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1/10
It took a lot of chutzpah to release this movie!
19 May 2019
In order to illustrate how bad this movie is, let me tell you a story about my younger days.

If you read some of my other reviews here on IMDb, you'll see me mention that I flew F-4 Phantom fighters in the Air Force back in the late '70s to early '80s. If you read my review of the movie RED TAILS, you'll see my rant about how George Lucas was absolutely the worst person possible to have produced that movie, and how nobody in Hollywood has any clue about what a real dogfight looks like, and how Lucas is the worst offender, having bamboozled America's moviegoing public into believing that his depictions are an accurate depiction when they're the farthest thing for it.

Back when I was in college and Air Force ROTC, I was part of a small clique with my two best friends, Ray and BJ. Ray was in my class and BJ was a year behind us. All three of us were aspiring fighter pilots, and were allotted to attend flight school upon graduation and commissioning. Until BJ flunked out during Ray's and my senior year, his junior year. BJ decided to go in the Air Force as an enlisted man when Ray and I graduated and went to flight school. In the meantime, he decided to transfer his credits and enroll in a Community College and finish his Associate's Degree before enlisting. One of the courses he took was in Cinematography, with the final course requirement being a short subject film on Super 8mm film with no sound.

With BJ's family's home (and the Community College campus) being not far from our college campus, he recruited Ray and me to help him with his short subject. He decided to do a film depicting a dogfight between F-4 Phantoms and Russian-built MiG-21s. We used a large 1/32 scale model of a Phantom that I had, and smaller 1/72 scale models of another F-4 and two MiG-21s, one of which BJ built just to sacrifice by setting fire to it to depict it going down in flames. We built a Phantom cockpit mockup out of spray-painted corrugated cardboard boxes, and BJ doctored up his old high school football helmet and other athletic equipment into a flight helmet and oxygen mask (using duct tape to fasten the mask to the helmet instead of the metal "bayonet" clips that real mask/helmet combinations used. I caveat this by saying that while Ray and I had spent time at F-4 bases for ROTC summer training, neither of us would see or actually participate in real dogfight training for more than another year, after completing undergraduate flight training. At the time, we didn't know any better, and BJ storyboarded his short subject film based on the dogfights depicted in George Lucas's original 1977 STAR WARS movie and an old 1958 Korean War movie, THE HUNTERS with Robert Mitchum and Robert Wagner. (That film, we later learned from experience, which was made with USAF cooperation with real F-86 Sabres and with F-84F Thunderstreaks painted up as MiG-15s, still left a lot to be desired in depicting the intricacies of dogfighting and made Mitchum's character look like a one-trick pony!)

Cinematographically, BJ's old short-subject Super 8mm silent film was ten times better than GREYHOUND ATTACK. I'm absolutely serious and objective. That includes the helmets and oxygen masks and the cockpit mockups.

By the way, the average US Army Air Force pilot in World War II was 23, the average enlisted bomber gunner was 19, the average squadron commander was 24 to 26, and the average group commander was under 30. And they had height and weight standards to get into flight school. I don't think any of the actors playing aircrews was under 40 or would have met military height-weight standards even adjusted for age. And what was with the supposed British MI-6 intelligence analyst who couldn't make up his mind if he was a proper upper class Englishman or a good ole boy from Alabama?!?

The positive things I can say are that the writer/producer/director's heart was in the right place. And I congratulate him for having the chutzpah to actually release this turkey!
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Law and Order (1976 TV Movie)
9/10
Could've been the Prequel to BLUE BLOODS
20 November 2018
I just finished rewatching this on YouTube after having seen it on its original run in 1976, then on late night reruns at least 20 years ago. Don't let the title fool you, it's got nothing to do with the Dick Wolf franchise except also being about the NYPD. It actually more resembles another later, long-running series, BLUE BLOODS, about a multigenerational family of NYPD cops of Irish descent.

Darren McGavin (best remembered as Kolchak the Night Stalker and the dad in A CHRISTMAS STORY) plays Deputy Chief Brian O'Malley Jr., a second-generation cop, and Whitney Blake (best remembered as Dorothy on the sitcom HAZEL and for being Meredith Baxter's mom) plays his wife. Art Hindle plays their son Patrick, a recently discharged Army veteran and now a rookie patrolman. Robert Reed of THE BRADY BUNCH is one of a number of 1970s all-stars who make up the rest of the cast.

It doesn't just remind me of BLUE BLOODS. It actually wouldn't take much rewriting other than changing the surname of O'Malley to Reagan, with Deputy Chief Brian O'Malley Jr. becoming Henry Reagan and Officer Patrick O'Malley becoming Francis Reagan, for this to be a PREQUEL to BLUE BLOODS, a generation earlier. The only major change to the backstory would be that Mary Ellen O'Malley, Brian Jr.'s wife and Patrick's mother, is the daughter of a rich NYC political boss, while recently revealed BLUE BLOODS series canon has Betty Reagan, Henry's wife and Frank's mother, as an Irish-born immigrant from a huge, poor family. Otherwise it's an almost perfect fit. Brian Jr. isn't squeaky clean, especially early in his career, like Henry Reagan often alludes to in BLUE BLOODS.

The one serious problem I have that keeps me from giving this miniseries 10 stars is that of 50something and 40something actors playing the same characters in flashbacks as teenagers and 20somethings. There are flashbacks to when McGavin's and Blake's characters first meet when he's supposed to be a rookie cop in mid 20s and she's supposed to be 17; McGavin was 53 or 54 and Blake was 49 or 50 when they filmed it. Who were they trying to kid??? Blake's daughter Meredith Baxter was 28 or 29 at the time and SHE would've been to old to play the character at that age! Robert Reed, Alan Arbus, James Olson and several other characters playing Brian Jr.'s contemporaries also play the same characters in the flashbacks. Scott Brady, who appears in those flashbacks as Brian O'Malley SENIOR was 2 years younger than McGavin. Other than haircuts and Arbus having a mustache as an older man, only the uniforms and rank insignia, the vehicles driven, and the clothing of the civilian characters offered any indication of what was a flashback and when it occurred, and it was troublesome; the attempt to make the characters appear younger in the flashbacks was an epic fail.

But as a story, it was gritty, compelling and rang true. Other reviewers may wonder if this was a pilot for a series and speculate that it would have been successful. Perhaps in a sense it was, 34 years later as BLUE BLOODS even though there was no evident intent.
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9/10
A Nicely Balanced Movie
26 February 2012
The title Human Resource Manager of this movie has a task thrust upon him, completely unforeseen and probably not in his or any other HR Manager's job description. A female employee of his company, the largest bread bakery in Jerusalem, is killed in a terrorist attack, under circumstances which bring an embarrassing public relations nightmare to the company. The deceased woman was a recent immigrant from Romania (the actors who play her relatives speak Romanian, but the country is never actually named, only identified as a former communist country in Eastern Europe), and the owner of the bakery sends the HR Manager to escort the body to her homeland. Tagging along on the journey is the same muckraking photojournalist (known to the audience as "The Weasel") who brought the bad PR upon the bakery in the first place.

