HEROES (1977) Probably the first semi-lighthearted love story to focus on the after-effects of The 'Nam.

heroes_usposterTheme Song: If you read a review of this movie online, every single person complains about how the original theatrical version of this movie ended with “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas and how it was “so powerful.” Once released on Betamax and VHS, that song was replaced by this song, probably because of licensing issues:

This made all those reviewers very mad. Everyone should stop complaining because this song isn’t that bad. No credits are given for this song. As I note later, the Kansas song is restored on newer prints of the movie, and the song above is totally scrapped.

Interesting Dated References: Henry Winkler acting like someone other than Fonzie; Ordering Celery Tonic at a bar.

Best Line: A bunch of 70s existential stuff.

Social Context: As far as movies dealing with the after-effects of The ‘Nam, Heroes predates The Deer Hunter. However, it doesn’t predate Deathdream, which beat it by two years. Regardless, this is probably the first semi-lighthearted love story to focus on the after-effects of The ‘Nam. Also, this movie was made when Henry Winkler may have been trying to shed the Fonzie image.

Summary: When you think about how Times Square used to have adult film theaters, it’s kind of odd. A theatre like that would coexist right next to an army recruiting center and touristy things like computer-generated dot-matrix portraits.


That’s right, computer-generated dot-matrix portraits, while you wait.


Meet Jack: Dot matrix printout in hand, porno theatre in background, making his way around Times Square. Jack wanders into an army recruiting center and starts a squabble across from a theater playing Brothers.


The cops take Fonzie back to the VA hospital, where we find out he’s a psych patient and is being held against his will. Jack prepares to escape again dressed as a doctor. His cohorts in the hospital, including the obligatory guy who stutters, give him a bunch of money to start a worm farm.

At the hospital John Cassavetes appears in a 5-second walk-on role. It’s him, I checked, and it’s all that he’s in the movie! Weird. So Jack escapes, resulting in a lot of New York City scenery, including a scene involving the Roosevelt Island Tramway. Jack/Fonzie is on a mission to visit his old Army buddies and start a worm farm with them. Being that this is the 70s, the best way to do this is by taking the bus. Prior to being relegated to the inner city poor, crust punks, and people with DUIs, the bus was a great economical way for people to travel.


Through a bunch of mishaps, Fonzie meets Gidget, played by Sally Field. She dislikes him at first, but slowly begins to warm up to his child-like innocence and second-rate, eccentric Woody Allen behavior.


During one of the bus meal stops, Jack gets in a fight and Carol (Sally Field) intervenes only to be thrown down the counter, destroying those gross orange juice machines that used to be everywhere. She uses her own money to pay for the damage with the promise that Fonzie’s friend is coming to pick him up and he will pay her back.


Enter Ken (a young Harrison Ford), Fonzie’s friend from the war. All Han wants to do is hot rod in his car, drink beer, and shoot the AK47 he stole from the army. Han was supposed to be raising rabbits which Fonz was going to then use to help raise worms. Upon arrival Jack notices Ken failed to do this. The gist of it is that Han Solo is very traumatized from The Nam and he’s afraid to venture out into the world. When it comes time for Fonz and Gidget to leave, Han gives them his car and says, “I’ll get it back from you when I get to Eureka (California),” which is where they plan to open the worm farm.


So Jack and Carol continue on their journey. They check into one of the scummiest looking places I’ve ever seen, and I used to be an underground electronic musician who played to and stayed with mostly drug addicts.


While there, the yokels at the local bar start shit. They mug Jack and take his money. Sally Field is so aroused by the dirty hotel that she and Jack kiss.

(The above video got flagged so I made it go backwards and now it seems to be fine) This fight scene is notable for a few reasons: first, pool cue javelin toss; second, Burgie on Draught light; third, it’s actually choreographed pretty well; and fourth, defending yourself with a light fixture is always a good look. And if you’re ever cornered, just grab whatever is near and swing it as frantically as you can, non-stop.


Eventually they get to Adcox’s place, who is another Army bro, only to find out the guy disappears for months at a time leaving his wife to raise their child. While visiting with Adcox’s wife, Gidget calls to cancel her wedding, which happens to be that day. There’s a whole subplot about her running from her marriage. She breaks things off because she’s rebelling against structure.


The car Harrison Ford gave them eventually breaks down and they catch a ride to Eureka with some Mexican stereotypes. When they get there it turns out the entire time the main Army buddy Monroe had died in Vietnam. This causes The Fonz to bug the fuck out and grunt and run into traffic and have mad ‘Nam flashbacks.


This is done really well. The mixture of the street scenes and the slow transition to ‘Nam is very cool and tasteful. This whole thing is offset by Fonzie’s weird, effeminate, Woody Allen acting, though. In the flashback we learn Monroe saved Jack, Adcox, and Ken from dying, only to die.


So then he and Gidget embrace and she tells him he’s alive and asks him not to be crazy. Then that replacement song comes on, or Carry on Wayward Son, depending on the version you are watching.

The dark message at play here is that even though Monroe died trying to save his buddies, they went on to be a mess anyway. Pretty dark for a fairly lighthearted love story. Heroes is definitely a movie that could only be made in the 70s. A bit existential and goofy, but it does have some moments.

Poster and Box Art: A man, a woman, a sweater. All embracing in what you assume is a soft summer breeze. Heroes does feature a brief but nice type treatment on the logo. Hey, it’s not much, but it shows someone was trying.

Availability:Heroes is available on DVD in its edited, non-Carry on Wayward Son version. Heroes was available on Netflix Streaming with Carry On Wayward Son intact, but it vanished. Then it showed up on HBOGO (again with Carry On Wayward Son intact). Who knows how long that will last. Bottom line, it’s out there if you’re looking.


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