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Kelly’s Heroes (1970)

For a whole generation of adolescents, Kelly’s Heroes was the perfect movie: a heist comedy set during World War II with lots of action, jokes and very loud explosions.

It’s nominally a vehicle for Clint Eastwood, intended to repeat the success of the same director’s Where Eagles Dare (1968), but he walks through proceedings as Private Kelly looking slightly confused and the film is stolen by the comic supporting cast of Telly Savalas, Don Rickles and particularly Donald Sutherland.

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Private Kelly (pictured at left), an enlisted man with an attitude problem, accidentally discovers the hiding place for a cache of Nazi gold worth millions.

He convinces his gruff NCO, “Big Joe” (Telly Savalas), to lead an excursion behind enemy lines so they can rip off the loot, and their crew soon expands to include “Crapgame” (Don Rickles), a supply sergeant who outfits the crew with munitions and other gear, and “Oddball” (Donald Sutherland), a space-case longhair sergeant who happens to have three Sherman tanks under his command and gets all the best lines, most of them about his precious “waves”.

Sutherland’s characterisation (pictured below) is simultaneously the funniest thing in the movie and the hardest element to believe; bearded and – though never explicitly stated, apparently high as a kite throughout the story – he’s a 1960s stoner in a 1940s setting, and it boggles belief that he ever rose to the rank of sergeant.

The film was shot in Yugoslavia, where a wealth of WWII-vintage gear was available for filming – and where Sutherland nearly died of meningitis.

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Private Kelly
Clint Eastwood
Big Joe
Telly Savalas
Crapgame
Don Rickles
General Colt
Carroll O’Connor
Oddball
Donald Sutherland
Maitland
Hal Buckley
Colonel Dankhopf
David Hurst
Moriarty
Gavin Macleod
Booker
Ross Elliott
Bellamy
Len Lesser
Gutowski
Richard Davalos
Little Joe
Stuart Margolin
Petchuko
Perry Lopez
Jonesy
Dee Pollock
Grace
Michael Clark
Babra
Gene Collins
Cowboy
Jeff Morris
Job
Tom Troupe
Willard
Harry Dean Stanton
Fisher
Dick Balduzzi
Mitchell
Fred Pearlman
Penn
George Fargo
Mulligan
George Savalas
Turk
Shepherd Sanders

Director
Brian G Hutton