This movie could have taken any of a number of different tracks without any change in the plot line, in which the HRM encounters several bureaucratic or emotional obstacles upon arriving in Romania and meeting with local officials, the Israeli consul, and the teenage son and ex-husband of the deceased, all the while hoping to make this a short trip to get home in time to chaperone a school trip for his own neglected teenage daughter, and clashing with "The Weasel".

Had this been an American movie, I have could easily pictured it done as a "road/buddy" comedy, a rather slippery slope down which this movie could have descended to a bonehead movie a la A WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S.

At the other end of the spectrum, I did in fact see this movie as part of the Film Movement foreign film subscription series shown at a public library. I'm rather new to that series, and this movie was the third I'd seen. The first two were totally depressing: ILLEGAL, which showed the suffering of a Russian woman illegally in Belgium and undergoing deportation and separation from her teenage son, and THE COLOR OF THE MOUNTAIN, showing the takeover of a small Colombian village by narco-terrorists, and its impact on the children, their families and their school. This movie had the potential of going down that gloomy path as well.

Instead, this was the first one in the series where I actually felt good at the end. The poignancy and pathos of the HRM dealing with the deceased's relatives is well offset by the adventurous challenges he faces getting the deceased to her final resting place, and by the comedic sparring between him and the journalist.

This movie was very nicely balanced. For my own personal tastes, I might have liked it a little better if there had been a touch more comedy, one or two more laugh out loud moments, but if the production crew were wary of the slippery slope to A WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S, I have no quarrel with that call. It's not quite a perfect movie for me, but nearly so.
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Red Tails (2012)
1/10
George Lucas doesn't know anything about aerial warfare!
1 February 2012
I'm a former US Air Force F-4 Phantom Weapons Systems Officer (backseater).

You know this movie is crap when you start with a supposed fighter squadron commander who doesn't know the difference between a SQUAD (thirteen infantrymen) and a SQUADRON (48 fighter pilots).

To paraphrase General George S. Patton, George Lucas doesn't know anything more about real aerial warfare than he does about f --- ing! (And George C. Scott may have said "fornicating" in the movie PATTON, but the real Patton used the real F-word!)

Lucas was absolutely the worst person in the movie industry to do this movie. This movie is only the latest of many giant steps down the primrose path which Lucas started the world's movie-viewing public with the first STAR WARS movie in 1977; I distinctly remember the documentary on the making of that movie, in which Lucas patted himself on the back for patterning his battle scenes after what he claimed to be the most realistic dogfight scenes ever filmed, and at the same time in the documentary intercutting his scenes with those from A YANK IN THE RAF which were absolutely THE phoniest looking flying scenes ever filmed! And he hasn't bothered to learn jack about aerial warfare in the last 35 years; he's just conned most of the whole world into thinking his cartoonish creations are reality when they're the farthest thing from it.

The technical fallacies are far too numerous to list. Lucas doesn't know the first thing about physics or aerodynamics, let alone the complexities of basic fighter maneuvering required to put bullets into another airplane and to prevent another airplane from doing that to one's own. He just makes his CGI airplanes do anything he wants them to do to fit his fantasies and fiction. Lucas is welcome to create his own sci-fi universe where he makes the rules. But for an "historical" movie like this claims to be, Chuck Jones could have made cartoon Mustangs imitating the Road Runner and cartoon Messerschmitts imitating Wile E. Coyote and his Acme gadgets, and they wouldn't have been any more technically inaccurate.

But that's just about the technical fallacies and impossibilities. One of the biggest issues I have is that this movie was incapable of making the 332nd Fighter Group look good without taking cheap, lying shots at the other US Army Air Force fighter groups who fought in Europe in World War II. And it once again demonstrates George Lucas's total ignorance of aerial warfare in World War II, if not his blatant disregard for the truth.

Fighters assigned to escort bombers did not fly in and among the bomber formations, and they certainly didn't stay there when enemy fighters attacked. Escorting fighters flew above and to the sides of the bomber formations, weaving in zigzag patterns to maintain their airspeed while staying even with the much slower bombers. To "stay with the bombers" meant disengaging from the enemy fighters and returning to the flanks of the bomber formation AFTER successfully driving off the enemy if not shooting them down within sight of the bomber formations, rather than pursuing the enemy back to their home bases. It was somewhat of an issue in 1943 when the P-51 Mustang had not yet been deployed to the front lines. The older shorter-ranged P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolt fighters did not have the capability to stay with the bombers all the way to targets deep in Germany, and the bombers suffered horrendous losses to German fighters past the range limits of the P-38s and P-47s. As more 8th Air Force fighter groups replaced their P-47s and P-38s with P-51s, tasks were rotated among the fighter groups between bomber escort and fighter sweep, the latter meaning that the fighters flew out ahead of the bomber route to intercept the German interceptors before they got within sight of the bombers, and/or destroy them on the ground on their own airfields.

Total abandonment of the bombers was NEVER condoned. The 8th Air Force was primarily a bomber force, and by the Fall of 1943 the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator heavy bombers were endangered species. Jimmy Doolittle, the commanding general of the 8th, was no dummy; his doctrine of employing fighters in both bomber escort and fighter sweeps reduced the bomber losses to 20-25% of what they had been before the arrival of the P-51. The Italian-based 15th Air Force quickly followed suit with that doctrine. The promise in RED TAILS fictionally given by Colonel Bullard (actually a thinly disguised version of the real-life Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.) to reduce bomber losses by 70-80% was in real life fulfilled by all American fighter pilots in the European Theater. They not only reduced the bomber losses to a fourth of what they had been, but effectively eliminated the German Luftwaffe over their own home turf wherever they found them, and not just near the bomber formations.

RED TAILS insinuates throughout the length of the movie that the 332nd was the only fighter group that stayed with the bombers and that the other fighter groups violated operational orders and standing doctrine by abandoning the bombers in pursuit of German fighters for their own personal glory.

The Tuskegee Airmen of the 332nd had a more than honorable combat record and a story to be proud of, a story which could be told without trying to make other US Army Air Force fighter units look bad by telling falsehoods about them. The Tuskegee Airmen deserve better than that.
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8/10
Not EXACTLY a remake of INDEPENDENCE DAY
24 March 2011
Just saw this movie. When I first saw the trailers, I thought it looked like a remake of INDEPENDENCE DAY. I was going to give it a pass until my best friend, also a retired military reserve combat arms officer like myself, told me how much better it was.

This is one of the best war movies I've seen, regardless of the fact that the enemy are a bunch of space aliens! This is INDEPENDENCE DAY meets BLACKHAWK DOWN, or more specifically, INDEPENDENCE DAY done with the intensity and seriousness of BLACKHAWK DOWN.

