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|Featured CED VideoDisc No. 28 - Spring 2003|
This CED feature is about two titles that are ostensibly about the same thing - Green Berets operating behind enemy lines in the vicinity of the Cambodian border during the Vietnam War. But it's hard to imagine two more different movie interpretations of the same thing. To further emphasize that point, just try to imagine Col. Kirby (John Wayne) playing the role of Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando). A lot of the difficulty in imagining that has to do with the Duke playing nearly the same role in all his movies, but it also has to do with the dramatically different way these two films interpret the Vietnam War. Despite their differences, I think both of these movies are good at getting their point across. "The Green Berets" for presenting an ultra patriotic interpretation of the war, and "Apocalypse Now" for showing a lot of the free-for-all stuff that went on from lack of committed leadership at the top and the extensive use of draftees who wanted nothing to do with the conflict, just wanting to survive until their tour was over. The fact that the military personnel who served in Vietnam consisted of both dedicated professional soldiers and disinterested draftees is what makes the dichotomy of these two movies plausible.
I believe "The Green Berets" is a more accurate interpretation of our military in the present-day, where it has the benefits of historical hindsight and an all-volunteer force. The most striking thing about this movie are some of the parallels it has with the present war with Iraq, particularly the use of embedded journalist George Beckworth (David Janssen) and the press briefing conducted by the Green Berets at the beginning of the movie, which is eerily similar to the ones given by Coalition Central Command in Iraq. In the movie press briefing, cynical reporters query Sgts. Muldoon (Aldo Ray) and McGee (Raymond St. Jacques) about U.S. involvement in the conflict, and both give eloquent speeches justifying the war, particularly Sgt. Muldoon who first appears to be a neanderthal until he renders his "thirteen colonies" speech. Substitute "Saddam atrocities" for "Vietcong atrocities" and "Weapons of mass destruction" for "Communist insurgency" and the press briefing could apply to the present day.
"Apocalypse Now" is based on the Joseph Conrad book Heart of Darkness with both movie and book involving a boat trip up a river where conditions get increasingly uncivilized the further upstream the participants get. In the movie, Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent on this journey to terminate the command of Col. Kurtz, who has set up his own operation to execute the war. Oddly enough, his followers are the Montagnards, the same people who assist John Wayne, and were left high-and-dry when the real war ended. In a reverse parallel between the two movies, Capt. Willard goes from a pro-mission stance to being antiwar by the end (art imitating life), while embedded reporter George Beckworth is transformed from cynic to a pro-war stance by his experiences with the Green Berets.
Both of these movies have quite a few minor characters in the cast, some of whom may look familiar, but difficult to place. This is particularly true of "The Green Berets," as John Wayne had a short list of buddies who appeared in minor roles in a number of his films. The list below expounds on the roles these characters may be better know for, and provides the CED time at which the character first appears speaking.
Sgt. Muldoon (Aldo Ray) [06:26 Side1] :
The master sergeant fond of blowing things up, Aldo Ray was adept at playing either the ultimate tough guy (Men in War) or a comedienne (We're No Angels).
Sgt. Provo (Luke Askew) [11:50 Side1] :
The gung-ho sergeant who requests permission to join John Wayne's unit. A year later he did a complete character flip-flop when he played the hippie who hitches a ride to a commune on Peter Fonda's motorcycle in the CED title Easy Rider.
Sgt. Peterson (Jim Hutton) [13:50 Side1]:
He's the "supply" sergeant forcibly recruited into John Wayne's unit. Probably best remembered for his Ellery Queen TV series, and he's the father of Timothy Hutton, who appeared in five CED titles.
Col. Morgan (Bruce Cabot) [18:21 Side1] :
The colonel who John Wayne is replacing in Vietnam. Many years earlier he had played Fay Wray's love interest in the original King Kong.
Sgt. Hobson (Richard Pyror) [33:08 Side1] :
The sergeant with Peterson when the orphan Hamchunk jokingly trips him. Despite what a number of web sites state, this is not Richard Pryor the actor/comedienne, but Richard "Cactus" Pryor, a personal buddy of John Wayne, and author of the book Playback. He is also sometimes mis-identified in the movie Hellfighters which was the next John Wayne movie after "The Green Berets."
Capt. Nim (George Takei) [38:37 Side1] :
The South Vietnamese Army leader at the outpost, easily recognizable as Lt. Sulu from Star Trek. This movie was made right in the middle of the original run of the TV series.
Sgt. Kowalski (Mike Henry) [18:23 Side2] :
A member of Col. Kirby's inner circle and the lead scout on the extraction mission. This former football star also played a "James Bond" style Tarzan in three movies around the time "The Green Berets" was made. Ten years later he almost escapes recognition as Jackie Gleason's dim-witted son Junior in the "Smokey and the Bandit" series.
