In 1967, a group of young men are tying to get through the Marine Corps boot camp before being shipped out to Vietnam. Later, the soldiers realize that the grueling training didn’t really equip them for the mental and physical demands of the war zone.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“I have to take 45 sacks of civilian sh*t and turn them into combat ready Marines.”
1978 was a great year for movies about the Vietnam War. Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter and Hal Ashby’s Coming Home dominated the awards season and sizzled at the box office. However, two other equally great Vietnam War films slipped under the public’s radar: Go Tell the Spartans and The Boys in Company C.
In the case of The Boys in Company C, there is another problem: The film has been completely overshadowed by Stanley Kubrick’s war epic Full Metal Jacket (1987), which is very similar to this movie. When I say “similar” I mean almost like a remake. The two films have a number of things in common (a coincidence?), including the late R. Lee Ermey, who played the main drill instructor in both productions.
While not as good as Kubrick’s 1987 masterwork (few films are), The Boys in Company C is a well-crafted and emotionally potent movie blessed with splendid performances and many gut-wrenching moments. Exceedingly well-directed by versatile Canadian filmmaker Sidney J. Furie (The Ipcress Files and Lady Sings the Blues), this is an impressive movie that has been (unfairly) ignored for far too long.
The script was written by director Furie and Rick Natkin (Necessary Roughness). Like Full Metal Jacket, The Boys in Company C is divided into two sections: Basic training and military combat operations. The film aims to illustrate that no amount of training can prepare you for war, especially one as ill-conceived as the Vietnam War.
The Boys in Company C is particularly skillful at showing the problems and everyday struggles of an American combat unit. The film also depicts the absurdity of war in all its gritty detail. It isn’t so much that the movie is anti-military. It’s just that the movie is very critical of the Vietnam War. The film shows a lot of empathy for the young Marines who were put in a no-win situation — the film ends on a gloomy note.
The Boys in Company C has a superb ensemble cast. Stan Shaw (The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings) is the standout — Shaw is excellent as a kid from the “wrong side of the tracks” who has a hard time adjusting to military life.
The rest of the cast is composed of many actors at the beginning of their careers. James Whitmore Jr. (son of James Whitmore Sr., star of the similarly-themed, William A. Wellman’s Battleground) is great as a sympathetic lieutenant. Andrew Stevens (10 to Midnight) and Craig Wasson (Brian De Palma’s Body Double) play a couple of brave but naive soldiers. And, of course, the inimitable R. Lee Ermey, the drill sergeant-turned-actor who went on to appear in many movies and TV shows.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Because I was in the military, I can detect phoniness in military films pretty easily. The Boys in Company C is the real deal. While viewers shouldn’t expect this film to be equal to Apocalypse Now (1979), Platoon (1986) or The Thin Red Line (1998), The Boys in Company C is a powerful encapsulation of the war experience boosted by excellent performances. Highly recommended! Color, 125 minutes, Rated R.