Actually, another good way to compare this to INDEPENDENCE DAY is to reference two novels from the 1980s: THE THIRD WORLD WAR by General Sir John Hackett, a British Army commander who wrote out a scenario for an all-out but conventional war across Central Europe between the Warsaw Pact and NATO, mostly from higher headquarters' eye view; and TEAM YANKEE by Major Harold Coyle, a US Army armor officer who took General Hackett's scenario and showed it from the point of view of an American company-level tank/mechanized infantry team commander.

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES can almost be analogized as being to INDEPENDENCE DAY what TEAM YANKEE was to THE THIRD WORLD WAR. Except that INDEPENDENCE DAY had too much of a lighthearted touch to it, with a lot of comic relief, none of which BATTLE: LOS ANGELES has. After the first 20 minutes of introduction of the characters, the alien invasion starts and we immediately go nonstop for the remaining 1 hour and 40 minutes with the kind of intense combat that that I can only compare to BLACKHAWK DOWN, or the first half hour of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, or the Little Round Top segment of GETTYSBURG. Not even WE WERE SOLDIERS had that nonstop intensity for that long, because they threw in an interlude showing the wives of the soldiers back in Fort Benning as they got their casualty notifications.

I couldn't give this movie 10 stars (on the IMDb system). The stars I knocked off were mostly for the jerky-cam, one of my pet peeves.

I had to check my brains at the door and suspend a lot of disbelief for INDEPENDENCE DAY. Not with BATTLE: LOS ANGELES.
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An insult to any viewer's intelligence!
8 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Every viewer should consider that an insult to his/her intelligence! Okay, I get that this is a movie aimed at kids, but that's no excuse for this kind of factually impossible drivel! Apparently this was an attempted remake of the 1939 Shirley Temple movie rather than a straight adaptation of the novel. Captain Crewe is about to go off to war (World War I, 1914-1918, instead of the turn of the 20th Century Boer War, this time around) and decides to send Sarah back to the boarding school where her mother was raised. They keep him in the British Army but insist on setting the movie in New York City and that's where they set the boarding school. Then Dad gets reported Missing In Action on the battlefield in France, is knocked out and turns up semi-comatose with amnesia and no identification. So what does the hospital in England do? Let some old guy take him out of the hospital and take him, whom they haven't even identified except as a British officer, all the way out of England to New York City to convalesce. And in the most populous city in the world at the time, he just happens to live next door to the same boarding school where he'd left his daughter! And just as the cops come to arrest Sarah for theft, she does a high wire act from the rooftop of the boarding school to the house next door where her father just happens to have been convalescing as an amnesiac for weeks, and finds her dad. And he snaps out of his amnesia just before the cops haul Sarah away!

At least in the Shirley Temple version, it all happened in London and Dad stayed in the hospital, and Sarah escaped from the neighbor's house to the hospital where she'd been lurking around hoping her father would turn up. (And there were a couple of touching scenes, where an aging Queen Victoria intervenes on Sarah's behalf, and then Sarah lets her know that she found him.) If the producers of this joke of a movie wanted to remake the 1939 version, they could have kept the setting in London even if they'd insisted on changing it from the Boer War to World War I. If they insisted on making it New York City, they could have made Dad a US Army (or better yet a US Marine) officer and have him convalesce at the Brooklyn Navy Yard hospital or somesuch. If they insisted on having Sara grow up in the Orient, Dad could have been stationed in the Philippines with the US military instead of India with the Brits.... No, wait! The Philippines is an almost entirely Roman Catholic country, so they couldn't have found a way to fit in all those references to and images of Hindu mysticism.... On the other hand, nothing stopped the producers from making all these other convoluted plot twists that defy reality, so why should that fact have stopped them from doing that kind of convolution?

This movie is yet another example of why Hollywood should stop messing with the classics!
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The Guardian (I) (2006)
Formulaic and cliché-ridden, but still good!
30 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The bad news: to say that this was formulaic and cliché ridden is an understatement; there was almost nothing in this movie that I hadn't seen before, either with Clint Eastwood, Mario Van Peebles, Marsha Mason and Eileen Heckart in HEARTBREAK RIDGE, or with Louis Gossett Jr., Richard Gere and Debra Winger in AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN.

The good news: I'm glad to see the US Coast Guard get its due for a change. I'm a retired Army officer (with some time in the Air Force), but I had an uncle, who passed away two years ago, who was a retired Coast Guard Senior Chief, and I think he would have been pleased with this movie. I don't recall any movie made about the Coast Guard since before World War II, and it's about time this often forgotten and taken for granted branch of the military got its recognition. Also, I'm not considering this a spoiler but I'm clicking the spoiler warning box anyway: the very ending is NOT formulaic, and the fact that it isn't makes up for it being an almost entirely formulaic movie.
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Flight 29 Down (2005–2007)
Possibly the lamest show in TV history, even if it WASN'T a "Lost" ripoff!
15 October 2005
Okay, I get that this is a watered down kid's show, but every character, especially the one adult and so-called pilot, is an idiot. That's no fun to watch, right off the bat. Don't tell me this guy was the only chaperone for a school trip PLUS having his hands full flying the plane. Maybe if they'd had a few more adult chaperones who happened to get killed in the crash, that would make it more realistic and believable, but I guess that would be reason to lose a G-rating for NBC's Discovery Kids lineup.

I'm watching a rerun of the pilot episode as I write this, and AIRLINERS DON'T FLOAT! That's why they're required to have flotation devices for all passengers, so WHERE ARE THEY? Oh, and the word for the letter W in the international phonetic alphabet is WHISKEY, not "William". Isn't that taking watering things down for the G-rating a little too far?

I thought that the purpose of the Discovery Kids lineup was to inform and educate by entertaining. The only way for this to have any educational value would be for all the characters to die off, the way they would if it would be a real-life situation, to show the audience how NOT to survive.

Like I said, every character in this show is an idiot. Maybe it's autobiographical for the writers!
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This One Was the Real Deal!
1 October 2005
I couldn't write a critique the so-called remake of this show without paying homage to the original.

I'm a pushing-50 baby boomer who watched the original Kolchak movies on ABC's Movie of the Week when I was in high school and watched the one season of *Kolchak: The Night Stalker* when I was in college.

Kolchak was an irreverent, sarcastic and wisecracking rogue who could get knocked down but never out, who always got back up laughing, still irreverent and sarcastic and ready to keep swinging. And his verbal sparring with Tony Vincenzo almost made the whole show in and of itself. Darren McGavin as Kolchak, with the seersucker suit, straw homburg hat and tennis shoes, was an irreplaceable icon. And Simon Oakland was the perfect foil. Yes, I know Mr. McGavin is in his 80s and ailing, and Mr. Oakland is no longer with us, but that doesn't mean the chemistry of their characterizations is not replicable.

I'll even point out that I grew up watching reruns of George Reeves in *The Adventures of Superman*, and never had a problem accepting Jeff East, Christoper Reeve, Dean Cain and now Tom Welling taking over the role of Clark Kent/Superman in his various subsequent incarnations. I wish I could say the same for Stuart Townsend's incarnation of Carl Kolchak, but I can't. Humor and irreverence were the lifeblood of the original Cark Kolchak, and it's been sucked out of the new 2005 incarnation of Kolchak as thoroughly as if done so by Janos Skorzeny, Dracula, Nosferatu, Lestat or any other vampire who appeared on the big or small screen.

