The Hell With Heroes (1968)
Rod Taylor plays Brynie MacKay, a war hero turned cynical pilot-of-fortune in
this action-romance based in North Africa just after WWII.
Brynie and his partner, Mike Brewer (Peter Deuel), are former ace flyboys
adventuring in an Africa that's in its last throes of anti-colonialist turmoil.
The idealistic Mike and the cynical Brynie live an uncomplicated life, running
an air-freight company in North Africa. They spend long days on the beach, and
their nights are filled with nightclubs and belly dancers.
Trouble starts after they accept an ill-advised job to transport goods
for black-marketeer Lee Harris (Harry Guardino).
After being framed by Harris
for transporting drugs, Brynie's plane is impounded. He cuts a deal with
Harris to get the plane back, but it involves flying more crooked missions.
On one of the missions, Harris kills Mike, bringing violence and emotion
to a head. Kevin McCarthy, a repeated co-star of Rod's, plays an Army
Amid the danger, Brynie begins an affair with Elana (Claudia Cardinale), the bad guy's mistress. The bond between Brynie and Elana goes well beyond
their physical attraction -- even though there's plenty of that.
Brynie and Elena are both damaged souls, courtesy of the war. The scenes between Cardinale
and Taylor are beautifully crafted and well-acted, conveying the complicated
nature of their relationship.
The movie was directed by
Sargent, whose distinguished career featured extensive work in
television (he won four Emmys). Prior to "The Hell with Heroes," his
movie directing experience had involved two films that grew out of
episodes of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." Later, Sargent would earn
acclaim on the big screen with "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three"
and disdain because of "Jaws: The Revenge" (aka "Jaws 4").
Also notable is that the film score was composed by
Quincy Jones, along with the song "Where There is Love" that
closes the movie.
"The Hell with Heroes" garnered lukewarm reviews and very little
the box office.
A reviewer in the Fort Lauderdale News captured its positive
qualities (Sept. 19, 1968):
"The Hell With Heroes" starts out as an ordinary little adventure
piece, but picks up interest as it moves rather rapidly into the
sterner drama of a man's inner conflict. ... It combines a very
personal story with some suspenseful action, and Rod Taylor proves
once again that he is superior to his material.
The plot is pulp-fiction good guys and bad guys material, but Taylor
is a much more sensitive and feeling actor than his scripts usually
foretell. ... Few actors today can match Taylor's virility and