Pirated copies are around if you search.
Otherwise this is almost impossible to see.
Hellions is just like a western, only set in the South African Transvaal. The title characters are Luke Billings and his four sons,
desperados all, who invade a dusty little town to settle an old score with the
newly-appointed marshal, Sam Hargiss. Unable
to mobilize the cowardly townspeople for help, and unwilling to face the
Hellions alone, Hargiss hides at home with his pregnant wife, while the Billings
gang misbehaves with impunity all over town.
Finally old Luke Billings makes a pass at the wife of timid shopkeeper
Ernest Dobbs. Though wussy in the
extreme and a poor marksman, Dobbs is so outraged by this transgression that he
marches down the main street with a rifle, to confront the Billings gang
single-handed. This inspires the
marshal and the townspeople to unite behind him.
The film ends with the Hellions dead and virtue triumphant.
The Billings boys force poor old Dr. Weiser to drink whiskey from the bottle!
amateur reviewer (Alan Mount) has said The Hellions is a lot like High Noon
only better. I think that’s going
too far, but I agree that The Hellions is more fun than High Noon.
It doesn’t take itself so seriously and it’s full of delightful
B-movie absurdities. (Like the fact
that the frightened townspeople actually refer to the Billings gang as
“the Hellions.” Or the
fact that Billings and his sons do not look or sound like members
of the same family.)
Though much of the humor in The
Hellions seems unintentional, the film was originally conceived as a parody
of the genre western (sort of like the later film Cat Ballou). This vision
became blurred when director Ken Annakin was stricken with polio while making
the film. Forced to finish the project from a hospital bed, Annakin relied
assistants, who gave The Hellions its present, oh-so-straightforward
quality. (For the details, see Annakin's autobiography, So
You Wanna Be a Director?.)
Though much of the humor in The Hellions seems unintentional, the film was originally conceived as a parody of the genre western (sort of like the later film Cat Ballou). This vision became blurred when director Ken Annakin was stricken with polio while making the film. Forced to finish the project from a hospital bed, Annakin relied on assistants, who gave The Hellions its present, oh-so-straightforward quality. (For the details, see Annakin's autobiography, So You Wanna Be a Director?.)
spirit of fun survives to some extent in James
Booth's wonderfully entertaining performance as the eldest Billings boy,
Jubal. A goofy but scary and
like a more sinister version of Ernest T. Bass, Jubal delights in firing his gun
at whiskey bottles and human beings. He
talks in a soft, sugary voice full of menace, laughs maniacally, and walks like
a pimp. Weeks away from a shave or haircut, Booth looks young, fit, and
His rumpled, tough-guy rags are torn open to the waist, revealing a strip
of hairless chest and flat stomach.
usual, some of his best moments are silent—e.g. the absurd “grooming”
scene on the street before he accosts the woman in blue, and the fight scene at
the end (where he wields a pitchfork and an axe).
of Zulu will notice that certain details of that great film are anticipated in
The Hellions. Jubal’s neck scarf and
some of his mannerisms carry over to the character Booth plays in Zulu.
Also the South African actor Gert Van Den Bergh, who plays Dr. Weiser in The
will reappear in Zulu as Adendorff.
And dig the theme song!
“Live by the
gun/then sure as the sunrise/die by the gun you must/just as the Hellions/one by
one/died in the Transvaal dust.” Sung
by Marty Wilde, who also plays John Billings.
Text copyright Diana Blackwell, 2002.
Publicity materials from from The Hellions pressbook
Keith Howes comments on The Hellions
So You Wanna Be A Director? by Ken Annekin, 2001, Tomahawk Press
Review by Eugene Archer in The New York Times, 3/15/62, 28:2