Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Kelly’s Heroes

Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Don Rickles in a WWII action movie. What could go wrong? Well, plenty, as we all know, but this time it didn’t. If you want a lot of action in a movie before the CGI era, this one is for you. I had a great time. I counted no less than six major battles before we even get to the big one, with a bunch of distinctly un-patriotic G.I.s trying to rob $14 million dollars in gold bars from a bank behind enemy lines in France. It was filmed in Yugoslavia, and I’d love to hear more on the practical side of that. They were blowing up some very large buildings, and it was clear they were not made of papier-mâché, cardboard, or plywood, these were structures of stone, brick, and mortar. A very large bridge is brought down. All I can figure is there was a semi-ruined town left over from the actual war. There were a lot of burned-out buildings in the little town, and a lot more after the filmmakers left. It is all very authentic, too, according to the military wonks who write in to the IMDb pointing out the correct insignia and sniper rifles and such. Most of all it is the tanks. The Yugoslav army had actual Sherman tanks for the Americans, something that the makers of Patton couldn’t find (they used more modern tanks). And though they didn’t have German Tigers, they carefully made the old German tanks they did have look like Tigers. I will admit to a fascination with tanks. There’s just something about the way they crash through buildings, roll over stone walls, crush cars. I’ve had an internal debate with myself for a long time. In the horrific event that I actually found myself a combatant on the battlefield, would I prefer to be in the infantry, or in a tank? (I’d prefer to be thirty miles behind the lines shooting a long-range artillery piece, but that isn’t part of the question.) One must feel so vulnerable outside with nothing but a tin pot helmet, with people shooting at you. Such a safer feeling inside a tank. And yet, a man on foot is so much more agile and maneuverable. He can jump, leap, dodge, hit the dirt. A tank is such a big, slow target. True, bullets bounce off it, but there are bazookas and rounds from other tanks that can instantly turn your safe haven into a boiling hell of supersonic metal ricochets. Think of a blender with white-hot blades. So, fast and vulnerable? Or slow and protected, but only to a point? And my conclusion is …one hundred miles behind the lines, doing a great job typing up sermons as a sky pilot’s assistant. Or three thousand miles behind the lines, training clerk-typists and quartermaster apprentices for general staff and supply. That would be Varley’s heroes: Stateside pencil pushers and stampers of forms in quintuplicate, without which a modern army just can’t advance. We also serve who only stamp and weigh.