Donald Sutherland

Kelly’s Heroes…good fun

Kelly's_Heroes_film_posterI’m not a big “war movie person” but with Kelly’s Heroes (1970) I make an exception. Because this movie isn’t just a war movie, no, it goes far beyond that. It is memories of those Super 8 movie days with my father. And of us quoting various scenes from Kelly’s Heroes by heart…

…for example “Sixty feet of bridge…” aah…but I get ahead of myself. Let’s backtrack just a little…I think I should give you a rough breakdown of the happenings first:

So, we have Kelly, of course, who hears about a stash of gold that would be good for the taking. Problem is, said stash is behind enemy lines. But, fear not, Kelly, being a tough soldier gets together his band of “heroes” with some added takers who end up in the group just because they happen to be in the “right” spot at appropriate time (think “Oddball” here”…I’ll explain later). And off they go…with all sorts of antics along the way. Remember, this isn’t a war war movie, no, it’s more of a comedy war movie (of course, with serious moments along the way).

Anyway, this became one of the most quoted movies in our household…mostly, because the memorable lines come from Donald Sutherland who was my father’s favourite actor. Like when all the bridges are being blown up just as our band of heroes want to cross. And Oddball, yes, Donald Sutherland (who else?) is tasked with finding a bridge…part of his telephonic negotiation goes along the lines of this:

Oddball: “…look baby, I’m kinda hung up. I need sixty feet of bridge.”

Bellamy: “Hey kid. They haven’t got you in the nut ward again?”

Oddball: “Ah Bellamy, for cryin’ out loud………I don’t need you. Sixty feet of bridge I can get almost anywhere. Schmuck!”

Oh boy, and the “negative waves”…always positive even when the bridge gets blown. As for his “battle tactics”:

Oddball: “These tanks are faster than any other tanks in the European Theater of Operations. Forwards or backwards. You see man, we like to feel we can get out of trouble quicker than we got into it.”

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And when Kelly asks if he has any other weapons:

Oddball: “Well yeah, man, you see, like, all the tanks we come up against are bigger and better than ours, so that all we can hope to do is, like, scare ’em away y’ know. This gun is an ordinary 76mm but we add this piece of pipe onto it and the Krauts think, like uh, maybe it’s a 90mm”

Further explaining that “We have a loudspeaker here, and when we go into battle we play music, very loud. It kind of…calms us down.” and “We got our own ammunition. it’s filled with paint. When we fire it, it makes… pretty pictures. Scares the hell outta people!”

But, it isn’t only Oddball who’s fantastic in this one. The whole bunch of heroes work so well with nobody out-shadowing the other. Clint Eastwood, is of course Kelly, all serious and leader of the group. Second in command, if you like, is Big Joe…ah, what a character – also his own entity and always shouting about as only Telly Savalas can. Crapgame, Don Rickles, is always wheeling and dealing in some way or other. And the list goes on making for a well worthwhile watch.

Another thing that always sticks out for me is the opening (well, not opening but the first piece) song “Burning Bridges” by the Mike Curb Congregation. Back in the day, before online shopping, I searched many a CD store (remember those?) for this title…and finally found it on a compilation CD. Here it is with some snippets from the movie (so, possibly spoiler alert):

Overall, a treat of a war movie.

Thanks to Maddy of Maddy Loves her Classic Films together with Jay of Cinema Essentials for hosting this Blogathon. Head on over to their sites for other great entries.

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Jane Got a Gun, Slow West, The Salvation and more Westerns

With so few good Westerns coming our way these days, I make a point of watching those that do. And, in the last few months I’ve had quite a choice. In fact, I’m in Western heaven right now…to a degree. In a nutshell, here’s what’s come my way recently: Diablo, Forsaken, Slow West, Jane Got a Gun, The Salvation, The Keeping Room, The Homesman (to watch) and Das finstere Tal (also to watch).

