Thursday, September 27, 2012

Go Tell the Spartans: Surrealistic Elements

Let Ted Post's Go Tell the Spartans marinate a little and what new observations develop? Surrealistic bits rise to the top, for one thing. Take the opium-addled character, Corporal Abraham Lincoln (played by Dennis Howard). At one point in the film, he scrambles up the wooden watchtower at Muc Wa and regales the garrison with his own special version of presidential speechmaking, until a mortar round blows him off course.
Then there's the matter of the "river" and related white crosses. When the mixed Vietnamese and American detachment first arrives at the old French outpost at Muc Wa, we see them crossing a stream henceforth referred to as a "river." As they move equipment in and take charge of the place, one can see white crosses on the banks and even in the water, or so it seems. Are they real? No one in the film seems to notice; instead, two American soldiers discuss the formal French cemetery, its headboard inscribed with a French translation of a Greek memorial to the 300 Spartans killed at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. At Muc Wa when the 1964 troops arrive, there are 302 marked graves in the cemetery. Do these include the ones on the riverbank?  
On right: Sergeant Oleonowski (Jonathan Goldsmith) -- aka "The Most Interesting Man in the World!" Here, he's got on French-derived Tigerstripe camouflage and hand grenades ready to be thrown. See Dos Equis beer ads for more.             

Above: The Vietnamese Girl (aka Butterfly) and behind her, the Old Man with Ho Chi Minh beard. On the far right, "Cowboy." Each of these three Vietnamese characters has an important role to play, with twists along the way.  

One-eyed Jack -- actually referred to as "one-eyed Charlie." Is he real? Seems to be a veteran of the Viet Minh days, First Indochina War, survivor of the 1953 fighting at Muc Wa. Apparently he is a sort of wraith-like sentinel left to keep his one good eye on the post. In any case, he's there early and he's there late and he seems to be the one who leaves a message in the French cemetery that reads, more or less, "Yankee Go Home!"

Today's Rune: Journey.   


WAS said...

This is fascinating, Erik, that you find so much intrguing meaning and imagery in a picture that I've literally never heard of (and I'm no slouch when it comes to movies of the 70's, the greatest decade for American film). Looks like you tapped into an unexploded gold mine.

jodi said...

Erik, an uncle that I am very close to, served in Nam and I am fascinated by all things regarding. I would be intereseted in this one.

Charles Gramlich said...

Some of the best books I've read about war, and movies I've seen, have that surrealistic edge to them. I tried to capture that in Cold in the Light. It always seemed to me, without knowing first hand, of course, that there would be those elements in war.