HELLFIGHTERS(director: Andrew V. McLaglen; screenwriter: Clair Huffaker; cinematographer: William H. Clothier; editor: Folmar Blangsted; music: Leonard Rosenman; cast: John Wayne (Chance Buckman), Vera Miles (Madelyn Buckman), Katharine Ross (Tish Buckman), Jim Hutton (Greg Parker), Jay C. Flippen (Jack Lomax), Bruce Cabot (Joe Horn), Barbara Stuart (Irene Foster); Runtime: 121; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Robert Arthur; Universal; 1968)
“A dull adventure tale about macho men who fight oil fires.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A dull adventure tale about macho men who fight oil fires. It’s based on real-life legendary Texas oil well firefighter Red Adair, who served as technical adviser for the film. The fire fighting looked authentic; the dramatics seemed ham-fisted and the performances slight. Mediocre director Andrew V. McLaglen (“Chisum”) doesn’t rise above his rep here. Clair Huffaker turns in the conventional script.
Chance Buckman (John Wayne) owns a Houston company which puts out oil well fires all over the world. Greg Parker (Jim Hutton) is his loyal young playboy assistant. The men are on 24-hour call. The film opens on New Year’s Day and Chance is called by his secretary Irene to return from a gambling holiday to the Bahamas while he’s in mid-flight, Greg is tracked down in the boudoir with a hot Hispanic broad outside the country. They are asked to fight an oil well fire in Texas. Within seconds we learn that their job is dangerous and soon learn they both have problems communicating with women. The marriage between Chance and Madelyn (Vera Miles) sours when she can no longer face saying goodbye to him without fearing she will never see him again. Greg will turn over a new leaf as a domestically tamed man when he marries Chance’s daughter, Tish (Katherine Ross), who insists on coming along to all the fires even though she shares her mother’s concern over the job being a dangerous one. Most of the film is talky and has the women standing around these fire sites while those around them tell them this is no place for a classy broad. The men keep busy putting a cap to the fires and all the other macho things firefighters do. Soon all this becomes tiresome, but it never seems to end going on for a good two hours.
Katherine Ross made this film right after her success in “The Graduate,” it was not a good choice as a followup to such an acclaimed counter-culture hit. The Universal studio she was under contract to, does her no favor putting her in this routine action pic and giving her such a underwritten part. REVIEWED ON 11/11/2005 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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