Kelly’s Heros

I watched Kelly’s Heros on DVD last night. The DVD transfer is pretty good, especially for a 1970 vintage film. This movie had an all-star cast for the time, including Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas, and Don Rickles. The production values and attention to detail and historical authenticity regarding the uniforms, equipment and vehicles is far better than most other World War Two movies.

The movie was filmed in Yugoslavia, and the filmmakers used authentic WW2 M4A3 Shermans, M3 Halftracks, Willys Jeeps, and German Kubelwagens. They also took the trouble to make some pretty convincing looking Tiger I tanks on Russian T-34 hulls. Most World War Two movies made in the 1960′s and 1970′s use post-war American tanks (such as the M41, M47 and M48) to portray both the American and German tanks in the movie.

In Kelly’s Heros, three Tiger I tanks play a central role in the plot, since they are charged with guarding the 14,000 bars of gold in a French bank, 30 miles behind enemy lines. Rather than taking the easy way out and painting German crosses on M47 tanks and calling them "Tigers", they obviously spent a little money to fabricate a credible looking Tiger I upper hull and turret on a T-34 chasis. It’s interesting, that there is quite a lively debate among the reviewers on Amazon about whether the Tiger tanks in the film are real Tigers, fake tigers on M113 APC hulls or fake Tigers on T-34 hulls. The correct answer is the latter.

The T-34 has a very distinctive suspension and tracks. The tracks in particular, have very unusual looking center guides, that when viewed from the side look like miniature shark fins. There are several good shots of the faux Tigers in the movie that show the suspension and track from the side that show its T-34 heritage without a doubt.

They also made an effort to weld some panels on M3 Halftracks to make them look a little more like German Sd.Kfz 251 Hanomag halftracks, and they used actual M4A3 Sherman tanks (with the early VVSS) to portray the Sherman tanks in the movie.

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