Samuel Fuller (1912-1997) is best known for his three war films: Steel Helmet (1951), one of the first Hollywood movies about the Korean War; China Gate (1957), one of the first dealing with the French war in Indochina; and The Big Red One (1980), a semi-autobiographical World War II pic. Fuller served as an infantryman in North Africa and Europe with the First Infantry Division in the war.
Fuller was known for his low budget films and for including plenty of graphic violence in his war movies. That’s the case in China Gate, which he produced, wrote, and directed, and which recently was released in Blu-ray by Olive Films in DVD.
Set in northern Vietnam in 1954, the decidedly anti-communist movie tells the story of a Eurasian bar girl played by the heavily made-up Angie Dickinson (below) and her quest to get her half American son out of the country as the French are about to be defeated. To do so, she volunteers to lead a mission of French Legionairres (which includes her the father of her son who disavowed him because of his Asian features) to the China Gate after a French officer tells her that once they get there, he can smuggle the boy out of Vietnam.
“Passionately, urgently anti-racist,” New York Times critic Dave Kehr wrote, “the film features Caucasian actors in its two most prominent Asian roles. Appearing with Ms. Dickinson is Lee Van Cleef as a cruel and cynical Viet Minh officer.”
Posted on April 18th 2013 in Feature Films, On DVD
The Siege of Firebase Gloria, a low-budget Vietnam War combat movie that came out early in 1989, has just been released in DVD in the MGM Limited Edition Collection series. The movie stars Lee Ermey as a Marine Sergeant Major in Vietnam who takes command of a remote firebase just before the 1968 Tet Offensive.
There’s plenty of battle action in this little-seen movie, including a good bit of hand-to-hand combat. Ermey holds to his Marine Drill Instructor persona as a hard-bitten NCO who sneers at the enemy and goads his men into an effective fighting force against great odds. Parts of the mayhem are played to the tune of the great rock song “Gloria” sung by Van Morrison and the group, Them.
Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, a Brit who’s know for mainly for his TV and straight-to-DVD work, the movie was produced by an Australian company, and was shot in the Philippines. It was not widely released in this country, and received virtually no reviews. The movie did get a lot of play in Australia.
Lee Ermey in the movie
Posted on April 25th 2012 in Feature Films, On DVD
Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic 1979 film Apocalypse Now has been available over the years on all the various home video formats–as has Coppola’s 2001 Apocalypse Now Redux (which added two long scenes and other stuff) and the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (in which Eleanor Coppola, the director’s wife, shined mostly unflattering light on the extreme craziness involved in putting that film together).
Lionsgate has just released two new Blu-ray versions, a two-disc and three-disc “Full Disclosure Edition.” Both contain both films, along with nine-plus hours of extras, including new interviews with the actors and filmmakers. The three-disk set includes Hearts of Darkness and with even more extra features such as audio commentary by Mr. and Mrs. Coppola.
The DVD package also includes a 48-page booklet containing previously unpublished behind-the-scenes photos, Coppola’s notes, letters from the set and memos to the crew.
The films are presented in the latest and fullest high definition formatted for widescreen with the same theatrical aspect ratios as the movies themselves, along with new, enhanced master audio. You can watch the trailer on YouTube.
Posted on October 6th 2010 in Feature Films, On DVD