a testament to the strength of the movie that despite the removal of the violence and swearing, it was still a bloody good film. The cuts obviously diluted Dirty Harry from how it was originally intended to be seen, but in others ways opened up the film to a new youthful audience.

Four or five years later and I finally got to see an uncut version of Dirty Harry, and if you’ll forgive the Harryesque wordplay, I was blown away. But between that time I actually encountered Harry again. Not the filmic Harry as portrayed by Clint Eastwood, but the ‘Men of Action’ book series written by Dane Hartman (I think my first was one of the latter ones in the series Dealer of Death). I bring up the fact that my first filmic encounter with Harry was cut, because the books were extremely graphic, which delighted me no end. I do believe they were the series that taught me the word ‘viscera’. With the hindsight of twenty-five plus years, I realise the Dirty Harry series was trash…but I enjoyed it so. They were my ‘Men of Action’ series…the one I latched onto.

The thing is, if you grew up in that era, without all the video games, computer, ipods etc., then most likely to escape you read, and adolescent males read ‘Men of Action’ books. And there were heaps of them to chose from, Mack Bolan as The Executioner, Remo Williams as The Destroyer, The Black Samurai, The Specialist, The Hunter, The Penetrator and many many others. I am sure many of you have your favourite. You could always tell a ‘Men of Action’ book by the number on the cover – they were always numbered, hoping you’d keep along with the series.

Men of Action
‘Men of Action’ books

The old ‘Men of Action’ books are all but extinct now – of course you can find them in second hand shops, but possibly younger generations have replaced them with video games, which provide them with more immediately thrills. I for one, kind of miss them. But it seems that I am not alone. Thankfully, a group of talented authors are coming together in a project aimed at reviving the spirit of the ‘Men of Action’ books in a new e-book series. The series is called The Dead Man, and the first book is Face of Evil written by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin. But this new series isn’t just retreading old ground, or presenting more of the same. The story tellers have added a paranormal, horror element into the mix. So Face of Evil presents a story in a style that you may be familiar with, but mixed with some other elements to bring the reader something new.

However, here’s my first little gib, and I know it’s an e-book, but in keeping with the ‘Men of Action’ ethos, it should have a big No. 1 on the cover to signify that it is the first in the series. Oh, and a guy with a gun… and maybe a girl in bikini. They don’t need to be in the story… heaven knows most of the old series promised more with their cover artwork than we actually got!

I know I am being superficial, but hey, I’m a traditionalist! The story concerns Matthew Cahill, who has been a widower for many years, and works in a saw mill. After many years on his own, Cahill looks like he is about to enter into a new relationship with a co-worker named Rachel. But this budding relationship is cut short, when one afternoon as they are skiing, an avalanche takes Cahill’s life. Or does it? After three months of being buried in the snow, his body is found and taken to the morgue. But as the coroner attempts to perform his autopsy he notices a very strange thing. As he cuts into the corpse, he notices that it is bleeding. Dead men don’t bleed.

So how does Matthew Cahill stand up as a ‘Men of Action’ hero? I think the jury still has to be out on that. Cahill has the potential to be a fascinating and thoroughly entertaining hero. He is in this story. But Face of Evil is somewhat of a ‘Beginnings’ story, which charts how Cahill becomes ‘The Dead Man’ and suggests the path that he is going to take. And I must admit I am eager to see where this path leads. So is he a great ‘Men of Action’ hero? He could be. Time will tell.

If there is a weakness to the story, it was in the horror aspects to the story. By nature I am squeamish kind of fellow, but the horror elements here didn’t have me chewing my nails, or have my heart racing. However, the thriller, and comedy – very dark comedy I will add – is first rate. I found myself laughing out loud on a few occasions (which is always embarrassing when you’re on a train).

Here’s the spiel about The Dead Man series:

Matthew Cahill is an ordinary man leading a simple life…until a shocking accident changes everything. Now he can see a nightmarish netherworld of unspeakable evil and horrific violence that nobody else does…

For Cahill, each day is a journey into a dark world he knows nothing about…a quest for the answers to who he is and what he has become…and a fight to save us, and his soul, from the clutches of pure evil.

FACE OF EVIL, the first book in the series, was written by Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin and will be released on February 20th, to be followed in coming months by more all-new adventures of THE DEAD MAN by some of the most talented and successful mystery, western, horror and scifi authors out there today, including Bill CriderJames Reasoner, Matt Witten, Joel Goldman, James Daniels, Burl Barer and David McAfee.

