Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Kelly's Heroes/Where Eagles Dare (Action Double Feature)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, May 25, 2010.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Kelly’s Heroes/Where Eagles Dare (Blu-ray Double Feature)
    Directed by Brian G. Hutton

    Studio: Warner Bros.
    Year: 1969-1970
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1   1080p   VC-1 codec
    Running Time: 143/155 minutes
    Rating: GP/PG
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 1.0 French, 2.0 Spanish, others
    Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, others

    Region: A-B-C
    MSRP: $ 24.99


    Release Date: June 1, 2010

    Review Date:  May 25, 2010



    The Films


    Overview


    By the late 1960s, Clint Eastwood was beginning a long string of appearances in the list of top ten box-office stars. The two films contained in this double feature Blu-ray package both contributed to his placements among the box-office elite during the years of their release. While neither can be said to be truly superlative in terms of plot or direction, Eastwood’s participation in these period war flicks afforded him ample opportunity to solidify his “king of cool” demeanor which had proven such a hit in his previous work, particularly his series of Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns.



    Kelly's Heroes –  3/5


    Tipped off by a drunken captured German officer that a fortune in gold bars is sitting in a bank in German-occupied France some thirty miles behind enemy lines, recently demoted Private Kelly (Clint Eastwood) takes advantage of his captain’s (Hal Buckley) absence and rounds up a motley crew of fellow grunts (among them, Telly Savalas, Don Rickles, Donald Sutherland, Gavin MacLeod, Stuart Margolin, and Harry Dean Stanton) who want a share of the $16 million in gold. The trek is a hazardous one which takes the intrepid team through hostile territory facing squads of well armed German soldiers, treacherous mine fields, and associates who don’t seem to have all of their marbles. There’s also a fame-hungry general (Carroll O'Connor) who overhears the team’s reconnaissance efforts over the radio and wants in on the action, oblivious to the real purpose for the mission.


    After the tremendous successes of the comedy-drama World War II caper films The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen, it’s no surprise that more war adventures in a similar vein would be forthcoming. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Troy Kennedy Martin’s screenplay that a little judicious cutting wouldn’t have solved. The film is entirely too long to support its story, and the exposition and long middle section could easily have been trimmed to make for a tighter epic. Added to this is the rather languid direction by Brian G. Hutton, and it’s little wonder the film runs on for almost two-and-a-half hours. Eastwood doesn’t break a sweat in his instigator role, but Telly Savalas goes all in as the master sergeant in charge, barking orders and insulting anyone who crosses his path. Don Rickles gets some moments to show his sarcastic and sentimental stuff, but Donald Sutherland’s anachronistic 1970s era-hipster seems about twenty-five years out of place, his spaced-out demeanor and laid back dialogue much more fitting for a Vietnam War film than this one. The subplot with Carroll O’Connor’s blowhard general could also have been extracted with little harm to the story. Hutton also allows a rather cheap and lazy tip-of-the-hat to Eastwood’s Leone pictures in a tongue-in-cheek encounter with a German tank and its operator. Yes, those films are still so renowned today that the moment gives the audience a nod of recognition, but such an allusion to his then recent past glories only makes us realize this film’s shortcomings in retrospect.



    Where Eagles Dare – 4/5


    A troupe of six MI-6 agents headed by Major Jonathan Smith (Richard Burton) along with an American army ranger (Clint Eastwood) are tasked with rescuing a captured general (Robert Beatty) who’s being held by the Germans in a near-impregnable castle in the Austrian Alps during World War II. Upon parachuting into the mountains, one of the spies is found dead leading Smith to suspect that there’s a traitor in their midst. What’s more, as the plot thickens, it becomes clear that the mission itself is more complicated than it first appeared and that quite a few people are not who they first seem to be. Getting in and out of this Alpine fortress will not be easy especially since there is so much untrustworthiness all around.


    Alistair MacLean based his screenplay on his novel of the same name, and he’s piled on the twists and surprises in abundance. In addition, the film is also a standard action thriller still molded along the lines of a typical rescue and escape scenario. There are more explosions than one could care to count (even a backpack and a bulky suitcase filled with dynamite don’t seem enough for all of the charges that are exploded during this over two-and-a-half hour film), but director Brian G. Hutton keeps things moving along and even stages two really gripping sequences: a problem on a snowy rooftop and the very lengthy climactic escape which runs for more than half an hour but doesn’t let up for a moment. He’s successfully turned Richard Burton into an action star in the film, and Clint Eastwood lends sturdy support. Also memorable during the lengthy picture are Mary Ure and Ingrid Pitt as female double agents and Patrick Wymark as the colonel holding down the fort back home.



