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“The Green Berets”- {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Warner
Genre:
Action
Release Date:
1/5/10
Special Features:

Vintage featurette, trailer

Review:

In the twilight of his career American hawk John Wayne elected to make a series of increasingly out-of-touch films probably at a time when he should have called it quits. I find it interesting that Wayne one of the most hawkish of American film stars and one of the most conservative film stars of his era never served in the military and did just about everything he could to stay out of serving his country. So it was with a bit of unintended irony that the one film star that came to personify an American soldier in films through the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, should never have served in any capacity to the best of my knowledge. Unlike fellow film stars such as Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda (both of whom did serve and, in fact, in the case of Stewart the action that he saw made him reevaluation his life and whether or not being an actor really mattered in the course of human life and death), Wayne never projected the touch of weariness that other actors portrayed when taking on the role of a American soldier or military leader. Wayne was a tremendous icon but when he was allowed to play out his own film fantasies such as in "The Alamo" and "The Green Berets" they were usually disasters. ***

By the time that “The Green Berets” arrived in theaters in 1968 we were only 4 years away from President Richard Nixon pulling our troops out of Vietnam the conflict that this film focuses on. The film was greeted with a series of negative often mocking reviews with its unrealistic portrayal of the conflict in Vietnam and, if you add in the fact that the film was shot entirely on location in Georgia (which looks nothing like Vietnam), you have an artifact of an era when most Hollywood films were increasingly at odds with more realistic gritty dramas that were gradually leaking out to theaters. ***

There’s nothing wrong with patriotism in a film provided it has a touch of realism and actually touches on the reality of the nastiness of an armed conflict. It also helps if the film actually LOOKS like it was shot realistic. “The Green Berets” which was Wayne’s second film as director veers wildly into the absurd. After Wayne’s directorial debut with the promising but overall jingoistic “The Alamo”, “The Green Berets” was disappointing. Wayne knew enough to bring in Ray Kellogg (“The Killer Shrews”) to help with the burden of directing the picture. Although there are plenty of problems with the direction most of the problems are in the script written by James Lee Barrett which is largely static and lacking in action. For a film that’s 2 hours and 20 minutes long that’s a major flaw. Add in the fact that Wayne seems uncomfortable in the lead role and you have a recipe for disaster. ***

The single strength of “The Green Berets” is Wayne’s decision to cast a variety of strong Hollywood versatile Hollywood veterans including David Jansen as a reporter initially skeptical and unsympathetic to the beliefs of the main character, George Takei, Jim Hutton, Bruce, Cabot, Aldo Rey and others that makes the slow pacing and poor direction almost forgivable. ***

Col. Kirby (Wayne) takes command of an elite group of Green Berets. His mission is to kidnap a Vietcong general, build and maintain a military stronghold in Vietcong territory. Things don’t turn out quite as planned however when the stronghold that Kirby faces a massive Vietcong attack. ---

Image & Sound:

Warner has done a terrific job of transferring “The Green Berets” to Blu-ray. Skin tones look natural throughout and the overall presentation is crisp and sharp. There are a few scenes that are a tad soft but, overall, the depth, clarity and presentation are remarkably vivid. ***

The original mono soundtrack is presented in a lossless Dolby True HD 1.0 presentation. It sounds fine with nice dynamic range and dialogue comes across clear throughout. ---

Special Features:

We get the original featurette produced to promote the film “The Moviemakers: The Making of ‘The Green Berets’” which runs about eight minutes. We also get the theatrical trailer. While both are nice to have an I understand Warner’s reluctance to include any new material on the making of the film which is embarrassingly bad by contemporary standards (regardless of how you feel about the politics of the film), it would have been nice to have a commentary track by a film historian discussing the film vs. the reality of the situation at the time. Additionally, some information on the location shooting would have been helpful.

Final Words:

A dated, bad war movie, “The Green Berets” still manages to be entertaining if you don’t take it too seriously. Although the snail like pace of the film does more damage to the entertainment value, Wayne was wise enough to provide roles for a fine cast.

 

 
 
 
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