Hellfighters, The: Action-Adventure Starring John Wayne as Firefighter

In Hellfighters, a routine action-adventure, directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, John Wayne plays Chance Buckman, a tough, skillful fighter of oil fires.

His former wife Madelyn (Vera Miles) has always loved him, but she could never stand the risks and dangers involved in her husband’s profession.

When the couple’s only daughter Tish (Katharine Ross, fresh off the success of “The Graduate”) marries Chance’s right-hand man Greg Parker (Jim Hutton, father of actor Timothy), family feuds expectedly erupt.

However, amidst domestic dilemmas, personal crises, and even Latin-American political intrigues, the commitment to firefighting, with all the risks and thrills, goes on.

All the ingredients (read cliches) of the John Wayne typical movie are evident here, despite the fact that Clair Huffaker gets credit for “original” screenplay.

Wayne’s character, reportedly inspired by the real-life firefighter Red Adair, is the head of a unit that specializes in fighting fires wherever they occur. He’s described by his loyal buddy Lomax (Jay C. Flippen) as “one of a kind, the best there is at this kind of job.”

Commitment to his profession at all costs compensates for his shortcomings as a husband and father (his wife left him long ago and he has not seen his daughter in years), and also accounts for his being a loner, a man who enjoys the company of a few men, such as Lomax’s.

The background politics of Venezuela are murky and vague. Not only three wells are burning there, but there is also the danger of the rebel guerillas who are sniping from the surrounding hillsand, of course, the Venezuelan army is inefficient.

In the end, Chance comes out of retirement to help Tish’s husband fight the fires, and former wife Madelyn decides to accept him for the kind of man he is.


Running time: 121 minutes
Release date: December 14, 1968

Produced by Robert Arthur
Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Screenplay: Clair Huffaker
Camera: William H. Clothier
Editing: Folmar Blangsted
Art direction: Alexander Golitzen and Frank Arrigo
Music: Leonard Roseman
Sound: Walson O. Watson, Lyle Cain, and Ronald Pierce