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Universal/1968/122m/WS 2.35

      John Wayne brings movie star gusto to Hellfighters, the fictional story of the premier oil well fire fighters. Based on the actual exploits of legendary fire man Red Adair and others, the film captures the intensity with which these characters attack their work and their personal lives.
     Chance Buckman’s the man. You got a fire at your oil field, Chance will blow it out for you as slick and neat as a match after lighting a cigarette. He’ll minimize the danger and damage too. Buckman’s boys are rough and ready. At a moment’s notice it’s jump out of the sack and into the field. Battling fires is their rush and the passion with which they embrace their work often means family turmoil. With a team of veterans and a cocky heir apparent, Buckman rules the roost with an iron fist and a sense of humor.
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In the thick of the action©Universal

     When Buckman is injured at a fire, his friends contact his long estranged daughter. She arrives on the hospital scene and before you can rub two sticks together, she’s hot for fighting fires and other things. Before Hellfighters resolves its plot lines, Buckman renews his passion for his former wife and deals with the realities of being a Dad. None of it’s very deep but it is consistently entertaining. Director Andrew V. McLaglen makes sure the fires ignite at a regular interval.
     Wayne’s solid presence raises Hellfighters up a step. Jim Hutton provides Wayne a chance to butt heads with the younger generation and Jay C. Flippen reminds him about the good old days. Katherine Ross is on hand to bridge the generations and Vera Miles makes an appealing return as Wayne’s love interest.
     The defining color in Hellfighters is red. In the early fire fighting scenes the bright uniforms of Chance Buckman’s daredevils is deep red. In the final fire confrontation in South America, the uniforms are more an intense salmon color. It made me wonder about whether there was some fading of the film elements, but everything else looked normal. It appears that this DVD was struck from a composite tape transfer since moiré is evident in a number of scenes and should not occur if the source and output are both component. Otherwise, the images in this widescreen transfer are sharp. Contrast is very good and the film element condition is excellent. There’s plenty of thump in them there oil fires too providing bass rumble. Dialogue is easy to understand in difficult situations in this Dolby Digital 2-channel mono mix.