Sunday, August 19, 2012

Go Tell the Spartans (1978)

Vietnam War Movie #6

Synopsis: Stretched-thin team of American advisors repeat all of the same mistakes as their French predecessors... well, except for appreciating Jerry Lewis.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Academy Award-winner BURT LANCASTER delivers the finest performance of his illustrious career as a hard-boiled major in command of a grubby Vietnam outpost in this classic film of wartime confrontation.”

What Did I Learn?: If your asshole interpreter tells you that nice family you just met - and allowed into your camp - are in fact Viet Cong, you might want to listen to him.

You Might Like This Movie If: You want to see Burt Lancaster go after the Viet Cong with the same gusto he displayed when he took, the phone company.

Really?: 1) Um...isn’t Burt Lancaster a little old to be playing a Major? 2) Near the beginning, Major Barker (Lancaster) stops the asshole interpreter from waterboarding a suspected VC agent on the grounds that “he can’t tell you anything if he’s dead.” I wonder if Dick Cheney ever watched this film. 3) it’s strange that Clyde Kusatsu plays a unilingual Vietnamese colonel, when he was perfectly capable of speaking accent-free English...heck, he sometimes did John Wayne impressions on Magnum PI.

Rating: It’s a shame that Go Tell the Spartans is now nearly forgotten, as I consider it to be one of the best movies about the Vietnam War ever made. Set in 1964, it tells the story of a war-weary Major and his increasingly cynical Captain (a pre-V Marc Singer) as they repeat the same mistakes made by the French ten years earlier: too many static defenses and not enough resources. (There are 300 French graves in the French cemetery, hence the reference to the Battle of Thermopylae in the title). Go Tell the Spartans is rather low-budget, and the production values aren’t the greatest, but it’s well-written, well-acted, and it offers some insights into the earlier period of US involvement in Vietnam. Highly recommended. 9/10 stars.

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