Lt. Jamison (Patrick Wayne) [06:06 Side2] :
The lead Navy SeaBee whose detachment arrives to shore up the outpost. He is the real-life son of John Wayne and also played lead in the CED titles The Bears and I and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. One of John Wayne's other sons Michael Wayne was producer of "The Green Berets."
Col. G. Lucas (Harrison Ford) [10:25 Side1] :
The colonel under Gen. Corman; he's named for director George Lucas, as this movie came out between the first two Star Wars movies. Shortly after Col. Lucas' name tag is plainly shown, Gen. Corman goes into a speech about the renegade Col. Kurtz in which he makes a reference to "the dark side."
Gen. R. Corman (G.D. Spradlin) [11:54 Side1] :
The general who gives Capt. Willard his terminator assignment, he's actually named for film director Roger Corman with the name somewhat difficult to see on his name tag. He later played the corrupt sheriff in the CED title Tank.
Gunner's Mate Tyrone Miller (Laurence Fishburne) [21:14 Side1] :
The gunner on the boat going up river, Laurence Fishburne was only 14 years old during filming, but is still vaguely recognizable as Morpheus of The Matrix fame.
Engineman Jay Hicks (Frederic Forrest) [21:31 Side1] :
The aspiring chef on the boat, in his next movie Frederic Forrest played Bette Midler's love interest in The Rose and he later played Deborah Foreman's ex-hippie father in the CED title Valley Girl.
The Photojournalist (Dennis Hopper) [05:31 Side3] :
Dennis Hopper playing the wacko role he assumes in a lot of his movies. His character is also the closest connection between these two war movies, as Dennis Hopper rides with highway stranger Luke Askew in Easy Rider and this stranger also plays Sgt. Provo in "The Green Berets."
This table lists the CED titles I have classified as historical war movies that deal mainly with the specific conflict listed. This limits the listings to wars that can be looked up in history books, thus eliminating nuclear holocaust or sci-fi epics. Some movies that may have been included in this table, like "Missing In Action" for example, were omitted because they take place after the time frame of the conflict and would more accurately be classified as action titles. And a title like "South Pacific" would be better classified as a musical rather than a war movie.
Table of Historical War CED Titles
|African Queen [PAL]||WW1|
|Alamo, The (2)||Mexican|
|Apocalypse Now (2)||Vietnam|
|Battle of Britain, The (2)||WW2|
|Big Red One, The||WW1/WW2|
|Blue Max, The (2)||WW1|
|Boat, The (2)**||WW2|
|Boat, The* [PAL]||WW2|
|Breaker Morant||Boer War|
|Bridge On The River Kwai, The (2)||WW2|
|Bridge Too Far, A (2)||WW2|
|Charge of the Light Brigade, The [CBS]||Crimean War|
|Charge of the Light Brigade, The [RCA]||Crimean War|
|Coming Home (2)||Vietnam|
|Deer Hunter, The (2)||Vietnam|
|Dirty Dozen, The (2) [RCA]||WW2|
|Dirty Dozen, The (2)* [MGM]||WW2|
|Doctor Zhivago (2)||Bolshevik|
|Dogs of War, The||African|
|El Cid||Moor War|
|Escape to Athena||WW2|
|Eye of the Needle||WW2|
|Go Tell the Spartans||Vietnam|
|Gone With the Wind (2)**||Civil War|
|Great Escape, The (2)||WW2|
|Great Locomotive Chase, The||Civil War|
|Green Berets, The (2)||Vietnam|
|Guns of Navarone, The (2)||WW2|
|Hell in the Pacific||WW2|
|Henry V (2)||1415 War|
|Horse Soldiers, The [CBS]||Civil War|
|Horse Soldiers, The [RCA]||Civil War|
|Kelly's Heroes (2)*||WW2|
|Killing Fields, The (2)||Vietnam|
|King of Hearts [FOX]||WW1|
|King of Hearts [RCA]||WW1|
|Lawrence of Arabia (2)**||WW1|
|Longest Day, The (2) [FOX]||WW2|
|Longest Day, The (2) [RCA]||WW2|
|Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence** [PAL]||WW2|
|Missing in Action 2: The Beginning||Vietnam|
|Paths of Glory||WW1|
|Patton (2) [monophonic]||WW2|
|Pride and the Passion, The (2)||Napoleonic|
|Rio Lobo||Civil War|
|Run Silent, Run Deep||WW2|
|Sands of Iwo Jima||WW2|
|Sea Wolves, The (2)||WW2|
|Sergeant York (2) [CBS]||WW1|
|Sergeant York (2) [RCA]||WW1|
|To Be Or Not To Be ||WW2|
|To Be Or Not To Be** ||WW2|
|Tora! Tora! Tora! (2) [FOX]||WW2|
|Tora! Tora! Tora! (2) [RCA]||WW2|
|Twelve O'Clock High (2)||WW2|
|War Lover, The||WW2|
|Wild Geese, The (2)||African|
|Wild Geese, The [PAL]||African|