• Green Berets, The

    Released by: Warner Brothers
    Released on: January 5, 2010.
    Director: John Wayne, Ray Kellogg
    Cast: John Wayne, David Janssen, Jim Hutton, Aldo Ray, Bruce Cabot, George Takai
    Year: 1968
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    The Movie:

    Created as a cinematic attempt to sway the anti-war sentiment that was swelling up in America in relation to the Vietnam War, John Wayne’s The Green Berets, a film he co-directed and lent his considerable star power to, hasn’t held up so well, at least as a serious picture.

    The movie, set in the late sixties, begins
    in North Carolina where a group of reporters bombarding a group of high ranking military big wigs about the Vietnam War and America’s involvement. One of the reporters, George Beckworth (David Janssen), the stand out in a group of snarky and smart assed types, is invited by the rough and tough Colonel Mike Kirby (John Wayne) to travel to Vietnam and experience the war for himself. Beckwith agrees, and winds up following Kirby and his team of special missions types to the front.

    As Beckworth sees what the troops are going through, so too does the audience as we witness different raids on enemy encampments. Soon enough, Kirby's troops team up with a group of South Vietnamese soldiers (one of whom is played by a young George Takei) at which point they wind up on some very different missions where they provide medical and humanitarian aid to Vietnamese civilians who are very much in need of it. Of course, they can’t go too long without seeing some action, and before you know it they’re taking on a sea of encroaching enemy soldiers and kidnapping an enemy commander. While the men make their way through the fields of Vietnam, each one dealing with his own fears and personal issues, Beckwith develops a better understanding of the war and the people who fight in it.

    Possibly one of the most heavy handed war films ever made, The Green Berets is a film that crams patriotism down your throat with a vengeance. While it should (but sadly doesn’t always) go without saying that those brave enough to serve their country in the most selfless way possible absolutely deserve the respect of the populace, Wayne’s picture only seems to be able to get that across by force. There’s no subtlety to the script or the characters, and the whole thing feels like a very thin justification for a war that was instigated and fought under unusual circumstances. The anti-communist stance is ridiculously stoic and so right wing that it’s actually a little distracting.

    Once you put the politics aside (and granted, not everyone can or is willing to do that), however, The Green Berets is good fun. The film hasn’t aged particularly well and while the picture is nicely shot and benefits from some great production values and a fun cast, most of it plays like high camp by modern standards. The novelty of seeing countless enemies killed on screen in a G rated film ensures some curiosity value (this is quite possibly the most violent G rated film ever!) while the epic scope of the battle scenes are still pretty impressive in their own right. The whole picture is a goofy, disjointed mess but at the same time it’s Wayne acting like Wayne and doing his thing. As dated and backwards as it sometimes seems, it is still some good fun.


    The Green Berets arrives on Blu-ray in a VC-1 encoded 1080p 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that, once you get past the obvious DNR, looks alright. Skin tones are sometimes a little waxy and the digital removal of some of the film’s grain does come at the expense of detail in some scenes but the good outweighs the bad even if there’s been some room left for improvement. The colors look excellent, you’ll see it in the jungle scenes and you’ll really notice it when the bombs drop and the explosions rip across the screen. Black levels are good, there aren’t any compression artifacts to note, and facial detail looks good, especially in close up shots. Some scenes look softer than others and the scenes that take place in the dark are a bit on the murky side but despite some noticeable ringing throughout the movie, for an older catalog title it looks decent.

    The HD track on this Blu-ray release is a Dolby TrueHD 1.0 Mono track that we can assume approximates the film’s intended theatrical sound. It might have been nice to hear the war scenes remixed in surround sound but that didn’t happen and you can’t really fault WB for presenting the film in its original sound mix, particularly when it sounds just fine like it does on this disc. Dialogue is easy and clear and problem free while the levels are well balanced save for a few scenes where the sound effects bury the performers in the mix. The epic score would have sounded nice spread out across a larger soundstage but even here in the 1.0 presentation it carries some significant weight. No problems with hiss or distortion to report, and if some scenes sound a bit on the flat side compared to more modern productions, so be it. This isn’t reference quality by any stretch but it sounds alright.

    Optional standard definition Mono tracks are provided in English, French, German and Spanish while subtitles are provided in English SDH, French, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, German SDH, Greek, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Swedish.

    Extras are slim on this disc, limited to a vintage making of featurette called The Moviemakers that clocks in at about seven minutes in length, and the film’s theatrical trailer. Both of these are presented in standard definition. Menus and chapter stops are also included.

    The Final Word:

    The Green Berets is ridiculously dated and not even remotely realistic in terms of its portrayal of the Vietnam War and America’s involvement in that war, but it is pretty darn entertaining, particularly if you appreciate John Wayne’s dopey screen presence. Warner’s presentation won’t blow you away but it looks okay even if the extras are light. Is it a classic? Not really, it’s more like Platoon’s redneck grandfather in that you laugh at it while you question its politics – yet you’re still amused by it.