Hell Is For Heroes

  • 1962
  • Movie
  • NR
  • War

An exhausted and depleted combat infantry squad is pulled from a rear area, from which the troop had expected to be sent home, and is ordered to hold a lengthy section of line facing a huge German pillbox at the Siegfried Line. Among the men is McQueen, formerly the squad sergeant but now, for drunkenness, busted and sent back to his unit--apparently a...read more

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An exhausted and depleted combat infantry squad is pulled from a rear area, from which the troop had expected to be sent home, and is ordered to hold a lengthy section of line facing a huge German pillbox at the Siegfried Line. Among the men is McQueen, formerly the squad sergeant but

now, for drunkenness, busted and sent back to his unit--apparently a familiar routine for him. He is clearly the best soldier in the squad, a natural leader who soon begins advising nominal squad leader Guardino on various ruses to make the Germans think the force is much larger. The squad is

successful until a German patrol discovers how weak it is, and McQueen realizes that the only way to continue to fool the Germans is to attack. Usurping command of the squad, he leads a small force against the pillbox but runs into another pillbox in front of the fortification. Coburn, carrying a

flamethrower, touches a mine and explodes into a human torch illuminating the others, who barely make it back to their own positions. There platoon sergeant Parker is waiting, enraged at McQueen's action and threatening court martial. Undaunted, McQueen makes his way to the firing slit of the

pillbox and throws in a satchel charge--then falls back, shot in the chest. Dying, he looks over and sees the Germans throw the explosive back out. With a last effort, he picks up the charge and rolls into the pillbox with it. The explosion knocks out the pillbox, and the American attack moves

ahead unhindered.

A taut little movie with a fascinating central performance by McQueen as a hardbitten misfit unable to accept authority (even his own, as seen in his string of battlefield promotions and rear-area demotions) but possessed of a singular talent for infantry combat. He takes on the suicidal

destruction of the pillbox when it becomes obvious to him that he is never going to see battle again. Siegel keeps the action moving along briskly to its inevitable climax. Only Newhart's patented telephone bit, here done for the benefit of Germans listening on a microphone discovered hidden in

the American position, detracts from the story by adding a note that would fit better in a Catskill resort than in a trench facing the Siegfried Line. A film with uncomfortable things to say about the nature of heroism--and one to see for that reason.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: An exhausted and depleted combat infantry squad is pulled from a rear area, from which the troop had expected to be sent home, and is ordered to hold a lengthy section of line facing a huge German pillbox at the Siegfried Line. Among the men is McQueen, fo… (more)

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