I’ll start with the worst of the lot first so we can move along. In fact, it is barely worth mentioning. It was that bad. I’m talking about Diablo (2015). I had really hoped that Scott Eastwood would bring across some of his father’s magic but…sigh. There is just a certain oomph missing – in fact, from all the actors (Granted, the story itself was poor so I can’t really put all the blame on them). Diablo has Jackson (Eastwood) tracking down his kidnapped wife (Camilla Belle) while the viewer discovers who he really is. The potential for a gripping film was there but alas, it was totally wasted and quickly ran out of direction and depth. Quite frankly, I was close on abandoning the whole shebang especially once Walton Goggins‘ character became clearer….the hope that maybe things would turn out better kept me going…only to see it get worse.

Having got that out the way, I can move on…

Forsaken (2015), starring Donald and Kiefer Sutherland as father and son wasn’t too bad. Kiefer plays former gunslinger John Henry Clayton, who, after many years of absence returns home to make amends with his father Reverend William Clayton (Donald). All this while the town is being tormented by railroad land grabbers. This isn’t an action-filled western but rather a broody/sombre one yet still moving along at a reasonable pace and doing a good job of leaving me wondering when enough was finally enough for John Henry. I always enjoy watching Michael Wincott and was surprised by his character’s actions. Demi Moore and Brian Cox also star. So, altogether, not a bad one but I must admit,  I watched roughly ten minutes, abandoned it and only continued to the end a few days later.

The Salvation (2014) starring ever brilliant Mads Mikkelsen was brutal and heavy. Enjoyable? Not sure. Don’ think  so as ‘enjoy’ is something that makes you feel better. But good it was. I was definitely holding my breath while Jon Jensen (Mikkelsen) sought personal revenge for the murder of his family. The attention to detail, perfectly cast characters and great sets make for superb viewing. The beautiful (South African) scenery, albeit with a few superimposed bits, is the only light relief you’ll get from this one. Well worth the watch.

Now for my favourites. They are the ones that I can’t get out of my mind after watching. The ones I absolutely need in my collection:

Jane Got a Gun (2015) was great despite the poor ratings it has received (personally, I never go by these, I make up my own mind). Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman) and Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton) made for great partners against Ewan McGregor‘s villain Colin McCann. Jane, married to outlaw Bill, approaches Dan for help in saving her and her family from McCann. But, it isn’t a straightforward case of Jane-asks-Dan-for-help-they-win-everyone-happy. There is more to the story than meets the eye and it unfurls itself at just the right pace, not giving it all away, letting you wait, letting you process, letting you think. At the beginning I was wondering why Jane had done the things she did but by the end, I understood, with the film hitting home. While we often expect the villain to be loud and boisterous, those like McCann who appear calm and collected can be just as bad. He was spot-on and for a moment even showed he had a heart. (Keep a look-out for Rodrigo Santoro – you’ll never recognise him)

And finally….Slow West (2015). Ahhh, what a movie. Refreshing. Brilliant. I was glued from beginning to end. Acting, cinematography, music…everything just right. Once again, a moderate-paced western (seems to be the current trend) but not for a moment did Slow West ever feel slow. Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) comes to America from Scotland to find his true love. Having managed on his own so far yet still “wet behind the ears” he comes across Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) (or, maybe it is Silas who comes across Jay), an outlaw, who so kindly offers to guide him across the dangerous country (naturally there are ulterior motives). Well, they encounter some interesting characters and things are, obviously, not what the seem. I did not see the ending of this one coming. Definitely one for the collection.

Oh, just quickly…The Keeping Room (2014), technically not a Western, was not at all what I expected. Despite the grim topic of three women (Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld and Muna Otaru) left to defend their home during the American Civil war, it was really, really good. If like me, you’ve never seen Sam Worthington in an antagonist role, watch it. He’s uncomfortably convincing as the “bad guy”.

