(Note: Like so many of my homework assignments, I’m not fully following the directions on this.)

Hell is for Heroes Title

Hell is for Heroes Title

How many of you guys have heard of a little film called Hell is for Heroes?

You should check it out. Why? Well, it’s a good little WWII movie set on the Siegfried Line in France. It was directed by Don Siegel, who directed the 1950s classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers as well as two episodes of The Twilight Zone. Siegel would go on to direct Dirty Harry, The Shootist, and Escape from Alcatraz.

You might have heard of the cast, too:

Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen

Bobby Darin

Bobby Darin

Fess Parker

Fess Parker

James Coburn

James Coburn

and, last-but-not-least:

Bob Newhart

Bob Newhart

Yep, button-down Bob himself. In case you were wondering, he plays a nebbish Army clerk who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s even a sequence where he gets to do his famous telephone schtick. Speaking of Bobs, Bobby Darin does a bang-up job as wise-crackin’ scrounger from the Big City and more than holds his own, even against Steve McQueen

So, great director, great cast. What does this have to do with the assignment? Well, as you may have already guessed from the title of this post, it was filmed in Cottonwood, California.

Steve McQueen wonders why he took this role.

Steve McQueen wonders why he took this role.

Apparently, France is a land of red dirt, scrub oaks, and manzanita. Who knew?

The film itself is pretty taut little film and it still very watchable today, once you get past the fact that these famous actors are playing soldier not far from where we did a quarter-century ago.

The famed red clay dirt of France

The famed red clay dirt of France

Some interesting tidbits: Much of the film takes place at night, because daytime temperatures were regularly hitting 110+. Obviously, they were filming during the summer. During the filming, Bobby Darin and the other stars were seen around Redding. They frequented the Squire Room and the Casablanca Lounge and stayed at apartments on Trinity Street which are still standing. Unfortunately, I don’t know which ones.

A look at the valley where most of the film is set.

A look at the valley where most of the film is set.

The best I can determine from watching the movie is that it was filmed west of I-5, possibly near the truck scales. The U.S. soldiers are on a ridge top, facing west. (There’s a scene where you can  see the hills north of Redding on their right.)

The final push on the German pillbox.

The final push on the German pillbox.

The producers  took advantage of Shasta County’s long history of environmental ambivelance and really blew the place to hell. Trees were exploding everywhere, and there were tons of squibs and larger explosions. It looked d**n good, even thrown against modern WWII flicks like Saving Private Ryan. The scenes of the larger guns firing (anything larger than a mortar) were stock footage, but that’s to be expected.

Tank traps or new art installation?

Tank traps or new art installation?

Anyway, I apologize for not having modern pics of the area, but if I can ever nail down its location, I promise I will make the trek to the wilds of Cottonwood and shoot it. Don’t worry, I’ll keep an eye open for the Wehrmacht.