Face of Evil
Faux Cover - 'Face of Evil' as a retro style 'Men of Action' book

Please forgive the clumsy faux cover art (right) I have created for Face of Evil. The simple fact is I was just having a bit of fun. So too, I think that the authors who have come together for The Dead Man project are having a bit of fun (although on the strength of Face of Evil, I would suggest their story telling ability is stronger than my artistic aspirations). The enjoyment, most evident in the in-jokes, is palpable when reading the story. Of course, I cannot know exactly what the authors were thinking when they wrote this story, but a part of me expects that it may not have seemed like work at all. The story races by at a brisk rate of knots, each twist and turn, and shift in time providing another revelation as the story moves towards its… well, I was going to say ‘end’, but that really is misleading. For now I will say ‘close’, but sure to be picked up in book two.

Face of Evil is only a novella, around 80 pages, which creates its own little duel edged sword. In many ways, I was happy that it was short, as the twists had me eager to know whats happens next. Therefore, I could finish the book in one sitting, rather than pressing on into the wee small hours and turning up to work bleary eyed the next morning. On the flip slide, I was enjoying it so much, I didn’t want it to end so abruptly. I guess I have to wait for the next installment in The Dead Man series.

The Dead Man: Face of Evil

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

Director: Brian G. Hutton
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Don Rickles, Carroll O’Connor, Gavin MacLeod, Stuart Margolin, Jeff Morris, Harry Dean Stanton, Gene Collins, Perry Lopez, Hal Buckley, Karl-Otto Alberty
Music: Lalo Schifrin

After Where Eagles Dare, Clint Eastwood had starred in two flop movies. First there was Paint Your Wagon, which was one of the failures that nearly forced Paramount pictures into bankruptcy. Then he followed it up with Two Mules For Sister Sara, which again, wasn’t quite the success that he had hoped. Naturally, he looked at making another Where Eagles Dare to get punters bums back on seats. The result was Kelly’s Heroes. But Kelly’s Heroes is a bit different – it isn’t another blood and guts, shoot ‘em up, – it’s a caper film.

The film opens during the middle of a battle. Mortar shells are raining down and buildings are exploding. Behind enemy lines, Private Kelly (Clint Eastwood) has captured himself a German Intelligence Officer. He brings him back for interrogation. Inside the German’s attaché case, Kelly finds two lead bars. When questioned, the German says if he was captured he was to throw the case in a river. The lead weights were to weigh it down. Then Kelly notices that a bit of lead has been scraped away at the bottom of one of the bars. It looks like the lead coating is to disguise the gold bar underneath. Kelly starts plying the Officer with brandy to find out more.

Trailer uploaded to Youtube by: Weduc79

The liquor eventually loosens the Officer’s tongue, and he reveals that 14,000 gold bars have been placed in a bank in the town of Claremont. Claremont is 20 miles behind enemy lines, and the town (and bank) are guarded by three Tiger Tanks.

But Kelly thinks that he has been getting shot at, mortared and bombed on for virtually no reward at all. Why not make a little extra out of it? He decides to go after the gold. Luckily, his platoon, which is under the leadership of Big Joe (Telly Savalas) has just been relieved of duties on the front line, and has three days rest. Kelly convinces them all, that they should risk their lives, behind enemy lines to rob the bank.

But Kelly needs a little bit of help from a few outsiders. The first is Crapgame (Don Rickles). Crapgame is the supply officer. Through him, Kelly arranges all the weapons, ammunition and supplies he needs for the incursion. To go up against the three Tiger tanks in Claremont, Kelly enlists the aid of a misfit named Oddball (Donald Sutherland), who is in command of three Sherman tanks. With the motley crew assembled, the men head off into the warzone, each expecting a share in a $16,000,000 payday. Of course, it isn’t all beer and skittles, and the platoon has to face quite a few hardships before reaching their objective.

The film has a great ending too. When our squad of men have reached the bank in Claremont, and overcome nearly all obstacles, there is one last little hiccup. Parked in front of the bank is a Tiger tank that steadfastly refuses to move.

Kelly’s Heroes features a top-notch ensemble cast. Of course there’s Eastwood – he plays his role fairly straight. Kelly is resourceful and brave, but he has been busted back from lieutenant to private for a mistake that was not his fault. Basically, he is now at war with the system. Eastwood didn’t carry, Where Eagles Dare (Burton was the star) but here, the film falls solely on his shoulders. Thankfully he is helped out by Savalas, who also plays it straight and tough. But you need straight guys to play opposite Donald Sutherland. Sutherland plays one of the weirdest characters to populate a World War II drama. Oddball is a sixties style hippy…and sure he maybe out of place in 1944, but his scenes are hilarious. Then you’ve got Don Rickles (for the youngsters reading this – Mr. Potato Head). Rickles is Rickles. He doesn’t really change. And Harry Dean Stanton has a small early role (cos a repo-man spends his life getting into tense situations).