Anyone who has ever seen this original series or the two Kolchak movies that preceded it knows what I'm talking about. If you haven't, you don't know what you've missed!
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Night Stalker (2005– )
Get This Impostor Outta Here!!!
1 October 2005
Okay. I understand that Chris Carter and his *The X-Files* crew were inspired by the original *Kolchak: The Night Stalker* TV movies and series. I understand that Frank Spotnitz, the head writer for the 2005 *Night Stalker*, was a member of Carter's X-Files crew. I also understand that Darren McGavin is in his 80s and ailing, and even if he were in perfect health he'd be too old to reprise the role of Carl Kolchak.

I'm a pushing-50 baby boomer who watched the original Kolchak movies on ABC's Movie of the Week when I was in high school and watched the one season of *Kolchak: The Night Stalker* when I was in college. I'll even point out that I grew up watching reruns of George Reeves in *The Adventures of Superman*, and never had a problem accepting Jeff East, Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain and now Tom Welling taking over the role of Clark Kent/Superman in his various subsequent incarnations. I wish I could say the same for Stuart Townsend's incarnation of Carl Kolchak, but I can't.

Inspiration and imitation do NOT equal replication. Kolchak may have inspired *The X-Files*, even to the point that Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz may have created a guest character for Darren McGavin in that show in tribute, but Spotnitz missed the mark completely on what Carl Kolchak was about. Kolchak was an irreverent, sarcastic and wisecracking rogue who could get knocked down but never out, who always got back up laughing, still irreverent and sarcastic and ready to keep swinging. Humor and irreverence were the lifeblood of the original Carl Kolchak, and Spotnitz sucked it out of this incarnation of Kolchak as thoroughly as Janos Skorzeny, Dracula, Nosferatu, Lestat or any other vampire who appeared on the big or small screen.

Many are touting *Night Stalker* as "the new X-Files," and I can't disagree with that; Stuart Townsend's Kolchak doesn't resemble Darren McGavin's original Kolchak so much as he does Fox Mulder-- if Mulder were taken off Prozac. It's obvious that the Generation Xers (pun definitely intended) like their TV shows about the supernatural dark, depressed and humorless; this show may be the new X-Files, but don't try to pass it off as the new *Kolchak: The Night Stalker*!

Somebody stake this vampire before it hurts anyone!
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From a devoted fan of GETTYSBURG: OUCH!
24 February 2003
Let me preface this by saying that GETTYSBURG is my all-time favorite movie, IMHO the greatest film ever made and, overaged and obese Rebels and polyurethane beards notwithstanding, the most historically accurate fact-based nondocumentary movie ever made. (Yes, the relatively bloodless combat scenes are sanitized compared to the later in-your-face gore of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, but this is not necessarily a flaw, and this is further offset by the fictionalized, contrived and corrupted premise of SPR.) It is also one of the most faithful adaptations of a novel (Michael Shaara's Pulitzer-winning THE KILLER ANGELS) to film ever made. It is because of this that my first reaction to GODS AND GENERALS is "OUCH!"

This is even with my lowered expectations going in. Like THE KILLER ANGELS/GETTYSBURG, I'd read the book long before the release of the movie, and I realized with GODS AND GENERALS that Jeff Shaara isn't his father. I recognized that this was his first attempt at following in his late father's Pulitzer-winning footsteps; as someone who ended up in the same field as my own father, I'm very sympathetic to that situation, and he's shown some growth, albeit inconsistent, in his subsequent historical novels. But the book version of GODS AND GENERALS, for all the younger Shaara's attempts to emulate his father's style in the stream-of-consciousness narrative of the characters, ended up flat, dry and colorless; little depth of, or reader sympathy for, the characters is developed, even for those characters who were the central figures and whom we had already come to know in THE KILLER ANGELS/GETTYSBURG.

It should be pointed out here, for those unaware, that it was screenwriter/director Ron Maxwell who encouraged Jeff Shaara to write GODS AND GENERALS, with the understanding that Maxwell would adapt it to film as he had THE KILLER ANGELS. Unfortunately, the foundation he had upon which to build the movie version of GODS AND GENERALS was not nearly as solid as that which he had for GETTYSBURG. (My first impression of THE KILLER ANGELS was, "As long as they don't use any further dramatic license than they already have, this will make a damned good movie!" As it was, Maxwell actually reduced the dramatic license and made it even better, which gave me reason for hope with GODS AND GENERALS.)

The one big plus in GODS AND GENERALS is that Stephen Lang did succeed in making fans of GETTYSBURG ignore the fact that he had played a different but nearly equally prominent character (both dramatically and historically) in the earlier film. Unfortunately, for all his increased screen time, Lang's Stonewall Jackson came across as a nearly one-dimensional Bible-thumper to the point of overkill (albeit with a few "chick-flick" vulnerabilities coming through). Aside from his not flinching when wounded, we get almost no feel for the real-life Jackson's tactical brilliance, dynamism and charisma as a combat leader. (Keep in mind that one of the most popular descriptions of George S. Patton was that he was the greatest American general SINCE Stonewall Jackson!) This begs the question: since Jackson is dead and George Pickett is no longer a major character in THE LAST FULL MEASURE, the third installment of the Shaara Trilogy, who will Maxwell have Lang play in the film version? My money's on U.S. Grant, who does not appear in the first two of the trilogy but becomes one of the central figures.

It's also just as well that Maxwell gave Lang a role change, because one of the big flaws is that, for all the repeat players who reprise their roles from GETTYSBURG, they waited too long at over 9 years to do what is actually a prequel. This is particularly telling for Jeff Daniels and C. Thomas Howell (the Chamberlain brothers) and for Brian Mallon (Winfield Hancock). On the other hand, Kevin Conway (Buster Kilrain) Morgan Sheppard (Isaac Trimble) and Royce Applegate (James Kemper)-- who tragically passed away shortly after the film wrapped-- somehow managed to actually look younger than they did in GETTYSBURG; too bad the makeup wasn't consistent!

The biggest question in my mind is: what happened to Ron Maxwell's sense of vision? As an officer with a quarter-century in various active and reserve components of the military, I consider myself a semi-professional military historian, and I've visited and studied all the major Civil War battlefields in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. One of the biggest strengths of GETTYSBURG is the way Maxwell was able to give the viewer a sense of tactical situational awareness, the ability to grasp the "Big Picture". He lost that somewhere along the way to doing GODS AND GENERALS. The closest he came to it was in depicting the battle of Fredericksburg, but he was nowhere close in the depictions of First Bull Run and Chancellorsville; the latter was particularly lacking in that it was arguably Jackson's most brilliant moment; the film did capture the surprise and shock effect of the final assault on the Union flank, but completely missed depicting the long, circuitous but desperately rapid forced march that Jackson's corps made to get there. The battle sequences in GETTYSBURG always built up to a climax; even the prolonged firefight at Little Round Top was paced to give you the sense of exhaustion and desperation the soldiers went through; the battle scenes in GODS AND GENERALS were largely monotonous and repetitive so that they exhausted the viewer without conveying that sense among the characters.

