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Blu-Ray Review: Kino Lorber’s Hell is for Heroes (KL Studio Classics) 

Hell is for Heroes

Don Siegel and Steve McQueen team up for Hell is for Heroes the stark black-and-white WW2 action drama.  Kino Lorber has armed the Blu-Ray with a new 4K Scan and Extras!

The Film 

The biggest pleasure for this reviewer with reviewing Blu-Ray titles is when you find something that perfectly fits your tastes.  Don Siegel’s Hell is for Heroes is that kind of film. A Black and White WW2 film that’s as stark and riveting as anything that’s been filmed about the topic since its release six decades ago.  One will be surprised by how modern and effective the film is, though anyone that loves the work of Siegel will not be surprised.  

Like the best of the WW2 Action pictures, the plot is lean; at the tail end of WW2 France, a company of half a dozen Army soldiers are stationed at the front line with no support to hold that line against a superior Nazi force.  What occurs is a harrowing night of adroit thinking by the soldiers led by recently demoted Private Reese (Steve McQueen) who pushes for a risky offensive push.  As the hellish night wears on Reese and the other men’s mettle is tested and proved but at what cost? 

What makes Hell is for Heroes so good is the winning and tense collaboration of star Steven McQueen and director Don Siegel.  McQueen’s laconic approach to the role – as he did throughout his career – elevates every supporting player’s performance.  Siegel’s direction which always is stylishly lean and economical puts the characters and eventually the combat they endure as stark and harrowing as one would want.  The way they both approach their respective work transcends modernity that makes the film “timeless” in the way that it is executed without the affectations of a specific era.  

One could not ask for more from a 90-minute action film than what one receives from Hell is for Heroes.  Expertly written, directed, and acted with an elevated sense of understanding of what makes a truly great dramatic film, not just a thrilling action picture.  

The Transfer

The all-new HD Master – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Original Camera Negative is one of the best Black and White transfers of recent memory.  The film on Blu-ray is sharp and handsome image with near reference level blacks and contrast.  

The Extras

They include the following;

  • Audio Commentary by Filmmaker/Historian Steve Mitchell and Combat Films: American Realism Author Steven Jay Rubin
  • Theatrical Trailer (Newly Mastered in 4K)

The all-new Audio Commentary by Filmmaker/Historian Steve Mitchell and Combat Films: American Realism Author Steven Jay Rubin open with their bondafides and discussion of one of their favorite WW2 movies.  Some of the details include this is a “dry run” for the TV Series Combat!; the film being shot in Hollywood for France; the lower budget nature of the film; the origins and development of the film from screenwriter and WW2 vet Robert Pirosh – including a larger discussion about his feelings about McQueen and Siegel, eventually discussing his creation of Combat!; how the incident was Classified and not declassified until 1960; McQueen’s Marine experience and the realism that he brought because of that time; why they chose to shoot “night for night” instead of the more cost-effective “day for night”; how Don Siegel came onto the film and how McQueen had directorial approval; the work of the various supporting cast including the brief appearance of LQ Jones, Fess Parker, James Coburn, Bob Newhart, Harry Guardino, Bobby Darrin, and others; the film being Spielberg’s favorite and a huge reference for Saving Private Ryan; Tarantino referencing this for Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood; Rabin meeting Steve McQueen in 1963 – which leads to a discussion about McQueen’s personal life and how much he did for wayward children and why; a larger discussion of the character and performance here of Steve McQueen; a larger discussion of director Don Siegel and his work with McQueen; and much more.  This is another winner from Mitchell and Rubin.  The track is an effective and informative track with great anecdotes and quotes about the cast, crew, and from the production. 

Rounding out the special features are trailers for Hell is for Heroes [Newly Mastered in 4K] (2:55); The Great Escape (2:45); The Thomas Crown Affair (2:05); The Hunter (3:15); Charley Varrick (2:31); Escape from Alcatraz (2:01); Fixed Bayonets! (2:37); Attack! (2:31); The Train (4:35); Beach Red (3:08) 

The Final Thought 

Hell is for Heroes is a truly great WW2 Action Drama.  Kino Lorber has given it a great release.  Highest recommendations!!! 

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray edition of Hell is for Heroes is out now.

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