    Video Quality


    Kelly's Heroes –  4/5


    The film’s 2.40:1 Panavision theatrical aspect ratio is presented in 1080p using the VC-1 codec. There are some occasional issues with inadequate sharpness which may have been the fault with the original photography, but the inconsistency is still glaring. Saturation levels are very deep, but as is often typical with Metrocolor, skin hues can sometimes be overly bright and ruddy. Black levels are impressively deep making for some often striking images. The film has been divided into 37 chapters.



    Where Eagles Dare – 4/5


    The film’s 2.40:1 Panavision aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the VC-1 codec. The transfer has been printed fairly dark so color doesn’t really have a chance to pop (except for the near-blooming Metrocolor reds of the main titles). Flesh tones as in the previous film have a rather ruddy appearance, but sharpness is excellent and detail is solid throughout. Black levels are good without being great, but shadow detail can be impressive on occasion. The film has been divided into 42 chapters.



    Audio Quality


    Kelly's Heroes –  3.5/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix can’t disguise the fact that this is not a modern surround audio track. There is occasional bleed into the rears with the music (especially vocals on the soundtrack), but most of the sound activity is generated across the front channels. The LFE channel gets to support some of the artillery that makes up a great part of the sound effects in the audio mix, but you’ll listen in vain for any panning or split surrounds across or through the soundstage. Dialogue has been well recorded and is always discernible.



    Where Eagles Dare – 3.5/5


    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix, as with the previous film, stays mostly anchored in the front channels with good spread across them, but almost nothing is sent in the way of sound to the rears. An occasional music cue and one instance of a wind gust do generate some rear channel activity, but at other times during the film, those same cues find the rears notably silent. With all of the explosions and gunfire, one would expect more from the LFE channel, but it gets only sporadic use.



    Special Features


    Kelly's Heroes –  1/5


    The film’s theatrical trailer is presented in a cropped 480i version and runs 2 ¾ minutes.



    Where Eagles Dare – 1.5/5


    “On Location: Where Eagles Dare is a vintage featurette produced to publicize the upcoming film featuring very brief sound bites from Clint Eastwood, Richard Burton, Mary Ure, and Ingrid Pitt, and the narrator discusses for the most part the difficult location shoot in the Austrian Alps. The 480i featurette runs 12 ½ minutes.


    The film’s theatrical trailer is presented in 480i and runs 2 ¼ minutes.



    In Conclusion

    3.5/5 (not an average)


    These two vintage Clint Eastwood thrillers both set during World War II may not have stretched Eastwood’s talents to the max, but the films themselves are entertaining popcorn pictures that are well worth seeing. Despite only minor bonus features, the Blu-ray double feature release of Kelly’s Heroes/Where Eagles Dare is a bargain and comes with a hearty recommendation.




    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    The films are on separate discs, correct? Are each of them BD-50s, or BD25s?
     
  3. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Yes, they're on separate discs. They appear to be BD-50s.
     
  4. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Thanks Matt.
     
  5. Adam Gregorich

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    Even without a huge sale thats $10 a disc. A bargin for good popcorn films, and I've always had a soft spot for Kelly's Heroes even though I agree that its a bit long. I'm pre-ordering this and Heartbreak Ridge. Thanks for the review Matt!
     
  6. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    One of my favorite and still vivid movie theater experiences for me was back during the late winter of 1969, when I, along with a couple of buddies of mine decided to go to our local movie theater called the Merrit theater because we were bored and had nothing else to do. So, we walked to our local theater to watch a film that we knew nothing about called Where Eagles Dare. Needless to say, with plenty of action and violence, this film hit a bullseye for this small group of teenage boys even though the number of people in the audience besides us might have totaled 10 people, if that many.

    Also, this same group of teenagers went to see Kelly's Heroes a little over a year later during the summer of 1970, and though, it had some great actions scenes too, it was kind of long at times, but we got a kick out of that silly song they play at the end of the movie. Donald Sutherland, the first stoner character, I remember seeing in any film.




    Crawdaddy
     
  7. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Screenwriter

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    I can't wait to get this set. I HATE the cover art really kind of bad... but at least the films are spread on 50 GB discs I never expected dts master audio for the films.

    I know Tarrantino loves Where Eagles Dare, and I think Spielberg made a comment it was one of his favorite WWII films. It is a lot of fun.
     
  8. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    Matt - Does Where Eagles Dare include the original intermission? It wasn't on the DVD.
     
  9. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer

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    The Dirty Dozen was a comedy? You must have watched some other film than I did.
     
  10. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Edwin,

    Matt, stated the following:


    "After the tremendous successes of the comedy-drama World War II caper films The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen,"


    So, I don't think he's saying The Dirty Dozen was a comedy, but a war drama with comedic moments in it, which in my opinion, it was such a film.






    Crawdaddy
     
  11. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer

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    I'll have to watch it again. I just don't remember seeing anything that was very funny in the film, unlike "Kelly's Heroes" which definitely did have the element of comedy. Of course, I would have given KH a bit higher score than 3/5, but that's just me.
     
