The Boys in Company C (1978)

Synopsis:

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 eclipsed by Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 masterpiece Full Metal Jacket, 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, including the late R. Lee Ermey, who played the main drill instructor in both movies.

While not as good as Kubrick’s masterwork (few films are), The Boys in Company C is emotionally potent, with superb performances and many gut wrenching moments. Exceedingly well-directed by Canadian filmmaker Sidney J. Furie (The Ipcress File), this is a film 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 every-day 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 Battleground) is great as a sympathetic lieutenant. Andrew Stevens (10 to Midnight) and Craig Wasson (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) play a couple of brave but naive soldiers. Film debut of 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, Platoon or Full Metal Jacket, The Boys in Company C is a powerful encapsulation of the war experience boosted by excellent performances. Highly recommended! Color, 125 minutes, Rated R.

This is my contribution to Send In The Marines Blog-A-Thon, hosted by Dubsism and Realweegiemidget Reviews.

15 responses to “The Boys in Company C (1978)

  1. Pingback: ATTENTION! The “Send In The Marines” Blog-A-Thon Is Here! | Dubsism·

  2. I watched the Ken Burns series on the Vietnam War recently, and have wanted to now check out some Vietnam-centered films. I never new what this one was about until now, so I’ll add it to the list. And good to know (from someone who knows) that it’s realistic, too.

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    • Agreed. Was Kubrick aware of Boys? Probably not. Full was based on Gustav Hasford’s 1979 book Short Timers, so it is entirely possible that Hasford saw Boys before writing the book. Or maybe it is one of those crazy coincidences (interestingly, Hasford went to jail for stealing books from a library!!!).

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  3. Pingback: There’s more US Marines Blogathon posts reporting for duty – Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more·

  4. I’ve been trying to see this since I started my blog. I got close a few times. The problem with having too many movies to watch is you get breakdown overload and things keep switching up and down the watch list. So thank you for reminding me it’s time to budge it up. Sounds like you really enjoyed it, that’s enough for me. Cheers dude.

    BTW random one, can you remember what the film you reviewed sometime a year and a half ago maybe? A French film with a female character out in the countryside. Kind of had a Deliverance, Southern Comfort vibe maybe? I wrote it down to watch but man I can’t find it.

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  5. Rick Natkin here… It’s no accident that Full Metal Jacket” bears some similarities to “Boys In Company C”. A few years after Company C, I wrote another Vietnam film with director Sidney Furie. On this one (Purple Hearts) we actually had a fantastic Technical Advisor from the U.S.M.C. (telephone) Colonel Fred Peck, for the L.A. Public Information Office. We also had a return appearance of Cavite’s most famous bar owner, Lee Ermey, in Purple Hearts, playing a Gunny Sargent.
    Well… Fast forward to 1984, and I get a call from Col. Peck. Stanley Kubrick has requested a USMC tech advisor. Fred says, “Rick you know as well as I do that Stanley Kubrick won’t even give out a script to the actors! So there is no way he will give one to me for USMC approval”… (which they would never have given anyway), “…and therefore I can’t help him. But you could, if you can find Lee Ermey…”
    So I tracked Lee down, and he said he’d be thrilled to be a tech advisor on “Full Metal Jacket”. I said I’d try to hook him up.
    Then I wrote to Mr. Kubrick, and said I have the perfect Tech Advisor for you. And I sang the praises of Lee. I explained he can not only make a bunch of pussy actors look like real marines… he can even act a little. Like he did for us in BOYS IN COMPANY C. (And PURPLE HEARTS.)
    …So, Lee headed off to England as a technical advisor. And sure enough, Mr. Kubrick saw the same potential Sidney Furie had originally discovered. Lee told me that whole Boot Camp section of the film was originally planned to be about 15 minutes. But Kubrick decided to expand it because he thought Lee was dynamite. (Correctly, of course. He was, after all, Kubrick!)
    And so… That is how Lee Ermey ended up in the Boot Camp sequence of “Full Metal Jacket”…

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    • First, I must thank you Mr. Natkin for taking the time to read my review. I also want to thank you for shedding light on what went on behind the scenes of these great movies, Boys in Company C and Metal Jacket. You have solved a mystery for me: I could never figure out how R. Lee Ermey ended up playing the drill sergeant in both movies (I thought it was a “curious” coincidence). I have a handful of Kubrick books and none of them mention you, Boys in Company C, or how Ermey was hired. P.S. I’ll try to find a copy of Purple Hearts — I didn’t realize that you and Mr. Furie made another war movie. Thanks again! Stay safe! 🙂

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