The Homesman (2014) starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank is on my list to watch soon. Hope it is a good one. Das Finstere Tal (The Dark Valley) (2014) starring Sam Riley is also patiently gathering dust until I get to it – I’m intrigued as to what this Alpine Western will bring. I’ll keep you posted. (Update: Sombre and Cold: Das Finstere Tal )

Donald Sutherland, a Canadian of note…

O Canada Banner-2I didn’t know…well, I did but I forgot (or didn’t mentally register) that Donald Sutherland is a Canadian (born in Saint John, New Brunswick). Not that it really matters as it is about the man himself and what he brings to the world of film. But not purely that…for me, it is much more personal. Whenever I watch him he brings back fond memories of my father. He transports me back to the days where my parents introduced me to the amazing experience of Super 8 films. By the time we got them, most people had made the transition to VHS and Beta Video Tapes and because of this my father managed to buy boxes full of Super 8 reels and two projectors (one magnetic the other optical – something pretty much nobody of my generation knows what it means) thus starting my passion for film. And…among all these reels, reels and more reels was what immediately springs to mind at the mention of Donald SutherlandKelly’s Heroes…let me rephrase…not so much the film but his character Oddball. With that, ringing clearly in my ears is my father trying to get the “40, or is it 60 foot of bridge I can get almost everywhere” line and voice right – the line actually being “Sixty feet of bridge I can get almost anywhere.” I just love it! Oh, man, all the scenes with Oddball are great…if you haven’t watched this classic you need to just for him explaining the tank strategy, specifically around the paint-filled ammunition “When we fire it, it makes… pretty pictures. Scares the hell outta people! We have a loudspeaker here, and when we go into battle we play music, very loud. It kind of… calms us down. ” I could go on and on with scenes, quotes and all the positive waves (if you’ve seen it, you’ll understand) and my father trying to get them all right together. I honestly don’t think another actor could pull off the coolness (especially with what I believe is a leather tanker helmet – sorry if I got it wrong but I’m not really clued up as to those type of things) dopiness and amazing facial expressions as does Mr Sutherland. What a role! I must say that credit is due to the entire ensemble cast …they just work!

So, having watched this, my father decided we should go watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer as said actor is also in it and it happened to be showing at the cinema. I’m sure he was great in this role but I must admit, I can’t remember the film at all. Trying to salvage the situation, we then dug out The Dirty Dozen from the reels and expected the same Oddball comic relief from character Vernon Pinkley, which we didn’t get but were still rewarded by fantastic acting by this versatile actor in a much more serious role. I mean, if you can do Kelly’s Heroes, Dirty Dozen, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, M.A.S.H, The Italian Job, The Hunger Games….and the list goes on…you have to be versatile and you have to be good in order to be convincing in every character you take on. And so convincing he is that I never end up thinking of him as one character while watching him being another. What I mean is that I never think of Sherman tanks or PA Announcements while a family of ladies is preparing for Mr Bingley’s ball. Just the other day I was in the situation where I was thinking of the sweet guy from a period drama while watching him in an action film and thus never managed to take the role, and probably actor, seriously.

A few years ago my work colleague was surprised that I enjoy “old” films and next thing he left M.A.S.H on my desk…oh my! It is just absolutely fantastic…crazy…but brilliant. And once again, I think only Mr Sutherland would be the perfect fit. There are just certain characters made for certain actors and nobody will ever be able to fill those shoes.

I’m busy looking up his filmography and can’t believe the number of films listed and always, always great acting (at least in the 20 plus I’ve seen)…be it in small or large roles, big films or B ones, older or the more recent ones…I take my hat off to this man who, at the age of 80, almost 81, has 3 projects against his name for 2016 in IMDB. That is impressive.

But please…do me a favour and watch Kelly’s Heroes. Oh…actually, tackle M.A.S.H too…oh and…

And I will patiently wait to go see Forsaken which looks like a promising western.

 

(Quotes courtesy of IMDB)

(Blogathon courtesy of Speakeasy and Silver Screenings – thank you)