Thursday, March 30, 2023
Hell’s Heroes (1929)
Three men are headed for the remote desert town of New Jerusalem. They intend to rob the bank. A fourth accomplice is already waiting for them in the town.
The robbery does not go off very successfully. A bank teller is killed and one of the robbers is killed as well. The three survivors make their getaway, but with very little loot to show for their efforts.
Their problem is that survival is going to be difficult enough for three strong healthy men. The baby’s chances seem slim. The three outlaws face a long long trek through the desert, without food and with their water supply almost exhausted. Even worse, their only chance of finding water is to return to New Jerusalem and they know that as soon as they get there they’ll be hanged. Without the baby they might have a chance of reaching some other source of water, but with the baby there’s no choice at all. To save the baby they will have to return to New Jerusalem.
The movie tries to combine that basic sentimentality with some grittiness, but the sentimentality is inherent in the story.
The three lead actors are pretty good. Charles Bickford as Bob Sangster is the standout. Bob is both genuinely a very bad man and a very hard man which makes the redemption angle a bit more interesting.
This movie dates from the very early days of sound. It also dates from an era in which location shooting with primitive sound technology would have been quite a challenge.
Wyler rises to the challenge extremely well.
It’s a visually impressive movie with a very effective atmosphere of desolation. The desert is the enemy. It’s the real villain of the movie. It seems to be actively malevolent. There’s no romanticisation of nature in this movie.
Hell’s Heroes is not by any means a bad movie. It’s just not my cup of tea. If you don’t mind some sentimentality and some religious elements and you enjoy stories focused on redemption and sacrifice then you might well enjoy it a lot more than I did.