GODS AND GENERALS fits the pattern of most movie trilogies, in that the second movie is almost always the weakest and least popular, as evidenced by THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, and BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II. Just as often, the last movie of a trilogy is nearly as good as the first if not even better. For that reason, I'm still holding out hope for THE LAST FULL MEASURE.
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History it ain't!
21 June 2002
Actually, as a fictional war movie, BATTLE OF THE BULGE is not bad for its time in terms of plot, character development and action. It's just not the definitive movie about the Battle of the Bulge.

Ever notice how so many movies named after big historical events usually become so full of themselves in the flash and spectacle and hype, and end up bearing no resemblance to the real events they are purported to depict? And how the definitive movies that do accurately capture those very same events have a more subtle title, usually with meaning only to those serious students of the events? Evidence TITANIC (1997) versus A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1958); PEARL HARBOR (2001) versus TORA! TORA! TORA! (1970); D-DAY, THE SIXTH OF JUNE (1956) versus THE LONGEST DAY (1962). [GETTYSBURG (1993) appears to be the exception to this rule, but then again it was filmed under the working title THE KILLER ANGELS, the same as the Pulitzer-winning book from which it was adapted.]

BATTLE OF THE BULGE falls into the same trap, although the definitive Battle of the Bulge movie, BATTLEGROUND (1949) was also a fictional work rather than a docudrama like A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, TORA! TORA! TORA! or THE LONGEST DAY. Ironically, the closing credits of BATTLE OF THE BULGE claimed, as the intent of the moviemakers, to capture the essence of the battle, but they failed to do so while BATTLEGROUND had already succeeded 16 years earlier. (Actually, if you want a good, historically accurate docudrama of the Battle of the Bulge, the last 45 minutes or so of PATTON will suffice. Then there are also the Battle of the Bulge episodes of the miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS.)

Much has been said about the desert-like setting of BATTLE OF THE BULGE which bears no resemblance to the Ardennes forest of Belgium. I've often wondered about that and the fact that so many of the cast and crew of BATTLE OF THE BULGE were also involved in CUSTER OF THE WEST (actors Robert Shaw, Ty Hardin and Robert Ryan; writers Bernard Gordon and Philip Yordan to name a few). CUSTER OF THE WEST has the 7th Cavalry getting slaughtered in a football field-sized meadow enclosed by trees, while the sprawling barren plains of the final tank battle in BATTLE OF THE BULGE bear an awfully strange resemblance to the Little Bighorn battlefield. Is it possible that the location managers and the rest of the production crew got the last few pages of the two screenplays mixed up? ;-)
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Battleground (1949)
THE definitive theatrical movie about the Battle of the Bulge
21 June 2002
Although this is strictly a fictional work, I consider BATTLEGROUND to be THE definitive theatrical movie about the Battle of the Bulge.

Ever notice how so many movies named after big historical events usually become so full of themselves in the flash and spectacle and hype, and end up bearing no resemblance to the real events they are purported to depict? And how the definitive movies that do accurately capture those very same events have a more subtle title, usually with meaning only to those serious students of the events? Evidence TITANIC (1997) versus A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1958); PEARL HARBOR (2001) versus TORA! TORA! TORA! (1970); D-DAY, THE SIXTH OF JUNE (1956) versus THE LONGEST DAY (1962). [GETTYSBURG (1993) appears to be the exception to this rule, but then again it was filmed under the working title THE KILLER ANGELS, the same as the Pulitzer-winning book from which it was adapted.]

BATTLE OF THE BULGE (1965) and BATTLEGROUND fit the same pattern. BATTLE OF THE BULGE falls into the same trap of overblown spectacle; BATTLEGROUND was also a fictional work, rather than a docudrama like A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, TORA! TORA! TORA! or THE LONGEST DAY, but it rang true. It still captured the cold, snow, isolation and desperation faced, not just by the 101st Airborne Division, but by most of the Allied participants of the battle. Ironically, the closing credits of BATTLE OF THE BULGE claimed, as the intent of the moviemakers, to capture the essence of the battle, but they failed to do so while BATTLEGROUND had already succeeded 16 years earlier.

[Actually, if you want a good, historically accurate fact-based docudrama of the Battle of the Bulge, the last 45 minutes or so of PATTON will suffice. Then there are also the Battle of the Bulge episodes of the miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS. But as an artistic depiction of an historical event, BATTLEGROUND should not be overlooked.]
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I loved this movie! See it for yourself!
25 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS!!! DO NOT READ THIS UNLESS YOU'VE SEEN THIS MOVIE!!!***

Actually, any discussion of this movie with someone who hasn't seen it is a spoiler in and of itself. So if you read any of the other IMDb User Comments on THE HAZING, I hope you've already seen it.

I first saw THE HAZING back in the late 70s or early 80s back when CBS-TV used to run late night movies. I loved it!

The movie is one long setup for a practical joke, with one helluva punchline!

I can appreciate a good practical joke as well as the next person, even if I'm the target, as long as there's no lasting harm. And make no mistake: the viewer is as much the target of this elaborate practical joke as is the character of Craig Lewis-- if not more so! Watching it on TV with no prior advertising made me and any other viewers watching under those circumstances a legitimate mark. I understand the need for truth in advertising under most circumstances, but to classify this movie as a comedy, as IMDb does, is also a spoiler in and of itself. Yes, retitling it THE CAMPUS CORPSE and classifying it as "Horror" as is done on the video (and placing it as such in the video rental shops and stores) is deceptive, but deception is the name of the game here! (Actually, keeping the original title and classifying it as "Suspense" or "Thriller" would have been more appropriate and legitimate while maintaining the effectiveness of the joke.)

The one thing I didn't particularly care for was the very end after the punchline was delivered. The supposed comeuppance by Craig and his brother was not only anticlimactic, but it showed them and Craig's girlfriend for the cry-baby sore losers they were.

Having endured the Hazing, Craig in real life probably would have been recognized for this rite of passage and welcomed into the fraternity as a particularly esteemed new member. Both he and his girlfriend should have been relieved that it was all a joke (and that his friend was alive after all) and laughed hysterically along with the perpetrators. But NOOOOO! Instead he stands there red in the face while his his girlfriend runs from the room sobbing! F**k 'em if they can't take a joke! (For that matter, the same can be said for anyone who didn't like this movie.)

The actual "punchline" of the practical joke was: "Welcome to the Delts!" They should have left it at that.
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The truth is out there....
17 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
My comments here are largely in response to criticisms of this movie which are based on incorrect information. A lot of the criticisms of this movie can be easily refuted by simply reading the original book by Lt Gen Hal Moore and Joe Galloway. There's even a nice new movie tie-in edition out.

