Hell Is For Heroes (1962)
Dismissed as just another war flick at the time of its release, Hell is For Heroes has gained stature over the years by virtue of the "cult" status of director Don Siegel. Troublesome sergeant Steve McQueen has been busted to private and assigned to his old squadron on the Siegfried Line. Squad leader Harry Guardino has been ordered to take a huge, seemingly impenetrable German pillbox. Guardino is competent, but it is McQueen who comes up with the crucial bit of strategy: to convince the Germans that the ragtag American squad is much larger than it seems. The film ends during the last advance towards the pillbox; Siegel fades out during the thick of the battle, obliging the audience to guess who wins or loses. The all-male cast includes James Coburn as a reconnaissance man who meets a horrible fate, and Nick Adams as an overeager Polish partisan. Comedian Bob Newhart, making his film debut, manages to interpolate one of his famous telephone routines during a crucial moment; it is justified by the plot, but wildly out of synch with the rest of the film. Newhart would later recall that neither he nor his co-stars felt that Hell is For Heroes would ever amount to much, and that each day one or more of the actors would approach director Siegel and beg to be "killed" so that they could move on to other projects. … More
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Critic Reviews for Hell Is For Heroes
Audience Reviews for Hell Is For Heroes
A squad of six US soldiers are ordered to hold a section of The Siegfried Line alone during WWII and so come up with ever more creative ways to disguise their numbers. Hell Is For Heroes was directed by Don Siegel who went on to become one of the best directors of hard-boiled action thrillers around (Dirty Harry being the most famous example) and he shows his skill for economy and gritty violence in this unpretentious and authentic depiction of combat. Steve McQueen shows his star quality as an embittered and possibly shell-shocked ex-sergeant who takes matters into his own hands when they are discovered and his performance is fantastic. In fact the entire cast are great (especially James Coburn who would co-star with McQueen again in The Magnificent Seven), the banter and comedy of the earlier scenes really nicely balanced with some brutal battle scenes later in the film. It concentrates more on the soldier on the ground than trying to sketch out the big picture, showing that there is a thin line between heroism and mental illness and although the climax is a little lacking in closure, it's a powerful and realistic war film ranking amongst the best.More
This tense, gritty World War II drama is heaven for action fans and a riveting performance by Steven McQueen. Director Don Siegel was at his riveting best, drawing the viewer into the claustrophobic, nightmarish atmosphere.
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 Steven Spielberg would do some thirty-six years later with his monumental film Saving Private Ryan. There is good dialogue with the GI's - Bob Newhart is real funny.
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