Screen legend John Wayne pays tribute to oil field legend "Red" Adair, as Wayne plays Chance Buckman, a colorful Texan who tames out-of-control infernos in exotic locations around the world. He's joined by a crew that includes Jack Lomax (Jay C. Flippen), Joe Horn (Bruce Cabot), and his assistant, Greg Parker (Jim Hutton). Between blazes Chance "carries the torch" for Madelyn, the wife who left him 20 years earlier because of his dangerous lifestyle, and Greg has his hands full at the poker table and in the bedroom with Chance's spunky daughter, Tish (Katharine Ross).Directed by action veteran, Andrew V. McLaglen, this film features spectacular special effects and exciting locations in Texas and Wyoming. As the Duke said, "I've made a lot of action movies, but never one as exciting as Hellfighters.
Fans of Armageddon
might see one or two resemblances between that 1998 box office hit and Hellfighters
, a 1968 action film by Andrew V. McLaglen, one of John Wayne's favorite directors in his late career. (Their joint ventures included Chisum
, Cahill: United States Marshal
, and McLintock!
) Wayne plays an oil well firefighter in the mold of Red Adair, turning up anywhere in the world where a geyser of fire is shooting up from a once-profitable gusher. His right-hand man (Jim Hutton) has questionable judgment about safety matters and is a scoundrel with the ladies--and neither fact is lost on Wayne when Hutton's character marries his long-lost daughter (Katharine Ross, a mere year after The Graduate
). The film is an early entry in the disaster-meets-soap-opera genre that flourished in the '70s with such titles as The Towering Inferno
and The Poseidon Adventure
. McClaglen gets a lot of crackle out of his action scenes (many of the firefighting sequences are still startling in their intensity) and turns twin love stories (Hutton and Ross, Wayne and Vera Miles) into frothy studies of adult manners, with equal hints of Howard Hawks and Sidney Sheldon. The widescreen image on DVD offers viewers a chance to see what was then a developing vogue for gratuitous breadth and scope in all its goofy, self-congratulatory glory. (Is it necessary to look at a golf course the way one might look at an African veldt? Hellfighters
says yes!) The DVD also includes production notes and written bios on the stars, plus optional French and Spanish subtitles and an optional Spanish soundtrack. The cast and sundry thrills make this film highly enjoyable, and easily forgivable for indulging in such inanities as a subplot concerning--hold on--Venezuelan terrorists! The Duke lives! --Tom Keogh