The music by Lalo Schifrin is good (did you expect anything else?) but it doesn’t have the rhythmic hooks that some of his other scores do. It often falls back on staccato military drum beats, which I ‘think’ are intended to evoke Ron Goodwin’s score from Where Eagles Dare. For the showdown at the end of the movie, the score even veers into mock Morricone territory, harking back to Eastwood’s Dollars trilogy. The title song, ‘Burning Bridges’, by the Mike Curb Congregation is pleasant enough piece of early 70’s bubblegum pop, but it is not particularly memorable outside this film.

‘Burning Bridges’, by the Mike Curb Congregation uploaded by 5tealthh

Although Kelly’s Heroes is directed by Brian G. Hutton, the man behind Where Eagles Dare, the two films are very different. Where Eagles Dare is a rip-roaring adventure film, but Kelly’s Heores combines two genres – the War film and the Caper film. The idea almost works, but it does result in a little un-eveness. Sometimes the film is a very serious war drama, and shows the consequences of death in a war zone. This is amplified by the fact that Kelly’s platoon choose to go after the gold at their own personal risk. Then right beside these poignant scenes, they’ll insert Carroll O’Connor’s ham fisted cartoon antics. It doesn’t always gel. But overall, I believe that Kelly’s Heroes is a fine, and extremely entertaining film.

Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

Kelly's Heroes (1970)

Director: Brian G. Hutton
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Don Rickles, Carroll O’Connor, Gavin MacLeod, Stuart Margolin, Jeff Morris, Harry Dean Stanton, Gene Collins, Perry Lopez, Hal Buckley, Karl-Otto Alberty
Music: Lalo Schifrin

After Where Eagles Dare, Clint Eastwood had starred in two flop movies. First there was Paint Your Wagon, which was one of the failures that nearly forced Paramount pictures into bankruptcy. Then he followed it up with Two Mules For Sister Sara, which again, wasn’t quite the success that he had hoped. Naturally, he looked at making another Where Eagles Dare to get punters bums back on seats. The result was Kelly’s Heroes. But Kelly’s Heroes is a bit different – it isn’t another blood and guts, shoot ‘em up, – it’s a caper film.

The film opens during the middle of a battle. Mortar shells are raining down and buildings are exploding. Behind enemy lines, Private Kelly (Clint Eastwood) has captured himself a German Intelligence Officer. He brings him back for interrogation. Inside the German’s attaché case, Kelly finds two lead bars. When questioned, the German says if he was captured he was to throw the case in a river. The lead weights were to weigh it down. Then Kelly notices that a bit of lead has been scraped away at the bottom of one of the bars. It looks like the lead coating is to disguise the gold bar underneath. Kelly starts plying the Officer with brandy to find out more.

Trailer uploaded to Youtube by: Weduc79

The liquor eventually loosens the Officer’s tongue, and he reveals that 14,000 gold bars have been placed in a bank in the town of Claremont. Claremont is 20 miles behind enemy lines, and the town (and bank) are guarded by three Tiger Tanks.

But Kelly thinks that he has been getting shot at, mortared and bombed on for virtually no reward at all. Why not make a little extra out of it? He decides to go after the gold. Luckily, his platoon, which is under the leadership of Big Joe (Telly Savalas) has just been relieved of duties on the front line, and has three days rest. Kelly convinces them all, that they should risk their lives, behind enemy lines to rob the bank.

But Kelly needs a little bit of help from a few outsiders. The first is Crapgame (Don Rickles). Crapgame is the supply officer. Through him, Kelly arranges all the weapons, ammunition and supplies he needs for the incursion. To go up against the three Tiger tanks in Claremont, Kelly enlists the aid of a misfit named Oddball (Donald Sutherland), who is in command of three Sherman tanks. With the motley crew assembled, the men head off into the warzone, each expecting a share in a $16,000,000 payday. Of course, it isn’t all beer and skittles, and the platoon has to face quite a few hardships before reaching their objective.

The film has a great ending too. When our squad of men have reached the bank in Claremont, and overcome nearly all obstacles, there is one last little hiccup. Parked in front of the bank is a Tiger tank that steadfastly refuses to move.

