Heroes (1977) Another Vietnam Vet Tale

Last year I posted on the topic of Most Memorable Vietnam Vets and collected quite a list of movies in which a Vietnam vet is the main character. With the exception of four movies I had seen all of them. Heroes wasn’t on the list because I wasn’t aware of it at the time. I’ve watched it meanwhile and included it in the list. I still think that Jacknife and Taxi Driver, both starring Robert de Niro, are the most memorable ones, still, I would say Heroes is worth watching for many reasons, if only to see the young Sally Field and Harrison Ford in an early role.

Jack Dunne has escaped from a mental hospital. Not for the first time, he has escaped before but this time he is determined to not get caught again. His friends at the hospital have given him money for an unusual business involving earthworms. His plan it to travel to Kansas to meet a former comrade Ken (Harrison Ford) who was in the same unit and then travel on to see other buddies, who all served with him as well. On his journey he meets Carol who is just about to get married but for reasons even unknown to herself she wants to get away for a few days before the wedding and stay on her own for a while.

While she is at first somewhat alienated by Jack’s strange behaviour and the fact that he is chased by the police, she is also intrigued and fascinated by this odd fellow who carries around a box of worms and doesn’t seem to be able to take anything seriously. When they accidentally get into a bar fight and Carol has to pay for the mess Jack has made, she decides to follow him. Jack has promised that Ken will pay her back.

Ken, Jack’s friend, isn’t much better off than Jack. He lives outside of a town in a trailer hoping to make money with car racing. He is part of Jack’s fantastic business plan to make money with earthworms but not only does he not take the idea seriously, he is in no condition to think about business at all.

After having stayed with Ken, Jack and Carol take Ken’s car and go on a trip to visit Jack’s other buddies but nothing turns out as expected. One of them died, a fact Jack new but repressed, another one is hiding somewhere. On top of that the horrible war memories which Jack had tried to repress start to resurface violently.

Heroes is part road movie, part Vietnam vet tale and part love story. Both Carol and Jack have issues, both drift through life, do not belong anywhere and in meeting each other they find for the first time someone with whom a real relationship is possible.

As a road movie and a story about an intense relationship, the movie worked well. I also liked the character of Ken quite a lot. I was not too sure about the veteran part though. Jack suffers from PTSD and there are a few subtle moments (nightmares, flashbacks…) which show this very well, on the other hand, he seems to be a very naive, childlike person and one gets the impression that he must have had problems before he even went to Vietnam. That creates a bit of a mix. He is an interesting character but as a portrait of a vet it didn’t work all that well for me.

Still, Heroes is watchable and entertaining and it was nice to see the very young and pretty Sally Field and Harrison Ford in an early role.

I couldn’t find  a trailer, just this very short scene.


10 thoughts on “Heroes (1977) Another Vietnam Vet Tale

  1. I’m going to have to take you to task here….the main character is Henry Winkler and he gets no mention?!?! He’s the Fonz! Arguably one of the most memorable and beloved TV characters of all time!! How can you not mention the Fonz?!?!!?


    But I agree with your review. It is an offbeat movie and I think captures well the long term affects of war on young men. It reminds me a bit of Birdy (Matthew Modine and Nicholas Cage). Also, Heroes came out in 1977 when people were not speaking a lot about Vietnam or the troubles veterans were having re-adjusting back in society.

    • You know, I was conscious about leaving him out and felt a bit bad about it but I just thought the other two stood out more. He still got a tag though. 🙂
      I thought it was similar to Birdy. I’ve seen Birdy for the first time a year ago and was really impressed. I thought it was really original, Heroes is far tamer as a movie. I will never forget Birdy, it sticks in your mind, while I’m already forgetting Heroes and Jack Dunne.

  2. the war movie buff says:

    I still have a few real Vietnam movies to see so I do not plan on getting to this one any time soon. It is not even in my Vietnam War Movies book and it has 40 films!

    • I think there is another similar one, Home Coming or something like that, no? I cannot find my Vietnam movies book anymore. It’s hiding under piles of other books.
      I need to switch between genres and sub genres, it was a nice change.

  3. the war movie buff says:

    I guess you are talking about “Coming Home” which is in a different league than Heroes – all-star cast, nominated for Best Picture, gravitas…
    I reviewed it a while back. Overrated, but not bad.

  4. Guy Savage says:

    Haven’t seen this one, Caroline.

    Can we have a Stalingrad watch along when the new Russian version is released on DVD?

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