The telling of Chance Buckman an oil rig firefighter who becomes hospitalized and has to come to grips with how his job interfered with his marriage, after being laid up in a hospital bed after an accident with a news man running in front of a bulldozer causing it to swerve into Chance, and forcing him to allow veteran oil firefighter Greg, a cocky but knowledgeable Greg becoming his son in law and he has to learn tolerance for not being able to control his daughter wanting to visit oil fires and learn how to rekindle the spark that went out with his ex of more than 25 years and the fear of losing her daughter as well as her husband to the oil fighting.
Loosely based on the exploits of Red Adair, Hellfighters is a perfect vehicle for John Wayne. The characterizations are a bit overstated, but this was standard for the era, so I allow for that. And who could have picked a more appropriate love interest for the Duke than Vera Miles as a San Francisco Department Store heiress.
I thought Jim Hutton and Katherine Ross made a good offsetting couple to JW & VM and Bruce Cabot, a long-time associate of Wayne’s, an excellent comic element.
I think the thing that sold it for me was the reality of the fire scenes which I just marveled at until I saw that Red Adair was a technical adviser on the film. That and the knowledge that Wayne was all for reality as much as possible really made me a watch it anytime fan of this picture.
If one takes into account the decade in which the picture was made, it can be and is, for me at least, a very enjoyable film. I highly recommend it!