Paula-Loves-Marla's Blog

Observations about Art, Movies, Books, etc.

Continuing along the Vietnam Thread

After watching “The Deer Hunter” I started thinking about other movies which covered U.S. soldiers’ experiences in the Vietnam War. I had seen parts of “Apocalypse Now” and remembered that it had come out at about the same time as “The Deer Hunter”, but I wasn’t sure of the chronology, so I did a little research and I found out some interesting stuff:

John Wayne’s movie “The Green Berets” was released in 1968 which was three years after U.S. combat units were sent to Vietnam. This might seem like a gutsy move considering how unpopular this conflict was, but domestic opposition to the Vietnam conflict had not even begun to reach the fevered pitch which climaxed in the early ‘70’s and most likely this movie was more along the lines of a modernized WWII movie rather than an accurate depiction of the bloodthirsty political war where the soldiers were cannon fodder in a battle over Communism vs. Capitalism.

In the late ‘70’s the film industry began to explore in earnest the horrors of the Vietnam War. In 1978, three years after the U.S. had pulled out of the conflict, two movies were released (The Boys in Company C & The Deer Hunter), and a third was being completed (Apocalypse Now) which were dramatizations of the Vietnam experience, but brought to audiences a more realistic view of how brutal the conditions during the war were and how much the system broke down under the strain of the situation as well as the ambiguity surrounding the reasons for the war. “Apocalypse Now” most likely could have been released in ’78 as well but because of set problems (some expensive sets were damaged during filming) and Francis Ford Coppola’s struggle to come up with an ending in addition to editing millions of feet of footage, it was pushed back to ’79.

The ‘80’s brought much more enthusiasm from Hollywood to bring to light all the gritty detail and ugliness of the Vietnam War. These depictions dealt more realistically with the stories that came out of the war and examined how people dealt with the horror – some became heroes and others let their experiences turn them into monsters who perpetrated the types of crimes they initially went in to fight against. Regardless of the soldiers’ experiences, almost everyone came away from that war broken in some way and I have to give the film makers of that time a great deal of credit for bringing to film more realistic human stories out of Vietnam.

After 1989 the fascination with Vietnam (at least on the part of the movie industry) dropped off and there have, according to my quick research, been only two major movies on the subject between then and now. Below is the list of Vietnam movies I have found. Please feel free to send your comments if I have missed an important film or if there is something you would like to add.

1968 The Green Berets
1978 The Boys in Company C
1978 The Deer Hunter
1979 Apocalypse Now
1983 Uncommon Valor
1986 Platoon
1987 Full Metal Jacket
1987 Good Morning Vietnam
1987 Hamburger Hill
1988 Bat*21
1989 Born on the Fourth of July
1989 Casualties of War
1991 Flight of the Intruder
2002 We Were Soldiers

Each movie name is linked to the Netflix description for that particular movie. I like Netflix and have used them to rent movies for many years, so I don’t mind endorsing their services. Also, their website is a really good search engine if one has questions about movies or actors.

Finally I would like to point out that the whole Indochina region has a rich history prior to the drama of the war and if you would like to get a taste for that as well, do rent “Indochine” starring Catherine Deneuve. I saw this movie quite a few years ago and thought it was a well told story. I was especially struck by the relationship between the French and their serfs as compared to the native tradesmen. I was shocked to see Catherine Deneuve beat one of her men for daring to try to escape while trying to convince him that her love for him was like a mother’s towards her child.

This concludes my Memorial Day film festival. We will now return to our previously scheduled Meryl Marathon. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

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