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
The movie has never had a release on any form of home video.
Here's a recording from a long-ago TV broadcast:
BEHIND THE SCENES
In her book "Have
Belly, Will Travel," actress and belly dancer Tanya Lemani has a
chapter about her experiences on the set of "The Hell With Heroes."
She writes of one amusing tale of filming her beach scene with Rod Taylor.
She also writes about her disturbing treatment by actor Harry Guardino
-- a tale in which Rod Taylor is the hero.
First, the beach scene:
Rod and Tanya had an early morning shoot on the beach in Ventura
County (standing in for North Africa). It's a sexy scene, but was
challenging because the ocean was cold and rough.
As I was seemingly enjoying the water, Rod Taylor was to come up
and join me and we were to start our dialogue. The scene started
with me splashing in the water as Rod Taylor was standing and
looking down at me. Every time I would start my dialogue, a wave
would break and I would get drenched. It was okay for Rod Taylor
because he could avoid the waves by standing in this scene. I was
cold and wet and my teeth were chattering so loudly that I couldnít
even pronounce the words that I was to speak.
Tanya was getting mad, so she decided to get even.
I started to pull Rod Taylor down to me in the scene. He fell for
it and came right into the water with me. The scene was perfect. But
from the corner of my eye, I saw a big wave approaching. I waited to
the last second before the wave broke, still luring Rod Taylor
closer to me, and then without warning I jumped, leaving him to get
swallowed by the wave.
The plan worked. The crew pulled Rod out of the water to warm him
up. "They didnít care if I was freezing to death all this time,"
Tanya explained. "But, if they had to warm Rod, then they were
forced to get me warm as well!"
Later that day, Tanya was enjoying a chat with Rod and other members of the cast when
Harry Guardino showed up. All during the shoot, he had been a constant source of
harassment, heaping abuse on her at every turn.
This time, he started hurling vulgarities and then tried to force her to go to his trailer.
Tanya described what happened next:
He was yelling [obscene things] at the top of his lungs and even
started to push me. Out of nowhere, Rod Taylor stepped in and
grabbed him by his collar and spoke almost in a whisper.
"Listen to me, buddy! And listen good 'cause I'm not going to repeat
myself! You leave her alone! And if you don't, you'll have to answer
to me! Do you hear me?" Rod Taylor kept looking right into Harry's
eyes. He looked so powerful that Harry backed away and like a little
mouse walked away saying, "I hear you man, I hear you."
Rod Taylor, my hero! ... Later, everyone kept saying how
great it was that someone was able to stand up to this obnoxious
Relieved, Tanya went to her hotel room to go over her lines for the next day.
She intended to order dinner in, but her phone rang. An actor wanted her to go to dinner.
She declined. Then Peter Deuel called. He invited her to dinner. She
Then the director of photography called. "He kept telling me how he
enjoys viewing me through the lens and how much I looked like Sophia
Loren," Tanya wrote. He invited her to dinner. She
When the phone rang again, the caller said...
"I hope he's not going to bother you again, but if he does, let me
know." It was my hero's voice, Rod Taylor. I was excited that he
took time to call me. I was wondering if he too would invite me for
dinner. He did not. We talked for a little while and that was all.
The next call was from the director, Joseph Sargent. He asked her to
dinner. She went, but I get the feeling she wish she hadn't.
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