  12. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Edwin,


    Well, it depends on your own sense of humor, but there were many parts in The Dirty Dozen that I found funny, especially during their training sequences.





    Crawdaddy
     
  13. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    No, there is no intermission on the disc.
     
  14. Hollywoodaholic

    Hollywoodaholic Edge of Glory?

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    Put me down for the crowd that has Kelly's Heroes as a classic and Where Eagles Dare as the below standard war film Richard Burton accepted for the money and because "his kids could go." And yet he still confessed he had to stay drunk just to get through it. (Hellraisers, a great book)


    Kelly's Heroes was a unique counter-culture war film where the soldiers were more mercenary than blindly marching in step. The characters are instantly more memorable (Don Rickles smart-ass, Donald Sutherland's stoner, Carrol O'Connor's clueless, lascivious, glory-hogging general). What Dr. Strangelove was to the Cold War, Kelly's Heroes was to the Great War - a satiric, skewed love letter to the genre.


    Kelly's Heroes also has the distinction of being the only WWII film to actually use a real German Tiger tank in the production authentic to the time, which was a rare feat indeed (I guess one was still sitting around Yugoslavia, where the film was shot). The one in Saving Private Ryan was just a facade mock up, and most other WWII films don't even use the correct U.S. tanks for the time period (Patton, cough cough).


    And it's hard to get that Mike Curb Congregation song out of your head once you've heard it.


    But who wants to? Kelly's Heroes is a hoot and a half, and I'm all over that Blu-ray like Oddball on grade A sensimilla.
     
  15. Frank Ha

    Frank Ha Second Unit

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    Thanks Mat for a fine review. I appreciate your hard work (is it really work, though ) reviewing movies. I already have this on order at Amazon.

    Quote by Hollywoodaholic:

    I'm in the same crowd. I think it's the better movie, but then, I've always had a soft spot for Kelly's Heroes. It was probably the first movie I saw that wasn't aimed towards kids. I was 12 years old when I first saw this film. My parents took me to the drive-in with them to see it. I remember it being real funny at the time. I also remember being embarrassed by the language. By today's standards it's pretty tame, but back in 1970 I'd never heard language like that in a movie before and hearing it in the same space/car with my parents right there made me feel uncomfortable. It's funny the things you remember.


    Quote by Hollywoodaholic:

    That's always been my take on it as well. Sutherland's character, Oddball, is so out of place for the time period. But, hey, I just go with it and enjoy the "oddball" quirks of the film.
     
  16. Walter Kittel

    Walter Kittel Producer

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    Happy to see both of these films being released; although I have a real fondness for Kelly's Heroes that makes this the favorite of the two. Pretty much in agreement with Wayne regarding the rewards that Kelly's Heroes offers the viewer. For me there are so many memorable scenes and quotable lines. A friend I used to work with and I could recount scene and line after line to one another from Kelly's Heroes.


    Re: Dirty Dozen. I wouldn't classify it as a comedy-drama; but I certainly agree with Robert that there are comedic aspects. Especially during training, and of course Bronson's classic final line in the film.


    - Walter.
     
  17. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    I wouldn't consider either The Great Escape or The Dirty Dozen "comedy-dramas" - that's just too much of a stretch. Yes, they had amusing moments, most dramas do. That doesn't make them comedies or even "hyphen comedies". Hamlet has some pretty funny scenes and lines, too, but I don't remember anyone calling it a "comedy-tragedy".


    Kelly's Heroes is certainly a lot of fun, but Sutherland's Oddball is such a total anachronism that I'm always pulled out of the movie. I doubt I'd spring for it on Blu Ray by itself, but paired with Where Eagles Dare, I'm there. I'm a sucker for Alistair McLean novels and films, and can't wait for Ice Station Zebra and The Guns of Navarone to arrive in hi-def.


    Regards,


    Joe
     
  18. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    When I'm in the mood for a war film I'm more likely to reach for Where Eagles Dare or The Dirty Dozen than Kelly's Heroes. But Heroes was fun and I quite enjoyed the nod to Sergio Leone and Sutherlands 'hippie' tank commander.
     
  19. Geo Gabor

    Geo Gabor Stunt Coordinator

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    I've never been a big fan of having two unrelated movies in the same case, so I ordered KH from amazon.co.uk. I hope it's the same - or better! - transfer. It has always been a favorite of mine for mindless fun!
     
  20. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    I, too will be buying this release for Where Eagles Dare. I don't care much for Kelly's Heroes, either, for the reasons you give.


    I've always been a big Burton fan, and when you add in young Eastwood, McLean's script, Ron Goodwin's score and a great supporting cast (Michael Hordern, Patrick Wymark, Mary Ure, Anton Diffring, Robert Beatty), W.E.D. is a total winner, IMO. And let's not forget it has Ingrid Pitt as Heidi the barmaid!
     

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