• Go Tell The Spartans (Scorpion Releasing) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Scorpion Releasing
    Released on: December 5th, 2017.
    Director: Ted Post
    Cast: Burt Lancaster, Craig Wasson, Marc Singer, Jonathan Goldsmith, Joe Unger
    Year: 1978
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    Go Tell The Spartans - Movie Review:

    Directed by Ted Post, the same Ted Post who gave us Magnum Force and The Baby, from a script by Wendell Mayes adapted from the novel by Daniel Ford entitled Incident At Muc Wa: A Story Of The Vietnam War, 1978’s Go Tell The Spartans isn’t a movie that instantly comes to mind when discussing the best Vietnam War movies – and that’s a shame, because it wholeheartedly deserves to be. It’s up there with Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now in how effectively it traces the impact of war on the psyches of those who engage in it.

    This surprisingly grim film is set in 1964 where we meet Major Asa Barker (Burt Lancaster), a career military man who is as tough as he is patriotic. He’s put in charge of a rag-tag group of younger men - Cpl. Stephen Courcey (Craig Wasson), Capt. Alfred Olivetti (Marc Singer), Lt. Raymond Hamilton (Joe Unger) and a few others. With some help from Sgt. Oleozewski (Jonathan Goldsmith – yep – the one time ‘Most Interesting Man In The World’ from the Dos Equis beer commercials!), they’re to watch over a desolate outpost in Vietnam that watches over a trio of villages: Boo Jum, Mung Tau and Hat Song until Barker and his men are ordered to head south to take over Muc Wa.

    As the group make their way to Muc Wa, they encounter booby traps and violent resistance from the Vietnamese but they eventually make it to their destination where things quickly go from bad to worse for all involved.

    It’s easy these days to pontificate on the horrors or war and the often times meaningless results of human conflict but in the seventies, it was rare for a film to ‘go there.’ Made a year before Coppola’s masterpiece, Go Tell The Spartans is a picture that stands in stark contrast to flag waving war films like 1968’s John Wayne Vietnam picture The Green Berets. Not that movies like that are bad, but they’re not particularly concerned with realism or with the human side of war. Spartans makes that a big part of its appeal and it does so very well. As things go from bad to worse for our team, the script makes a point of putting us into the characters’ head space, letting us understand why they feel what they feel and why they act how they act. It isn’t always pretty and it isn’t always right but the script is savvy enough to at least ground things in a reality that the audience can appreciate. The performances, for the most part, complement this. Lancaster is very good in the lead, showing strong range and crafting an interesting, world-weary soldier now on his third tour of duty. We like him, though we recognize his flaws. Supporting work from Singer, Goldsmith, Wasson and Unger is also strong. They’re all believable in their respective roles.

    Post’s direction is very ‘matter of fact’ but that works well here. If the direction isn’t hyper-stylish or particularly flashy, it lets the movie focus on character and story. Not to say that there isn’t some decent action here, because there is, but when the movie’s over that’s not what you’re left remembering or thinking about.

    The movie isn’t perfect – it’s clear in certain scenes that this was a film made on a modest budget and the California locations aren’t always convincing as the Asian jungles they’re meant to recreate. Overall, however, this is an unjustly underappreciated war picture well worth seeking out for anyone with an interest in the genre.

    Go Tell The Spartans – Blu-ray Review:

    Go Tell The Spartans arrives on Blu-ray framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and it looks quite good. Some minor print damage shows up in the form of small white specks here and there but otherwise the source is very clean. Color reproduction looks just fine, if a bit flat, though the movie is heavy on greens and browns (which makes perfect sense give the location and wardrobe featured in the film) while skin tones appear lifelike and natural. There’s a nice amount of visible film grain here and no obvious noise reduction. The transfer is free of compression issues or edge enhancement and offers pretty strong detail throughout.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track is generally fine, though there are a few spots where things are a tad harsh sounding. That aside, no complaints. Dialogue is easy to understand and to follow and the levels are properly balanced. Sound effects have a decent amount of power behind them, gun shots in particular, while Dick Halligan’s score has nice range and presence to it. There are no alternate language or subtitle options provided.

    The bulk of the extras come in the form of some interviews, the first of which gets actor Marc Singer in front of the camera for just under half an hour to talk about his work on the picture. He shares some interesting stories from the set, thoughts on the film and his co-stars and what it was like working with Post in the director’s chair. Post himself shows up for a nineteen-minute piece where he talks about shooting on location in California, working with the cast and crew featured in the picture and more. From there, actor Joe Unger gets to speak for just over fourteen-minutes about his work in the picture, getting along with his fellow cast members and what it was like on set. Actor David Glennon follows suit in a twenty-five-minute piece covering similar ground. Actor Jonathan Goldsmith shares twelve-minutes’ worth of anecdotes about the shoot. All of these are quite interesting and paint a pretty detailed picture of what it was like to work on the film, to act alongside a titan like Lancaster, and more.

    Menus and chapter selection are also included. It’s also worth mentioning that the disc comes packaged with some nice reversible cover sleeve art.

    Go Tell The Spartans – The Final Word:

    Go Tell The Spartans really should be a better known film than it is. Post’s direction might not be especially flashy but this is a film that puts substance over style, hitting particularly hard in its portrayal of the effects war can have on the human psyche. Scorpion’s Blu-ray release is a strong one, presenting this underrated picture in fine form and with a nice array of supplements complementing the feature attraction.

    Click on the images below for full sized Go Tell The Spartans Blu-ray review screen captures!