[For the record, I was born in 1956, the same year as Mel Gibson; we were the last year group to carry draft cards but nobody was actually drafted, so whatever motivations the Gibson family might have had for moving from upstate New York to Australia, there was no draft for Mel to actively avoid. In my case, I was still an ROTC cadet when Vietnam ended. I didn't go to Vietnam, but I had my share of being called a baby killer and having my uniform spat upon-- by my own college classmates!]

There are some people out there for whom the US military is the most evil entity in the world, and who dismiss as propaganda any film that presents the US military in a positive light. Since September 11, I've come to the realization that nothing will change the minds of these individuals until al Qaeda strikes again in a way that affects them personally. So be it! I'm not going to waste time and energy on that line of thought.

***SPOILERS!***

I do think it was kind of odd the way they shifted the narration from Moore in the book to Galloway in the movie, then milked the ending with Moore coming home in a yellow cab, trying to leave the viewers wondering until the last possible moment whether he lives or dies. Well, in that case, they should have saved the credit `Based on the book... by Lt Gen Harold G. Moore (Ret) and Joseph L. Galloway' for the END credits instead of the opening credits right after all the generals started throwing Moore's name around. DOH! (And this is the only real `DOH!' I have for this movie!)

If anyone thinks the inclusion of black and oriental soldiers in Moore's battalion was a concession to political correctness, I assure you that PFCs Willie Godbolt and Jimmy Nakayama were real-life men, not some fictional tokens. There was a little dramatic license in the depiction of Godbolt's death, but I assure you that the way Nakayama's death was depicted was EXACTLY as written by Moore and Galloway in the book. I refer you to Chapter 13 (pages 209-212 of the movie tie-in edition).

***END SPOILERS.***

There was an earlier comment about how the 7th Cavalry theme is an Irish war song, but they could have used a less mournful version. Well, not to embarrass anyone, but that someone could mistake the SCOTTISH air SGT MACKENZIE for GARRYOWEN is indicative of the PC cultural illiteracy that pervades the American public. Just for everyone's information, SGT MACKENZIE is a recent work written by Joe Kilna MacKenzie of the Scottish music group Clann An Drumma, in tribute to his great-grandfather who was KIA in World War I. I must concede that Randall Wallace and Mel Gibson must have thrown it into this movie as a reminder that it is "from the people who brought you BRAVEHEART". But this funeral dirge is the musical antithesis of GARRYOWEN, the trademark song of the 7th Cavalry and a rollicking drinking song about tearing up the streets and raising hell in County Cork, Ireland. The irony is that I'm pretty sure most Americans know the melody of GARRYOWEN, but thanks to the politically correct demilitarization of American culture in the decades since Vietnam, and particularly the demonization of the 7th Cavalry as a bunch of genocidal maniacs, most Americans don't realize that they know it. Fortunately, to jog your memory, all you have to do is log on to any web page about the 7th Cavalry; I'd say about 90% of those web pages have a MIDI file of GARRYOWEN that loads and opens automatically.

For anyone who dismisses the scene between Moore and his daughter, where she asks, `Daddy, what's a war?' as sappy and cloying, again I refer you to the book: Chapter 2 (page 37 of the tie-in edition).

There are a lot of comments about how the Ia Drang Valley couldn't possibly have looked the way it was depicted in the film because it wasn't jungle enough. (The same criticisms were made about THE GREEN BERETS, also set in the Central Highlands on the Cambodian border.) That assumption is a frightening indication of how the mindset of previous batch of Vietnam movies has superseded reality. Not only do Moore and Galloway devote most of Chapter 4 to describing the terrain, Moore himself scouted around several Army posts nationwide and personally selected the area at Fort Hunter Liggett where the battle scenes were filmed.

There was another comment about how the final bayonet charge supposedly never happened and was invented. Please reference Chapter 16 (pages 249-253 of the tie-in edition); okay, so the close air support was provided by fixed-wing aircraft rather than by the Hueys of Snake Crandall and Too Tall Freeman. Dramatic license, perhaps. But Moore himself WAS there where the fighting took place, and you can't say that it was invented or that it never happened.

Because of the limitations of the medium of film, dramatic license, time compression and composite characterization are unavoidable in even the very best efforts at adapting a movie from true historical events. (GETTYSBURG and BLACK HAWK DOWN are the other two war films made within the past decade that have succeeded in doing so, and WE WERE SOLDIERS is up there with them.) Even putting aside these limitations, anyone questioning the historical accuracy of this movie needs to read the book first before saying anything!
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Just helping with some facts....
16 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
I've already posted a webpage on WE WERE SOLDIERS, accessible through the External Links: Miscellaneous section here on the IMDB. But that webpage focuses on the two men who earned the Medal of Honor at the Battle of Ia Drang Valley and the film's coverage, or lack thereof, of these men. My comments here are largely in response to criticisms of this movie which are based on incorrect information.

[For the record, I was born in 1956, the same year as Mel Gibson; we were the last year group to carry draft cards but nobody was actually drafted, so whatever motivations the Gibson family might have had for moving from upstate New York to Australia, there was no draft for Mel to actively avoid. In my case, I was still an ROTC cadet when Vietnam ended. I didn't go to Vietnam, but I had my share of being called a baby killer and having my uniform spat upon-- by my own college classmates!]

There are some people out there for whom the US military is the most evil entity in the world, and who dismiss as propaganda any film that presents the US military in a positive light. Since September 11, I've come to the realization that nothing will change the minds of these individuals until al Qaeda strikes again and kills them or someone close to them. So be it! I'm not going to waste time and energy on that line of thought.

A lot of the criticisms of this movie can be easily refuted by simply reading the original book by Lt Gen Hal Moore and Joe Galloway. There's even a nice new movie tie-in edition out.

***SPOILERS!*** If anyone thinks the inclusion of black and oriental soldiers in Moore's battalion was a concession to politically correctness, I assure you that PFCs Willie Godbolt and Jimmy Nakayama were real-life men, not some fictional tokens. There was a little dramatic license in the depiction of Godbolt's death, but I assure you that the way Nakayama's death was depicted was EXACTLY as written by Moore and Galloway in the book. I refer you to Chapter 13 (pages 209-212 of the movie tie-in edition).

***END SPOILERS.***

There was an earlier comment about how the 7th Cavalry theme is an Irish war song, but they could have used a less mournful version. Well, not to embarrass anyone, but how someone could mistake the SCOTTISH air SGT MACKENZIE for GARRYOWEN is symptomatic of the cultural illiteracy that has pervaded the American public. For everyone's information, SGT MACKENZIE is a recent work written by Joe Kilna MacKenzie of the Scottish music group Clann An Drumma, in tribute to his great-grandfather who was KIA in World War I. I must concede that Randall Wallace and Mel Gibson must have thrown it into this movie as a reminder that it is "from the people who brought you BRAVEHEART". But this funeral dirge is the musical antithesis of GARRYOWEN, the trademark song of the 7th Cavalry and a rollicking drinking song about tearing up the streets and raising hell in County Cork, Ireland. The irony is that I'm pretty sure most Americans know the melody of GARRYOWEN, but thanks to the politically correct demilitarization of American culture in the decades since Vietnam, and particularly the demonization of the 7th Cavalry as a bunch of genocidal maniacs, most Americans don't realize that they know it. Fortunately, to jog your memory, all you have to do is log on to any web page about the 7th Cavalry; I'd say about 90% of those web pages have a MIDI file of GARRYOWEN that loads and opens automatically.

