Released in 1970, KELLYS HEROES is now a firm favourite with film fans of all ages and is a regular movie that is shown on various TV channels, it is film that I never tire of, both for the film itself and for the superb musical score by composer Lalo Schifrin. At the time of the films release MGM put out a soundtrack album which was a re-recording of the score. We had to wait until 2005 before we got to hear the actual film score. But it was certainly worth the thirty-five-year wait. When Schifrin scored KELLYS HEROES he was probably at the height of his career and was a well-known name within the film music fraternity who was respected by his peers and fans alike. Initially I saw the movie at the Astoria cinema in Brighton where it was showing for a season.
It played to packed houses for the couple of months it was there which would something that would be hard for any contemporary movie to do nowadays. I suppose the main attraction was Clint Eastwood who at that time was still riding high on his success from the Sergio Leone Italian westerns referred to as the Dollar trilogy. The movie also starred Telly Savalas, another popular actor at the time and Donald Sutherland as the quirky character Oddball, and Don Rickles and Carrol O Connor putting in appearances too. The storyline was a mix of war and comedy, something that was a little tricky if one did not get the balance right. After all war was a serious business and if the comedy element was not handled correctly the producers ran the risk of maybe looking as if they were trivialising war. Thankfully, the film was handled not as a comedic war story but a comedy that just happened to be set during WWll, and it contained numerous serious scenarios alongside the comedy included. The story is about a handful of American soldiers who are serving in France after the D DAY invasion. And are becoming disillusioned about their role and how they are being treated by the powers that be, it seems that they are the ones every time doing all the dirty work and as they reach their objective are stood down whilst the troops in their uniforms and shiny helmets marched in as the heroes. Kelly (Clint Eastwood) is a member of the group and one night captures a German officer and whilst trying to get information out of him discovers that the German army have a large deposit of gold bullion stored in a bank in a small French town.
He convinces the rest of the men in the company to accompany him to find the gold. Much to the disapproval of Big Joe (Telly Savalas). Who, after much persuasion decides to join them. What Kelly forgets to tell them is that the gold is guarded by Tiger tanks. Along the way Kelly and his band of heroes enlist the assistance of various other units, one being Oddball (Donald Sutherland) and his Sherman tanks which are manned by a collection of hippy types, which big Joe calls FREAKS. Oddball and his men think positive thoughts and arm their tanks with shells filled with paint that make pretty patterns.
It’s a movie that the audience really cannot take that seriously but saying that there are some convincing action scenes within the movie, one taking place in a minefield that the patrol has unknowingly walked into and results in the death of some of their company. There is also the scene where they are attacked by one of their own planes and their vehicles and some of their equipment is blown up. In the end they make it to the town and take on the Tigers destroying two and then doing a deal with the one remaining Tiger tank commander, who is unaware what he is guarding. The scene where Kelly, Big Joe and Oddball approach the Tiger tank in the main square of the town is hilarious, and is given a greater comedic slant by the music that composer Schifrin wrote, the track QUICK DRAW KELLY is a homage or a parody of the Italian western score and has elements of the style of Ennio Morricone and Francesco de Masi within it, Good Bad Ugly percussion, shrieks, grunts, driving strings, brass and electric guitar all combine to create one of cinemas most memorable and funny screen moments, that is an obvious send up of Eastwood, who I am sure laughed all the way to the bank, literally.
The remainder of the score features some impressive percussive elements that are utilised during the COMMANDO OPUS cue and has a great theme for the TIGER TANKS, that is urgent and relentless, the composer deploying, brass, strings and percussion to great effect. There is also a catchy song entitled BURNING BRIDGES which is performed by THE MIKE CURB CONGREGATION. There are other songs featured on the soundtrack, one being ALL FOR THE LOVE OF SUNSHINE performed by Hank Williams Jnr. I have to say that the score for KELLYS HEROES for me is just as entertaining as the movie itself.
The Film Score Monthly release not only features the original film score but also includes the tracks that were released on the MGM long playing record. The soundtrack did get a release on compact disc in 2000 on the Chapter lll Classics label, but sound quality to be honest was awful, and it was a straight re-issue of the MGM record paired with THE CINCINATTI KID another score by Schifrin. If you are going to buy the score/soundtrack the only one to go for is the FSM edition, if it is still available that is. Happy hunting.