The Green Berets
Release Year: 1968
Directors: John Wayne, Ray Kellog, Mervyn LeRoy (uncredited)
Writers: James Lee Barrett (screenplay), Robin Moore (based on his 1965 novel The Green Berets)
Starring: John Wayne, David Janssen, Jim Hutton, Aldo Ray, Raymond St. Jacques, Bruce Cabot, Jack Soo, George Takei, Luke Askew, Patrick Wayne, Irene Tsu, Edward Faulkner, Jason Evers
Sunday Classic #288, week 52 2019
Col. Mike Kirby (John Wayne) selects two teams of Green Berets for two missions in the Vietnam War. First, to build and control a camp, and later to abduct a Viet Cong general.
Few films have been as controversial upon release as The Green Berets. Unlike all other Vietnam films that I an think of, the movie paints a very simplistic pro-war picture and so flew right in the face of the accepted opinion among the cultural elites and, in fact, continues to do so. For that reason it is an interesting film to watch as a curiosity, and its portrayal must naturally be taken which large helpings of salt as things are never as simple in war as portrayed here. But movies are always more uncomplicated than real life and always reflects the opions and values of its makers. That being said, the film a good enough war film which is curiously old-fashioned, even for its own time. Such a one-sided pro-war film about World War II is not unusual 20 years before this film was made. The actors are fine and there are some effective battle scenes as well as some brutal kill-scenes, if one can overlook the really fake-looking blood. Despite its simplistic take it does adress the muddy and brutal nature of war and to its credit does hint, whether it wants to or not, at the futility of it all. What it never wavers on is its support of soldiers doing their duty, and that is perhaps not such a bad thing. Recommended, if you like old-fashioned war movies. But if it rubs your political views the wrong way, it would perhaps be best to give this one a pass.
George Takei told John Wayne before filming started that he was against the Vietnam war. Wayne replied that so was half of the cast and crew but that he had not hired him for his political views, but for his acting abilities.
The film, which was controversialfrom the very moments of its existence, was destroyed by critics, but proved to be a succes with audiences. Wayne even specualted that the bad press, which he saw as a reflection of the critics’ opinions about the war more than his movie, might even have helped draw audiences to the theatres.
George Takei had to miss nine episodes of Star Trek to shot the film. His co-star Walter Koenig, who played Chekov on the show, was delighted as it meant that his character got more screentime during his absence.
Picture Copyright: Warner Bros.