For anyone who dismisses the scene between Moore and his daughter, where she asks, `Daddy, what's a war?' as sappy and cloying, again I refer you to the book: Chapter 2 (page 37 of the tie-in edition).

There were more comments about how the final bayonet charge supposedly never happened and was invented. Please reference Chapter 16 (pages 249-253 of the tie-in edition); okay, so only one company rather than the whole battalion engaged the North Vietnamese, and the close air support was provided by fixed-wing aircraft rather than by the Hueys of Snake Crandall and Too Tall Freeman. Dramatic license, perhaps. Perhaps that particular bayonet charge was given more importance in the film than it actually held in real-life. But Moore himself WAS there where the fighting took place, and you can't say that it was invented or that it never happened.

Because of the limitations of the medium of film, dramatic license, time compression and composite characterization are unavoidable in even the very best efforts at adapting a movie from true historical events. (GETTYSBURG and BLACK HAWK DOWN are the other two war films made within the past decade that have succeeded in doing so, and WE WERE SOLDIERS is up there with them.) Even putting aside these limitations, anyone questioning the historical accuracy of this movie needs to read the book first before saying anything!
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Tour of Duty (1987–1990)
COMBAT! with M-16s and Huey helicopters.
14 February 2002
This series could have been titled COMBAT! THE NEXT GENERATION, and lived up to that status. Zeke Anderson was a next-generation Chip Saunders and Myron Goldman a next-generation Gil Hanley. In fact, I'm surprised and disappointed that the producers didn't have Rick Jason do a guest appearance as COLONEL Gil Hanley (and it's too bad Vic Morrow was no longer alive to show up as Sergeant Major Chip Saunders)!

I think one of the reasons this series wasn't as popular on its original run as it is in syndication today is precisely because it was essentially COMBAT! with M-16s and Hueys: a lot of people in the 1980s were still of the mindset that those who fought in Vietnam were all baby killers; they couldn't accept the simple fact that the Myron Goldmans, Zeke Andersons, Alberto Ruizes, Danny Percells, Marcus Taylors, Scott Bakers and Marvin Johnsons of Vietnam, 1967 were the same ordinary American boys as the Gil Hanleys, Chip Saunderses, Cajes, Littlejohns, Braddocks and Kirbys of France, 1944, doing their best in an ugly situation that was not of their making.

TOUR OF DUTY was one of my all-time favorite series, right along with another contemporary New World Television production also set 20 years in the past, THE WONDER YEARS; . I've always seen these two series as two sides of the same coin, i.e. the battlefront and home front of the Vietnam War. It's fitting that in the TOD episode "Soldiers" (where three of the cast regulars go to Hawaii for R&R), Olivia d'Abo of THE WONDER YEARS had a guest appearance essentially playing the same character.

[For the record, I did not go to Vietnam; I was still an ROTC cadet when the war ended. That does mean, however, that I got my share of the "baby killer" epithets and spitting upon my uniform during that era! ]

Having said all that, the series was not without flaws. The first flaw was the entire 2nd season with the introduction of the female love interests for Anderson and Goldman, coincident with the start of the competing ABC series CHINA BEACH. This is a classic example of the original trying to imitate the imitator and nearly ruining itself in the process. (Anyone remember Coke vs Pepsi, New Coke and the return to Coke Classic?) My second major criticism is that although this was still one of my all-time favorite series, there's no denying that elements of just about every Vietnam War theatrical movie of that era found their way into episodes of TOUR OF DUTY; the finale of the first season was essentially a condensed, cleaned up for network TV version of HAMBURGER HILL. There were so many cases of this that, at times, I felt the series should have been titled APOCALYPSE OF THE FULL METAL HAMBURGER PLATOON AT FIREBASE GLORIA! ;-)
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Red Dawn (1984)
It DID happen in US history... TWICE!
9 January 2002
For those who sneer at RED DAWN as being a ridiculously impossible right wing fantasy, it needs to be pointed out that events quite similar to those depicted in RED DAWN did happen in United States history, at least twice.

The first instance took place in Missouri during the Civil War; although they didn't form the unit, two teenage brothers did join a Confederate guerrilla unit, and then took over when the original leaders were killed or captured. Much like Jed and Matt Eckert do to the invading Soviets in this movie, these two teenage brothers led their guerrilla force (which included a number of other teenagers) in wreaking havoc on the Union Army, and became legendary among the local population. Unfortunately, Frank and Jesse James are remembered less for being teenage guerrilla leaders than for the fact that after their side lost the war, their guerrilla force became the most notorious bank-and-train-robbing outlaw gang of the post-Civil War era.

The second instance took place more recently on a much larger scale, when 116,000 square miles of sovereign United States territory was attacked without warning, occupied, and its 17 million people subjugated by an invading totalitarian foreign army. While I'm not aware of any teenagers commanding guerrilla forces in this instance, there were many teenagers among the thousands from the local civilian population who took up arms, and joined guerrilla units which were formed around the nucleus of survivors from the regular US armed forces which had been decimated in the initial attack. These guerrillas wreaked havoc on the occupying invaders for 3 years and kept them tied up, preventing the enemy from further conquest of other US territory, and paving the way for an eventual counterinvasion and liberation by the main US forces.

I was born in what had once been that invaded US territory, where these guerrillas are still remembered and revered as great heroes; a few of my relatives were among these guerrillas. John Wayne and Tyrone Power each made movies about this period of guerrilla warfare, where they played leaders from the regular US military survivors. Apart from a pitiful general deficiency in historical knowledge among the American public, the main reason today's American public doesn't remember this invasion of its territory is that on July 4, 1946, less than a year after the Japanese invaders were defeated, that territory and its 17 million people became the independent Republic of the Philippines.

Some may see RED DAWN as a right-wing fantasy. I see it as, right along with BACK TO BATAAN and AMERICAN GUERRILLA IN THE PHILIPPINES, a depiction of my former homeland's and my family's history.
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Prophetic when you think about it!
28 October 2001
Let's see.... An enemy appears out of nowhere, blows up and levels familiar New York City and Washington DC landmarks, killing and incinerating countless innocent Americans.... The enemy makes it clear that there is no negotiation, no desire for peace, only for our total annihilation.... The President of the United States, a former fighter pilot, who is scoffed at and dismissed by media pundits as an inexperienced lightweight, rises to the occasion and not only rallies the American people but forges a worldwide coalition to fight back, vowing that our way of life will survive and prevail....

