Hell Is for Heroes (1962)

Hell Is for Heroes

Directed by Don Siegel
Written by Robert Pirosh and Richard Carr
Paramount Pictures
First viewing/Netflix rental


Pvt. John Reese: The outfit I came from was a real dilly. There was a general, a major, two captains, two lieutenants, and me. There’s a squad for you, buddy-o.

Platoon Sgt. Bill Pike: Sounds like a court martial board.

Steve McQueen is the ultimate bad boy soldier in this low-budget combat drama.

Everybody in a platoon situated on the Siegfried Line believes their squad will be sent home shortly.  Instead Sgt. Pike (Fess Parker) announces they are going back into battle. Before they do, they are joined by the surly Pvt. Reese (McQueen).  On the front, six of the men learn they will stay behind to divert the enemy while the bulk of the force is sent elsewhere.  This is truly hell.  Reese only makes it more hellish by trying to wage one-man warfare.  With Charles Coburn, Bobbie Darin, and Bob Newhart as other GIs.

IMDb trivia: At one point, a columnist was visiting the set, and he mentioned to another observer that Steve McQueen seemed to be his own worst enemy. Co-star Bobby Darin overheard the comment and quickly replied, ‘Not while I’m around’.”

Don Siegel certainly knew how to direct action and the combat scenes here are solid despite some financial limitations.  The GIs conform to stereotypes that were born 20 years before but it’s kind of fun to see a cast that would carry us through the next 10-20 years do its stuff.  I particularly liked Newhart, though admittedly his routine does not fit in with the tone of the film as a whole.

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