Kelly’s Heroes features a top-notch ensemble cast. Of course there’s Eastwood – he plays his role fairly straight. Kelly is resourceful and brave, but he has been busted back from lieutenant to private for a mistake that was not his fault. Basically, he is now at war with the system. Eastwood didn’t carry, Where Eagles Dare (Burton was the star) but here, the film falls solely on his shoulders. Thankfully he is helped out by Savalas, who also plays it straight and tough. But you need straight guys to play opposite Donald Sutherland. Sutherland plays one of the weirdest characters to populate a World War II drama. Oddball is a sixties style hippy…and sure he maybe out of place in 1944, but his scenes are hilarious. Then you’ve got Don Rickles (for the youngsters reading this – Mr. Potato Head). Rickles is Rickles. He doesn’t really change. And Harry Dean Stanton has a small early role (cos a repo-man spends his life getting into tense situations).

The music by Lalo Schifrin is good (did you expect anything else?) but it doesn’t have the rhythmic hooks that some of his other scores do. It often falls back on staccato military drum beats, which I ‘think’ are intended to evoke Ron Goodwin’s score from Where Eagles Dare. For the showdown at the end of the movie, the score even veers into mock Morricone territory, harking back to Eastwood’s Dollars trilogy. The title song, ‘Burning Bridges’, by the Mike Curb Congregation is pleasant enough piece of early 70’s bubblegum pop, but it is not particularly memorable outside this film.

‘Burning Bridges’, by the Mike Curb Congregation uploaded by 5tealthh

Although Kelly’s Heroes is directed by Brian G. Hutton, the man behind Where Eagles Dare, the two films are very different. Where Eagles Dare is a rip-roaring adventure film, but Kelly’s Heores combines two genres – the War film and the Caper film. The idea almost works, but it does result in a little un-eveness. Sometimes the film is a very serious war drama, and shows the consequences of death in a war zone. This is amplified by the fact that Kelly’s platoon choose to go after the gold at their own personal risk. Then right beside these poignant scenes, they’ll insert Carroll O’Connor’s ham fisted cartoon antics. It doesn’t always gel. But overall, I believe that Kelly’s Heroes is a fine, and extremely entertaining film.

Kelly's Heroes (1970)

Literary Origins & Extra Reading: 2

It will come as no surprise that quite a few of cinema’s most popular spies also have healthy literary lives. Even some of the less popular cinematic heroes have quite a devoted following in book form. Here is a listing of further adventures of some of these characters. After all, we’ve all heard the saying ‘the book is much better than the film!’

Today we look at the character Jonathan Hemlock, who featured in two novels by Trevanian

“Trevanian” was actually the pen name of American author Dr. Rodney William Whitaker. Whitaker wrote in a wide variety of genres (Historical, Crime, Horror, Western as well as spy stories) and published books under several names (Nicholas Seare, Beñat Le Cagot and under his own name), but was best known as Trevanian.

Form Wikipedia:

His first novel, published under Trevanian at the age of forty when he was teaching at the University of Texas, was The Eiger Sanction, an intelligent, gritty and thrilling spy spoof. It became a worldwide best seller. In 1975 it was adapted as a movie directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. Trevanian described the movie as “vapid” in a footnote in Shibumi. He requested (and received) a screenwriting credit as Rod Whitaker. The balance of the script was written by Warren Murphy, the mystery author perhaps best known for co-writing the Destroyer series of men’s action novels.

Saddened that some critics did not ‘get’ the spoof, Trevanian followed it with an even more intense spoof, The Loo Sanction (1973), which depicted an ingenious art theft (which was copied by thieves in Turin).

The Eiger Sanction - Japanese Poster

As described above, Jonathan Hemlock only appeared in one film,The Eiger Sanction directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. The film was moderately successful, but not a runaway hit. Interestingly, a lot of the humour was removed from the Eastwood movie. For instance, Jonathan Hemlock’s CII controller is not simply ‘Dragon’. His name is ‘Yurasis Dragon’. I hear you groan, but the The Eiger Sanction novels was a cheeky little thriller, and the film unfortunately lost this in translation. I have never read The Loo Sanction (I have a dusty paperback copy lying around somewhere), but if the information from Wikipedia is correct, stating that it is even broader in spoofing the spy genre, it is not so surprising that it was never made into a film.

The Eiger Sanction 1972
The Loo Sanction 1972

Literary Origins & Extra Reading: 2