As a child of eight or nine I was a troublemaker. I acted out in school and received lots of detention as a result. Detention was different in the 1969. Administrators made me sit on the grass with my back to a structural pillar while other children enjoyed recess. …and this was outside the admin building in front of the school, which was open to the public. I became so frustrated with that particular form of punishment that I devised devious ways to punish those who were torturing me. In one case I used pugji sticks. I made them from toothpicks and bamboo skewers. I planted them around the other pillars. I don’t know if I ever actually skewered anyone. The things were pretty flimsy. It was the thought that counted. I was a mad little eight-year old.
Where did I get the idea? The Green Berets with John Wayne. I loved the film as a child and booby traps seemed like a great way to get back at annoying teachers and my sisters too. I watched the film again this weekend. It’s playing on AMC. There is a big difference between the movie I remember as a child, and the movie I saw as an adult. Frankly, I have no idea why I liked the movie. It was horrible.
Third grade was a terrible time in my young life. I was adjusting to a new stepfather. We have moved to a new house in a new city. I lost all my friends. Everything was new. Part of the move meant transferring from a bad school district to a good one. I was behind in every subject and felt stupid. My worst subject was cursive. I could not write or read in cursive. Every student in my class was a full year ahead and the teacher had no interest in teaching me the subject. She would put me outside of her class sitting by the door if I asked questions during her lessons. My frustration grew each time this happened until I fought back by peeing on her door. That’s when recess detentions started.
I know it’s 50 years to late to review The Green Berets, but I want to make a few points because your perspective changes with age and time. My eight-year old view of the movie is much different than my 50-year old view. Let’s start with the political slant – the damn movie actually promoted the war in Vietnam. It was not simple support, but over the top promotion of our involvement. The move staked out the position that America must be in the war. It was hard to stomach given what I know of the war now. It gets worse, the acting was silly. American Green Berets run though a field like fairies out to tend their magic garden. It was so unmilitary as to be ludicrous. It gets worse. Battle scenes went something like this: Bad guys line up over here. Good guys line up there. Now shoot at each other. Plus, I could swear that at points in the movie, like when Charlie overruns Dodge City, the soundtrack came from old westerns when the Indians would win a battle; complete with the war woops and all.
I was shocked at the lack of Vietnamese people in a movie about Vietnam. Heck, even the archenemy was a white actor made to look Vietnamese. Japanese and Chinese actors played all key roles. Most of the extras were brown skinned people, but non-Vietnamese. When you add in the fact that the majority of the film was put together in Georgia, which is decidedly not a tropical location, I had trouble believing that anybody would mistake the movie for a production about Vietnam.
The booby traps were childlike. I mean seriously childlike. They was almost as unbelievable as John Wayne surviving the helicopter crash with no injuries. The wall of spikes that killed SGT Peterson made me laugh. The trap actually whisked away the leaves covering the spikes before he was impaled on them… Who would do that?
We all know that the Green Berets are special forces. The movie shows them as barely trained boobs. SGT Peterson is a great example. His only skill is scrounging. He received zero training pre-deployment. Yet he was in every mission, functioning in a “highly trained” Green Beret unit. How did anyone come away thinking he Green Beret’s were special?
The final blow and biggest plot hole… the suicide mission involving the new commander of the Green Berets in Vietnam (John Wayne). Did anyone seriously think that a senior officer would lead a mission like that? No planning. No support. No special weapons. No intelligence assets. No exit strategy. Just put your head down and dive right in. It made the Green Berets look like untrained foot soldiers and their command a reckless fool. Plus, a retirement aged administrative officer would not be leading a rescue mission. They order others to do the dirty work. The whole movie was a joke.
I’m adding The Green Berets to my list of top ten worst movies. At least I learned about booby traps, although I’m sure I was meant to learn something different.