Hell is For Heroes (1962)

Hell is For Heroes (1962)

“Lady, the whole world is full of trouble.”

During World War II, an embittered private (Steve McQueen) joins a battalion run by a tough sergeant (Harry Guardino) and his even-keeled next-in-command (Fess Parker). Soon the men — including a hustler (Bobby Darin), a mechanically minded corporal (James Coburn), a naive young kid (Bill Mullikin), a Polish-born private (Mike Kellin) who looks after a displaced Polish soldier (Nick Adams), and a clerk (Bob Newhart) — are told they must return to battle despite being severely outnumbered by the Germans; will they find a way to survive?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Don Siegel Films
  • Fess Parker Films
  • James Coburn Films
  • Soldiers
  • Steve McQueen Films
  • World War II

Don Siegel directed and Robert Pirosh scripted this “anti-war” wartime battle flick, based on a real-life squad of men from the 95th Infantry Division tasked with holding off the Germans at the Siegfried Line. It features McQueen as a typically stoic tough guy:

… and Bob Newhart (in his film debut) as a bumbling outsider tasked with faking a phone call to his superiors in order to make spying Germans believe his team is doing just fine.

There are a few other mild attempts at humor, but for the most part, this is a bleak film that pulls no punches in depicting how relentlessly brutal war is.


Particularly hair-raising scenes include a few of the men snake-crawling across the ground while feeling with their fingers for landmines (tragically, Coburn misses one):

… Guardino screaming that his guts have been blown out while being carried off the battlefield:

… and a brutally graphic ending for McQueen. Indeed, “The End” appears on screen almost immediately after several major characters have been killed, thus denying the viewer any further closure or sense of what happens to the remaining men. This harsh film has a minor cult following given taut direction by Siegel and plenty of authentic-seeming fighting, but it’s not my personal cup of tea.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Several gut-wrenching sequences

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look.


One thought on “Hell is For Heroes (1962)

  1. First viewing (7/18/22). Only for war film enthusiasts.

    The first hour of this 90-minute flick is surprisingly laid-back for a film of its type – then the last half-hour has director Siegel turning up the gas for a big finish. Overall, it’s more or less standard stuff, distinguished a bit by its conclusion.

    In his film debut, supporting Newhart (who would ultimately make a bigger splash in tv comedy) is in the ‘comic relief’ role but his dialogue as such is not really appropriate or believable. The general cast is ok.

    If the latter part of the film seems rushed, that’s because the studio (Paramount) suddenly pulled money from the budget.

Leave a Reply