The Green Berets


THE GREEN BERETS would be all right, even accorded some respect—had it been made in 1943, and was about World War Two. Arguing to be The Truth About Vietnam, belly-flopping into the overheated summer of 1968, it is almost a monument to mendacity, so far from anything like reality about that horrid conflict that it commands a watch not for its ham-handed (“Ham-chunk!”) tribute to the US Army’s elite soldiers but as a head-wounding reveal of how crucially far apart half the country was from the other: politically, philosophically, rationally, ethically. *


James Lee Barrett’s troglodytic screenplay was a Pentagon-approved modification of Robin Moore’s 1965 best-seller, a novelization paean to the Special Forces and their off-the-grid exploits in SE Asia’s expanding battle zone.  With the beleaguered Johnson government co-operatively making equipment available, John Wayne (his son Michael credited as producer) used mocked-up woodsy Georgia locations to pass (half-close your eyes) for Vietnam’s jungles. Wayne co-directed with Ray Kellogg and some uncredited assistance from Mervyn LeRoy. $7,000,000 was expended.


Lib-symp learning about ‘due process’

Doubting journalist ‘Beckworth’ (David Janssen) is shown around assorted ‘Nam hot spots by ‘Col. Kirby’ (Wayne), whose overage Berets include dog-tag (dog-tired) cliché’s like a scrounger (Jim Hutton), ‘Muldoon’ (Aldo Ray, back in action) and a South Vietnamese Commie-hater (George Takei) who expresses “My home is in Hanoi. You see, first I kill all stinking Cong, then go home.”  Other hardies spout similar gibberish, get killed heroically, taking nameless hordes of VC and NVA with them. Plenty of furious, noisy action, with a lack of realism that’s noteworthy.


The script is junk, the situations are ridiculous, the characters one-dimensional, the supposed heart-tugging stuff with ‘adorable’ orphan ‘Ham-Chunk’ (Craig Jue) and his destined-to-die dog is risible. 142 minutes worth of bloody embarrassment.


What does work? The acting is acceptable. Miklos Rozsa’s old-fashioned score is sufficient, with a rousing variation of Barry Sadler’s hit song used over the well-done titles sequence. Jim Hutton has a startling death scene. Otherwise….

Green Berets Peterson death

Liberal critics tore it to smithereens (read the write-up from Roger Ebert or Renata Adler’s classic screed for prime outrage) but the faithful lined up to see 60-year-old Duke bat the Reds into submission to the tune of $21,707,000 domestically, the years 10th most successful haul, with another $11,000,000 raked in abroad. The war, meanwhile, dragged on…


With Raymond St. Jacques, Bruce Cabot, Patrick Wayne, Jack Soo, Edward Faulkner, Luke Askew, Mike Henry and the tres-sexy Irene Tsu (sultry spy bait for a slimy Vietcong general). Richard Pryor has a bit.


* Moore’s book sold 3,000,000 copies, but the Pentagon was irked by it enough to sue him. The 1966 Barry Sadler song “The Ballad Of The Green Berets” was a huge crossover hit, #1 for five weeks; ultimately the single and album sold 9,000,000 copies. Wayne’s politics were simple-minded but sincere: Janssen, Hutton, St.Jacques and Takei were all against the war. He endured guilt for the rest of his life after not serving in WW2, trying to make up for it on-screen. This awful time-capsule turned off many of his long-time fans (most rallied later for True Grit). I love the Duke, but The Green Berets is a p.o.s.


Get those guys grouped closer together, John: they’ll be harder to hit


Will we stoop to using her to capture a Commie bigwig?


You’re damn right we will


Lecture on weapons from planets leading arms exporter


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