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zz10| Hellfighters
Director: Andrew V. McLaglen
Screenplay: Clair Huffaker
Producer: Robert Arthur
Cast: John Wayne, Katharine Ross, Vera Miles, Jim Hutton, Jay C. Flippen
Genre: Action & Adventure

Running Time: 121
Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1 (NTSC Widescreen)
Sound: Dolby
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Studio:  Universal Studios DVD Region:  1 G
DVD Release:  Jan 1999 Discs:  1 (DVD) [$14.98]
Reviews:  Fans of "Armageddon" might see one or two resemblances between that 1998 box office hit and "Hellfighters", a 1968 action film by Andrew V. McLaglen, one of John Wayne's favorite directors in his late career. (Their joint ventures included "Chisum", "Cahill: United States Marshal", and "McLintock!") Wayne plays an oil well firefighter in the mold of Red Adair, turning up anywhere in the world where a geyser of fire is shooting up from a once-profitable gusher. His right-hand man (Jim Hutton) has questionable judgment about safety matters and is a scoundrel with the ladies--and neither fact is lost on Wayne when Hutton's character marries his long-lost daughter (Katharine Ross, a mere year after "The Graduate"). The film is an early entry in the disaster-meets-soap-opera genre that flourished in the '70s with such titles as "The Towering Inferno"and "The Poseidon Adventure". McClaglen gets a lot of crackle out of his action scenes (many of the firefighting sequences are still startling in their intensity) and turns twin love stories (Hutton and Ross, Wayne and Vera Miles) into frothy studies of adult manners, with equal hints of Howard Hawks and Sidney Sheldon. The widescreen image on DVD offers viewers a chance to see what was then a developing vogue for gratuitous breadth and scope in all its goofy, self-congratulatory glory. (Is it necessary to look at a golf course the way one might look at an African veldt? "Hellfighters" says yes!) The DVD also includes production notes and written bios on the stars, plus optional French and Spanish subtitles and an optional Spanish soundtrack. The cast and sundry thrills make this film highly enjoyable, and easily forgivable for indulging in such inanities as a subplot concerning--hold on--Venezuelan terrorists! The Duke lives! "--Tom Keogh"

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