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Hell is for Heroes

144 customer reviews

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(May 22, 2001)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Steve McQueen delivers a powerful, gripping performance as a defiant loner whose skills as a soldier make him invaluable to his struggling platoon. In the heat of battle during World War II, McQueen and his fellow soldiers find themselves severely outnumbered as they hold off a Nazi advance along the Siegfried Line in France. Using only their ingenuity and bravery, they must bluff the Germans in order to buy some time... and save their lives. Don Siegel directs the explosive action led by an all-star cast, including Bobby Darin, Fess Parker, Harry Guardino, James Coburn, Nick Adams and Bob Newhart. If they can fool the enemy long enough for reinforcements to arrive, victory is theirs.

Don Siegel brings his tough worldview and crisp, no-nonsense direction to this quintessential World War II drama of an undermanned American platoon in France holding off a German advance through sheer bluff and bravery. Steve McQueen is curt and surly as the insubordinate loner whose tactical skills and soldiering savvy make him indispensable to his new unit. His reputation precedes him, but commander Fess Parker is in no position to be choosy when he learns that his tired platoon will not be shipping home as rumored, but tossed into a ragged new offensive. Harry Guardino costars as the soulful Sarge; James Coburn is the slow-talking, forever-tinkering mechanic; Bobby Darin is the scavenger with a small fortune in trinkets; and Nick Adams is the Polish orphan and unit mascot. Bob Newhart makes his feature debut as a hopelessly lost typing clerk drafted into the undermanned unit and re-creates his nightclub shtick making phony phone calls near a Nazi listening post in the pillbox. Like Pork Chop Hill, this film is less a patriotic flag waver than a "war is hell" drama that frames the battle not in its tactical importance (which is negligible) but in its cost in human life. McQueen's taciturn performance as a ruthlessly effective soldier and Siegel's tough, lean direction make it a modest classic of the genre. --Sean Axmaker

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Steve McQueen, Bobby Darin, Fess Parker, Harry Guardino, James Coburn
  • Directors: Don Siegel
  • Writers: Richard Carr, Robert Pirosh
  • Producers: Henry Blanke
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: May 22, 2001
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005ASGB
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,458 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Hell is for Heroes" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Reviewer on September 9, 2001
Format: DVD
Gritty realism and a riveting performance by Steve McQueen highlight the World War II action/drama "Hell Is For Heroes," directed by Don Siegel. The setting is France, 1944, and American troops are spread thin across a sector of the Siegfried Line. When heavy action in another area precipitates troop movement, a squad of six men is left behind to hold the position until reinforcements arrive, which means a day or maybe two of making the Germans believe they are actually up to strength with a full complement of men. Not an easy task, but like the man said, war is hell. With Sergeant Larkin (Harry Guardino) in charge, and left to their own devices for survival, the men of the 2nd Squad dig in for what just may be the longest night of their lives. And for some, it will prove to be not only the longest, but their last. In the shadow of a murderous pill box held by the enemy, the soldiers make their stand and add yet another footnote to another chapter in the history of the eternal struggle for freedom.
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 Steve Spielberg would do some thirty-six years later with his monumental film "Saving Private Ryan." Siegel may not have had the special effects in 1961 that Spielberg had at his disposal in 1998, but he did have an excellent screenplay (by Robert Pirosh and Richard Carr) from which to work. He tells his story in a direct, unromanticized way that maintains the focus and conveys the sense of urgency of the moment, through which he builds the tension and suspense that makes the peril of the situation immediate and real.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Alejandra Vernon HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 23, 2005
Format: DVD
This low-budget war film boasts a terrific ensemble cast, with an early performance by the dynamic Steve McQueen, and one of the few examples of Bobby Darin's fine acting skills, as he, as well as fellow cast member Nick Adams, both died when they were 37. Others in the cast include Fess Parker, Harry Guardino, James Coburn, and Bob Newhart, who was famous at the time for his stand-up comedy routines of one-way telephone conversations, and lightens the tension with a hilarious scene where to fool the Germans who have placed a "bug" near the telephone, he pretends to talk to the commander.

Based on a true story (which took a few years to be declassified and written about), it takes place near Montigny, France, in 1944, and is about a small squad that is outnumbered by the enemy, who is protected in a pillbox surrounded by mines; the script is tight and the pacing marvelous, with direction from Don Siegel, who would go on to direct so many great Clint Eastwood action films.

I have seen this film countless times since its theatrical release in 1962, and it never gets stale; the performances are all excellent, with a modernistic score by Leonard Rosenman that adds to the atmosphere, and Harold Lipstein's black & white cinematography capturing the muddy, gritty feel of the foxholes, the fear felt by all, and the incredible heroism that some men can rise to.

Total running time is 90 minutes.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By G. Enos on February 19, 2002
Format: DVD
I've seen them all, and this is solely about the campaign from September, 1944, until the Battle of the Bulge in December, 1944. Since the Newhart character mentions his Division headquarters being at the French town of Thionville, it means that this fictional outfit was located at the sector just a few miles east, i.e., south of Trier, Germany and probably a part of Patton's Third Army. My uncle fought in that campaign. His letters home confirm the rough time his outfit had in September and October, 1944. Most of the units were understrength after a few days at the front line. The Germans had constructed their defenses so that the pillboxes, mostly camouflaged, had interlocking fields of fire so that they were mutually supporting. Also, they had excellent observation points for artillery fire direction. Thus, the "Amis" (the nickname for the U.S. troops given by the Nazis) were under fire at all times.
The replacement troops usually were so green that they didn't last a month, and many died after a day or two without knowning even what outfit they belonged to. Thus, this movie captures the realism of what that combat was like. I especially liked the attention to detail, e.g., the night patrols, the minefield, the concertina wire, etc. Both sides sent out nightly patrols. These were the days before spy satellites and infrared or night vision devices. The only way to get good intelligence was to send out some men to capture prisoners for interrogation. That explains why Reese was so concerned about the Germans finding out how thin his sector was held, and why the squad tried to take measures to fool the enemy into thinking they were a larger force. Another good realism was having the mortar squads fire for effect on the approaches to the pillbox.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 9, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
I was born in 1954 and went to see this one when it first came out. I was all of eight years old. What an extremely profound impact it would have on my life. I eventually went on to serve as an officer in the USMC, partly because of the heroism depicted in this movie. Each time that I watch it now, I sympathize with the characters that are sent to cover a sector of the Sigfried line and one morning wake to find that the rest of the company has pulled leaving only their squad to defend the company-sized front. How desperate their reaction! They do the right thing - they go on the offensive! I won't spoil it for you. It is an excellent movie well worth adding to any collection. No war movie collector would be without it. Great performances by Fess Parker, Steve McQueen, Nick Adams, Bobby Darin, James Coburn, Bob Newhart, Harry Guardino and others who also went on to become famous character acters. Well worth owning at any price!!!
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