Screengrab: Kubrick, Stone and Vietnam

Richard Lutz hits the trenches as he finds a pair of back to back classic war movies tucked into this week’s TV listings.

Screen GrabThere’s a pair of unmissable war movies on the box this week. But first a story about one of them, Full Metal Jacket, that needs telling.

Director Stanley Kubrick, a control freak, had a Marine drill instructor behind the camera to help him with authentic boot camp scenes. The soldier, Lee Ermy, didn’t like what the babyfaced Hollywood stars were doing. He stormed into Kubrick’s office and told him that as a former instructor, he was the only one to get the real feel of a Marine training camp.

Kubrick sat behind his desk and began to tell the tough guy Ermy why this wasn’t possible. Suddenly, Ermy ordered Kubrick to stand up when addressing a US Marine. Kubrick did so automatically. Ermy got the role. And what a role it is.

Full Metal Jacket (Sky Movies Indie,Wed, 0.05, actually Thurs AM) is a bleak, hardcore war film showing how recruits to the Vietnam battlefields had to be stripped of their decency and humanity to prepare for tough jungle and urban fighting.

Lee Ermy

Lee Ermy

Ermy was allowed to ad lib most of his lines and stars such as Matthew Modine reacted like the scared pussycats most raw soldiers are at the beginning.

The film was about the battle to control the city of Hue. It was shot at an old gas works on the Thames and Kubrick didn’t pull any punches. As for Ermey, he never spoke to his fellow actors and never met them after or before work. The fear in their eyes shows through – even when one goes ballistics and….well, that would be telling.

Actually someone in the Sky Movies Indie front office must have put the old thinking cap on. Because preceding this movie is Platoon (Wed, Sky Movies Indie, 22.00).

It was made a year before Kubrick’s classic. The director was Oliver Stone, who had street cred as a Vietnam vet. This too is a tough hard film. It is about Chris Taylor, an innocent recruit (played by Charlie Sheen), caught between two opposing company leaders: devilish Sgt Barnes (Tom Berenger) and the saintly Sgt Elias (Willem Dafoe).

Dafoe: saintly

Dafoe: saintly

Great support from young Johhny Depp, Forest Whittaker and other soon-to-be-famous faces.

Stone did a good job considering his script was written fifteen years previously. He wanted Jim Morrison from the Doors as the lead. Morrison had the script in hand when he died in a Paris bathtub.

Sheen’s role closely copies the character his own dad Martin Sheen played in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now in 1979. That movie blew the lid on the Vietnam fiasco. Full Metal Jacket and Platoon kicked it on and stripped the remaining ideological hogwash from the bloody conflict. And they made all previous war movies (excluding Apocalypse Now) look like grade A fakes peopled by overpaid movie actors with weird tough guy make-up slapped on their pretty faces.

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