Tony Mastroianni Review Collection
Cleveland Press July 25, 1970
"Kelly's Heroes" is a movie that tries hard to be something for everyone and succeeds mostly at being uneven and long.
Against a World War II setting the screenwriters have fashioned a crime caper story dotted with humor and spiced up with bloody action.
Don Rickles has been tossed in as a conniving supply officer and provides some Rickles' routines in the midst of a battle. Donald Sutherland is an anachronism, a hippie tank commander who addresses people as baby and describes situations as beautiful -- hardly the type you would find in the 40's.
TELLY SAVALAS IS good as the top sergeant, the kind of role to which he gives tough authority. Clint Eastwood is still the laconic hero, but this time clean shaven and wearing GI's instead of western garb.
The story has Eastwood discovering that the Germans have stashed $16,000,000 in gold in a local bank. The bank is 30 miles behind enemy lines. Eastwood, taking advantage of a three-day leave with nowhere to go, recruits a small army to steal the gold.
Before it is over Kelly and his larcenous commandos have opened up a new front and wiped out most of the German Army. The commanding general, hearing only reports that a handful of American soldiers has far out paced the rest of the U.S. Army, personally moves to the new front to take the glory while Kelly and his men take the gold.
"KELLY'S HEROES" is filled with the usual blazing and exaggerated pyrotechnics reserved for war melodramas and the exaggerated GI comedy antics that have filled dozens of movies. Except for the anachronisms and the updating with the crime-caper motif, which is a more recent type of story, this picture might have emerged in the 1940's.
Not meaty enough to sustain its length, the movie tends to lag despite the action.
The best bit in the film is a moment of inside humor, a spoofing of Eastwood's own Italian western. Eastwood, flanked by Savalas and Sutherland, begins the long walk down a dusty street for a showdown with none other than a German tank.
On the soundtrack is the clanking of spurs while Lalo Schifrin's background music apes the twanging, high-pitched scores composed for the spaghetti westerns by Ennio Morricone. It's a nice touch but one nice touch doesn't quite make a hit movie.