This is the next entry in a Theatre… a Movie… and a Time, a series that was begun here. My colleague Kevin, based on the strength of his writing and reader reaction to his wonderful guest post here, gets the credit for bringing this film and memory to the fore:
“Not only in its projection of overall firepower with Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”, but also in the wide variety of mechanized mayhem. From the Air Cavalry’s troops and their assembled M-16s. To the pintle mounted M-60s, pylon mounted quad M-2 Heavy Barreled .50 caliber Browning Machine Guns and pod mounted High Velocity Artillery (HIVAR) Rockets. The soundtrack fits the montage like a custom fitted suit. Scratchy voice overs and all. Culminating in a piece of film that is powerful, random and deadly.”
The Picwood Theatre:
[pictures are care of the Cinema Treasures site]
October, 1979: anyone who graduated twelfth grade in ’72, like me, had the spectre of Vietnam in their collective thoughts growing up. All through junior and senior high, I reckon. How could the war not what with the news footage or body counts in our homes and television screens from the mid-60s on. Knowing that, and registering for the draft come your 18th birthday, meant for many the southeast Asian conflict was a possible and uneasy fate. The stories of those returning from there (or who didn’t make it back), only seared it all in.
It’s no small thing to say the Helicopter War, and the period that ended with it by April 1975, left a mark. One that’s lasted to this day, in fact. Like others, it’s shaped what I read, watched and thought in the years since. So when historians, novelists, and filmmakers turned their pens, typewriters, and cameras toward the subject, my interest was forever piqued. Francis Ford Coppola and John Milius’ unique cinematic treatment of the war was likely the early touchstone event on the subject late that decade few could ignore.
In what seemed a start of films in the had-to-see category presented back then, the Picwood Theatre in West Los Angeles screened Apocalypse Now on a multiple-week run. Twenty-six, as reported by commenters at the Cinema Treasures site. To packed houses, too. I took she-whose-name-must-not-be-mentioned there on one of our first-year movie dates for this. The film only spurred my absorption in the war and those who served (she, on the other hand, had less interest).
Ten years later, and another life, the only father-in-law I ever had, a Korean War vet, confided to me one day this was his all-time favorite film. He watched it annually on VHS, IIRC. It meant a great deal to him. The film, and the man’s sentiment, had somehow coalesced byway of marriage. While he’s no longer here, when I think back on the film, strangely, it’s him I think of… but with fondness.