• Hellfighters (Mill Creek Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: May 4th, 2021.
    Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
    Cast: John Wayne, Katharine Ross, Jim Hutton, Vera Miles, Jay C. Flippen
    Year: 1968
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    Hellfighters – Movie Review:

    Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and released to theaters in 1968, Hellfighters top bills John Wagne as Chance Buckman, a tough as nails Texan whose job is to put out fires when they start to get out of control at some of the more remote oil rig locations used by the company that employs him. Chance doesn't do all of this work by himself, however. He's got equally tough guys like Jack Lomax (Jay C. Flippen), Joe Horn (Bruce Cabot) and Greg Parker (Jim Hutton) by his side every step of the way.

    Chance has also been divorced for a couple of decades now, and then end of his marriage still weighs heavy on his heart. When he isn't putting out ridiculously dangerous oil rig fires, he's trying to win back Madelyn (Vera Miles), the ex-wife that he just can't seem to get over. She divorced him way back when not because she didn't love him, but because the constant dangers inherent in his job just became too much for her to deal with all of the time.

    As their stories play out, things get complicated when Greg winds up getting romantically involved with Tish (Katharine Ross), Chance's daughter. As Chance tries to take a desk job and settle down after getting injured on the job, it looks like he and Madelyn just might make it after all, that is until a giant fire breaks out at an oil rig in Venezuela.

    Hellfighters is two-hours of solid entertainment. Some of the acting from the supporting players is less than perfect and you won’t have any trouble figuring out how all of this is going to end, but McLaglen, the man who gave us The Wild Geese and the Joe Don Baker classic Mitchell, paces the film well and does a great job of making the firefighting scenes seem believably exciting and incredibly dangerous. Made in the day and age where you had to stage scenes like these using only practical effects, it’s impressive to some of the massive fireballs that the effects team conjure up for this picture, they look way cooler and much more realistic than a lot of similar computer generated effects used in modern movies. These scenes are the highlights of the picture, and are far more memorable than the rather pedestrian dramatic and romantic subplots (though to be fair, those subplots are effective at stringing together the different action set pieces).

    Wayne is pretty good in the lead and he has a decent enough chemistry with Miles in this picture to make their relationship work, despite some obvious clichés evident in how it all plays out. Production values are good pretty much across the board, and the film features some nice camerawork and a pretty rousing score that does a nice job of making the action scenes more tense, and subsequently making some of the scenes of drama and romance a little hokier than they should be. Overall, this is an uneven film, but a pretty entertaining one.

    Hellfighters – Blu-ray Review:

    Hellfighters arrives on Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen taking up 21GBs of space on a 25GB disc. This looks to have come from an older master so it isn’t reference quality but it is quite good. Detail is pretty strong if not at the level a new scan could have provided, while color reproduction looks quite strong. There are some minor compression artifacts in some of the darker scenes but you probably won’t notice them if you aren’t looking for them. Black levels are good and there are no issues with any noise reduction or edge enhancement.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track is in English. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Sound quality is fine, the levels are balanced and the dialogue stays clear. There could have been maybe a bit more depth to some of the action scenes but the score sounds solid. No problems to report.

    There are no extra features included on this disc, just a static menu.

    Hellfighters – The Final Word:

    Hellfighters may have some flaws but it’s still a pretty entertaining way to spend two-hours. Wayne is in fine form here and a lot of fun to watch, and the firefighting scenes are really impressively staged. Mill Creek’s Blu-ray is barebones, but it looks decent and sounds quite good and, as is typical with the label’s output, it’s hard to argue with the price.

    Click on the images below for full sized Hellfighters Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      I've got the old Universal BD, this is probably the same. I like this film, mainly due to the cast. It's fun to see Wayne and long time co-stars Bruce Cabot and Jay C. Flippen. As you say, it's kind of uneven (and probably a bit too long), but the firefighting scenes are done well.