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GREEN BERETS, THE (director: Ray Kellogg/John Wayne; screenwriters: James Lee Barrett/Col. Kenneth B. Facey/from the book “The Green Berets” by Robin Moore; cinematographer: Winton Hoch; editor: Otho Lovering; music: Miklos Rozsa; cast: John Wayne (Col. Mike Kirby), David Janssen (George Beckworth), Jim Hutton (Sgt. Petersen), Aldo Ray (Sgt. Muldoon), Raymond St. Jacques (Doc McGee), Bruce Cabot (Col. Morgan); Runtime: 141; MPAA Rating: G; producer: Michael Wayne; Warner Bros.-Seven Arts; 1968)
“If you liked this film, you’re probably also thrilled with W’s Iraqi war.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first film about the Vietnam War is John Wayne’s hawkish government propaganda film, a salute to the Special Forces, that uncritically accepts the cause for the war and lashes out at its opponents for even raising questions about its justification. It’s a crude film in every which way, from the lame acting to the uninteresting narrative to its overlong length. A film that’s clich√©-riddled, ponderous, silly, dull, heavy-handed, filled with warmongering babble and misinformation, and is not only offensive to peaceniks but also does harm to the hawks in its inane simple-minded responses promoting the war as a just cause–in short it’s an insult to all human beings. It risibly ends with a sun that sets in the East, with Wayne leading around a Vietnamese orphan, the camp’s cute mascot, and telling him endearingly “You’re what this is all about.” It would be funny if the war wasn’t such a tragedy, costing so many lives, and dividing a nation.

The film opens at a press briefing conducted by the U.S. Special Forces Green Berets at Fort Bragg, with Special Forces Vietnam vets, Master Sergeant Muldoon (Aldo Ray) and Sergeant McGee (Raymond St. Jacques), fielding hostile questions from the press in a stoic military manner. Left-wing war correspondent George Beckworth (David Janssen) questions the war effort and gets sneered at by the legendary hard-nosed Green Beret leader, Colonel Mike Kirby (John Wayne), for doubting that this war won’t benefit both Vietnam and the United States and questions how he can say that without ever being to ‘nam.

The heart of the film has Kirby taking the skeptical Beckworth with him on a mission to capture an enemy general. Once in the war zone we witness the Vietcong setting booby-traps in the field, acting like thugs, and doing all kinds of atrocities, while the brave Green Berets defend the victimized peasants of South Vietnam. Beckworth’s doubts begin to disappear when he sees what’s happening in the country, and he comes around to being a believer in the war. Through the Janssen character, who represents the doubters in the American public, the hope is that they also will become gung-ho patriots and support the war.

The film despite being widely panned and the growing anti-war fervor in the country, still managed to gross $11 million. Imitating those action-packed WWII-style battle scenes from many of those standard war films, the filmmakers satisfied their fan base by giving them something to sate their thirst for action amidst all the preaching. If you liked this film, you’re probably also thrilled with W’s Iraqi war.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”