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"The Boys in Company C" review: Furie's Vietnam flick fails to impress

The Boys in Company C


“The Boys in Company C” (1978)

Ermey, who gained fame as Gunny Hartman in "Full Metal Jacket," is a Vietnam War veteran.
Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR

Directed by Sidney J. Furie

Written by Rick Nantkin and Sidney J. Furie

Starring: Andrew Stevens, R. Lee Ermey, Stan Shaw, Craig Wasson, Michael Lembeck, James Whitmore, Jr., James Canning

Pvt. Vinnie Fazio: What's oh-three-hundred?

SSgt. Loyce: Oh-three-hundred... basic infantryman.

Pvt. Vinnie Fazio: Does that mean Vietnam?

SSgt. Loyce: Goddamn right it means Vietnam, numb nuts. Goddamnit, oh-three-hundred is basic infantryman. Oh-three-hundred is the United States Marine Corps!

Nine years before Orion Pictures released Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning “Platoon,” Columbia Pictures gave movie viewers “The Boys in Company C.”

By 1978, Hollywood had not made too many combat-focused dramas set during the Vietnam War. Most movies that dealt with America’s lost crusade in Southeast Asia focused on angry, bitter, or traumatized veterans. The cliché of the crazy, violence-prone Vietnam vet, such as the characters played by Bruce Dern in “Black Sunday” (1977) and “Coming Home” (1978) became the cinematic norm.

With the exception of “The Green Berets” (1968) and “The Boys in Company C,” the only major film that showcased Vietnam War combat before “Platoon” was Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.”

Co-written by director Sidney J. Furie (“Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”) and Rick Nantkin (“Purple Hearts”), “The Boys in Company C” follows five young Marines (Stan Shaw, Andrew Stevens, James Canning, Michael Lembeck and Craig Wasson) from basic training to their combat tour in Vietnam circa 1967-68.

This style of narrative was the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s 1987 “Full Metal Jacket”; R. Lee Ermey, who plays “The Boys in Company C’s” Sergeant Loyce, would co-star as Gunny Hartman in Kubrick’s better-known Vietnam War movie.

“The Boys in Company C’s” heroes, of course, are the five titular “boys” who bond in boot camp. Once they are qualified 0300s (basic infantrymen), find themselves in the hellish jungles of Vietnam, the Marines will need that bond in order to survive.

Once they’re in the combat zone, they find that the bad guys aren’t the North Vietnamese or the Vietcong. Instead, the real enemies are corrupt South Vietnamese officials and American officers who are mainly interested in body counts.

Like many of Furie’s films, “The Boys in Company C” is not an example of filmmaking at its best. Its take on the war and the Marines is obviously liberal; none of the five “boys” seem to take the Marines’ ethos to heart, and most of the officers they serve under are loutish martinets. Their Army of the Republic of Vietmam (ARVN) allies are more concerned with smuggling drugs rather than fighting their communist cousins from the North.

And in a clumsy homage to Robert Altman’s “M*A*S*H”, the film pits the Marines against a squad of ARVN soldiers. Not in battle, mind, but in a soccer game that the five Marines see as their ticket out of the fighting.

My Take: Though Furie has been making movies since 1959, only a handful (including “Lady Sings the Blues”) can be considered memorable. Most of his filmography consists of fare like 1986’s “Iron Eagle” and 1987’s “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace”, which are two of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

Though Furie’s liberal world-view is hardly unique as far as Vietnam War movies are concerned, “The Boys in Company C” suffers from an incomprehensible script and thematic schizophrenia. We’re never given any believable background about the war for the story to have any credibility, and the “M*A*S*H”-like humor feels phony. The screenwriters apparently did not care enough about their subject to research the Marine Corps’ ethos and traditions, and the “five boys against the Big Green Machine” theme is just as annoying as John Wayne’s pro-war stance in 1968’s “The Green Berets.”

DVD Specifications

Product Details

Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC, Anamorphic
Subtitles: English
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Henstooth Video
DVD Release Date: September 18, 2012
Run Time: 126 minutes

Blu-ray Specifications

Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen

Language: English
Subtitles: English
Region: Region A/1
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Number of discs: 1
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Henstooth Video
DVD Release Date: January 17, 2012

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