No, I'm not talking about the movie INDEPENDENCE DAY, although I maintain that this movie is more strangely prophetic about the current world situation than Morgan Robertson's 1896 novel FUTILITY (which I've read) was about the sinking of the Titanic!
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Watership Down is to American liberty what Animal Farm is to Russian communism.
26 May 2000
After seeing WATERSHIP DOWN in a theater on its first release in 1978 and having a copy on video ever since I've owned a VCR, I just now finally got around to reading the original novel by Richard Adams. There has been little deviation from the novel in the film version, and that due to the limitations of the medium; it is certainly well above average in terms of a film adaptation of a novel. [Artistically I wouldn't want to see anyone get any ideas of trying to remake it with computer generated "realistic" looking animals and real-life background. It's like a classic painting by Watteau, Fragonard or Monet come to life!]

Reading the novel has reinforced my initial opinion of the movie and why it has always been one of my favorites: it may or may not have been the original intent of author Richard Adams, but I've always seen WATERSHIP DOWN as being as much a salute to American liberty and the Founding Fathers of the United States as George Orwell's ANIMAL FARM (and its various film incarnations) was a satire of communist (and more particularly Stalinist) Russia. Both novels were written by British authors and set in the English farm countryside, with the movie versions having the animal characters voiced over by mostly British actors; but just as Orwell's pigs Napoleon, Old Major and Snowball are thinly disguised versions of, respectively, Stalin, Lenin and Trotsky, Adams's rabbit warren has a very American character to it. The analogies and parallels are not as clear-cut as with Orwell, but you can see a little of Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin in Fiver, a little of George Washington in both Hazel and Bigwig, a little of John Adams and John Hancock in the warren leadership in general. (While I realize that Adams is a pretty common name, I've often wondered whether or not Richard is a relative of John and Samuel!)

[As an aside, I also thought it a nice touch, and perhaps no coincidence, that John Hurt, who did the voice of the rabbit leader Hazel, later also had the lead role in the last movie version of Orwell's other anti-totalitarian classic 1984.]

While Orwell presents a thinly disguised linear history of Russia from the Bolshevik Revolution through World War II into the Cold War (the latest movie version of ANIMAL FARM projects forward through the collapse of communism), Adams's (perhaps unintentional) portrait of American history is much less linear and much broader in scope. Through the initial trek of the rabbits from their original warren to Watership Down, we see both the initial colonists of Jamestown and Plymouth, and the settlers of the West. When I hear Bigwig speak to Hyzenthlay about having the Efrafa captives escape to join the Watership warren, I can almost hear, "Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...." One can look at the freeing of the Efrafa captives and the final conflict between the Watership rabbits and Woundwort's Efrafans as a depiction of either the Civil War or World War II or both; I definitely see the unleashing of the dog to defeat Woundwort as a depiction of the use of the Atomic Bomb.

Call me an American Jingoist if you will, but take it from an immigrant whose family lived through the Axis occupation and American liberation of World War II: in the real-life human world, the good old United States of America IS Watership Down!
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P-51 Mustangs with swastikas? What the %$#@! Over!
3 March 2000
As a former Air Force fighter pilot myself (F-4 Phantoms in the late 1970s/early 1980s), I think the intentions behind this movie were well-meaning, in attempting to portray the brave young American fighter pilots who swept the German Luftwaffe from the skies of Western Europe; however, whenever I think of this movie, I still have one big problem with it that makes me cringe.

The title fighter squadron of this movie is equipped with P-47 Thunderbolts. Everything in this movie that is based on a recognizable historically factual event happened with a fighter unit equipped with P-51 Mustangs. The very same P-51 Mustangs which for this movie were painted up with black crosses and swastikas and made to depict German Messerschmitt Bf-109s.

The unit that had the policy that any member who got married had to transfer out was the 4th Fighter Group, who called themselves "Blakeslee's Bachelors" (after their CO, Col Donald J. M. Blakeslee whose policy it was); the 4th did briefly fly P-47s but spent the vast bulk of their WWII operations flying P-51s.

The movie's squadron commander, Lt Col Ed Hardin (played by Edmond O'Brien), was supposed to be a veteran of Chennault's Flying Tigers in the war in China; the only Flying Tiger veteran who was a squadron commander in Europe was Lt Col James H. Howard of the 356th Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter Group, which flew P-51s for their entire combat tour. (Howard was also the only fighter pilot in Europe in WWII to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.)

In the movie, Hardin is hit and bails out over German territory; just as German troops arrive to capture him, his buddy (played by Robert Stack) swoops down and strafes them, then lands in a meadow to pick him up. In real life, this happened on two occasions in Europe, both involving P-51s; one occasion was the downing and rescue of Major Pierce W. McKennon, a squadron commander with Blakeslee's Bachelors. (I have doubts as to whether the bigger, heavier P-47 could have taken off again under the same conditions in the real life incidents.)

Last but not least, the P-51 was the only fighter on either side in WWII which had the range to fly from Britain to Berlin, fight a sustained battle and return; the P-47 units could just barely get within sight of Berlin before having to turn back for lack of fuel. It was Blakeslee's Bachelors to whom Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, head of the Luftwaffe, was referring when he said, "When I first saw P-51s over Berlin, I knew the war was lost!"

I recall reading somewhere years ago that the decision was made to have the P-47s be the good guys in this movie, and have the P-51s portray Bf-109s with the rationale that there were several incidents where P-51s and Bf-109s were mistaken for one another. That's a pretty lame excuse, as the bulk of those incidents involved the older-model P-51Bs with "greenhouse" cockpit canopies similar to those of the Bf-109s, rather than the newer-model P-51Ds with "bubble" canopies used in the movie; further, there was a similar problem with confusing the blunt-nosed air-cooled P-47s and German Focke-Wulf 190s.

This is NOT to take away anything from the contribution the P-47 made to Allied victory in WWII. It made a sufficient stopgap bomber-escort/air superiority fighter until the P-51 came online, and devastated and demoralized the German Army when it shifted to the ground-attack role; General George Patton credited the P-47s supporting his 3rd Army with allowing him to make deep penetrations into enemy territory without the need for flank protection on the ground.

The movie relied heavily on actual combat gun-camera footage and other stock film for its combat scenes anyway, and could have easily done without the P-51s with the black crosses and swastikas. What this movie did was the equivalent of filming the movie TO HELL AND BACK (in which Audie Murphy, the highest decorated soldier of WWII, actually played himself), but having Audie Murphy played instead by Neville Brand (another WWII veteran-turned-actor who was a highly decorated hero in his own right, but an older, larger and homelier man) and then making the real Audie Murphy play a German!
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NOBODY ever said it was a sunset!!!
9 August 1999
At no time in the final scene is the time of day ever indicated. The scene was filmed on a beach near Fort Bragg, North Carolina on the Atlantic Ocean so it HAD TO BE a RISING sun and not a setting sun. (The scene does not last long enough to show any motion of the sun in either direction anyway!) Since Kirby's team had just been extracted from deep in hostile territory, it is more likely than not that they would have been extracted at night, arriving back at the base at dawn.

The sneering criticisms of this scene by left-wing critics are a perfect example of how far out of the way they went to find fault with this film.
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