Hell Is for Heroes (1962)

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Released 12-Nov-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1962
Running Time 86:14
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Don Siegel

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Steve McQueen
Bobby Darin
Fess Parker
Harry Guardino
James Coburn
Mike Kellin
oseph Hoover
Bill Mullikin
L. Q. Jones
Michele Montau
Don Haggerty
Nick Adams
Bob Newhart
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Leonard Rosenman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    John Reese (Steve McQueen) is a tough-assed soldier, recently busted back to Private from the rank of Staff Sergeant for stealing a jeep and running amok while not on the line. He has been sent to a new unit that is about to rejoin the front line and he is keen not to make any new friends. Once on the line, however, his unit is left behind while the company withdraws to reinforce another part of the line from an imminent attack. Severely outmanned, the unit must find creative solutions to fool the Germans into thinking the company has not pulled out. However, Reese begins questioning the authority of the Sergeant of his unit, defying orders and leading a pre-emptive raid against a German pill box.

    Hell Is For Heroes is a fairly tough and gritty war movie from the early 1960s. It is relatively violent and relatively bloody and quite nihilistic, really aiming for the ‘war is hell’ angle for war movies. However, it does try to mix styles a little too much, not quite sure whether it wants to be the fun and adventurous The Great Escape or a darker and more realistic war movie in the vein of Saving Private Ryan. Of course, it was made well before either of those two movies and it is not really fair to make such a comparison. But I want to emphasise that this show tries to mesh styles that are somewhat incompatible, and for that reason is not as good as it could have been.

    Performances throughout are fairly good, although at times a little over the top. I was reminded of William Shatner’s overacting during the original episodes of Star Trek on more than one occasion. The setting, however, looks a little too much like the Californian desert and totally unlike Europe. No neat hedgerows and fields of green grass and mud, endless mud (although they try to emphasise some muddiness here and there, but it looks too much like dirt put on sand and then hosed over).

    Overall, this is a bit of a nostalgia trip for buffs of classic war movies. It is good for its time, but it does not really hold together all that well, even for a film made back then, nor hold up terribly well over the course of several decades. It serves to whittle away a rainy Sunday afternoon, but it is far from a classic. Three-star entertainment.

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Transfer Quality


    Presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, this is very close to the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and you would be hard pressed to notice any loss in picture.

    Although black & white, this is still quite a good print. Certainly, it is a little grainy at times, but the picture is always crisp and well defined, and shadow detail is quite good most of the time. Indeed, the black & white image is highly defined at times, and has a certain feel to it that draws you in.

    There were no MPEG artefacts, and I was hard pressed to define any real film-to-video transfer artefacts.

    The print was mostly clean of film artefacts, although this is probably the transfer’s weakest point. There is a hair in the middle of the screen at 38:49, a line down the middle of the screen at 47:28 - 48:02, a cluster of white dots on a night shot at 64:54, and a very dirty shot at 76:08. There are also a few instances where stock footage is used, and they come with a rather severe drop in picture quality. These scenes are at 77:01 - 77:18 and 78:16 - 78:22.

    Subtitles are available in just about every language you can name (see above for a full listing). They are white with a grey border. The English subtitles seem to stay fairly close to the original dialogue.

    This is a single-sided, single-layered disc. Consequently, it has no dual layer pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are a number of soundtracks available here all in 2.0 Dolby Mono. There is the original English track, plus German, Spanish, French and Italian overdubs. The foreign language tracks seem fine. I will give a little more attention to the English track.

    Dialogue was always clear and easy enough to understand. I detected no obvious audio sync problems.

    The range, however, is far from fantastic. For a 2.0 Mono field this is pretty thin, and noises such as explosions and gunshots just have no resonance to them. This robs the battlefield sequences of any realism (I have been spoilt by films such as Black Hawk Down).

    The soundtrack, a fairly militaristic ensemble by Leonard Rosenman, also has little to it in terms of range or ambience.

    There was no surround use and no subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    All menus are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. They are static and silent.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as picture and original audio sound quality, this release would appear to be identical to the R1 version in all respects other than the NTSC/PAL picture format. However, the R4 release is far more multiculturally friendly, with a plethora of language options. For this reason, I am going to give this one to the R4.


    Hell Is For Heroes is a decent war movie for its time, but it is far from a classic and it is somewhat dated.

    Video is very good for a print this old, marred only by some film artefacts originating at the source.

    Sound is not so good in terms of range or ambience, even for what you could expect from a 2.0 Mono mix.

    The were no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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