In my quest to discern the 100 Best War Movies, I am working my way through Military History Magazine’s 100 Greatest War Movies list. In the process, I am also looking at movies that could potentially crack the top 100. One of the ways for a movie to make the potential queue is for the movie to get 4 bones in “Video Hound’s War Movies” guide. One of those movies is “The Siege of Firebase Gloria”. This movie is highly regarded by many so you would think it would be pretty good. You would be wrong!
The movie is set during the Tet Offensive at an isolated base camp near a South Vietnamese village. The movie opens with a squad entering a village to find the villagers dead and in some cases mutilated. “This is insanity” says one. Sgt. Major Hafner (R. Lee Ermey – two years after “Full Metal Jacket”) responds with “This is effective”. There is plenty of action and gunfire from here. They walk up on a nest of VC and kill all of them (including women fighters) without suffering a loss. Surprise, the men at the base are an undisciplined bunch. Some are smoking joints, including the CO who is unconcerned with Hafner’s warning that something big is coming. That night Hafner and his buddy Di Nardo (Wings Hauser) frag the CO.
|Hafner is a bad-ass|
Hafner takes command and forces the men to improve the defenses. The base has an aid station with nurses which seems inaccurate for a forward base, but allows the modern day knights to protect the damsels in distress. Two Vietnamese girls come up flirtatiously, but Di Nardo opens fire and they blow up. Di Nardo is hard core and knows the enemy cannot be trusted.
The assault begins. The enemy tactic is frontal attacks in broad daylight on just one part of the perimeter. They do not use their overwhelming numbers to put pressure on one area and then break through elsewhere. (Do not watch this movie to learn any military tactics unless you plan to do the opposite of what both sides do.) They also cannot win even though the camp has no barbed wire around it, no claymores, and very shallow trenches. But if you are uninterested in accuracy, you will enjoy the mindless old school fighting and dying (throw your arms up in the air before you fall). Did you know that after repelling an assault, American soldiers would be sent out of the perimeter to shoot the wounded enemy? According to this movie, this happened. By the way, did you know that you could load an AK-47 banana clip into an M-16?
At night Hafner, Di Nardo, and Murphy disguise themselves as VC and sneak up on the VC camp. They set up claymores which do not have wires. They escape and then the mines go off apparently by magic.
Another daylight assault gives Di Nardo the chance to wield a machete. Gunships are called in to kill bunches because the regular killing is getting redundant. The helicopters go on to spray the enemy camp and they bring in supplies, but they do not evacuate the wounded or the nurses! Later, the enemy sneaks in and impales the heads of a gun crew without anyone noticing!
|Di Nardo is a psycho, but he's American|
In the obligatory final assault, the enemy break in and even reach the hospital where they treacherously kill all the nurses except the head nurse who guns down several with a machine gun. She’s normally a pacifist, but… Hafner goes hand-to-hand with the VC leader (naturally), but he gets away wounding Di Nardo in the process. The paralyzed Di Nardo begs Hafner to put him out of his misery. You can’t torture prisoners if you are paralyzed, thus there is no reason to live. I won’t give it away what Hafner does, but I will say I cheered. The VC have been repulsed for the last time. We win, but the VC leader rescues a little village boy that the Yankee dogs had mascoted. He lives happily ever after in Communism.
One of the things about reviewing movies is you will sometimes look back at a review and wonder what the hell you were thinking. I sincerely hope the critics who have positively reviewed this piece of crap have done their mea culpas. I am a big fan of Video Hound’s guide, but I just randomly opened up the book to find that it gave “A Bridge Too Far” 3 ½ bones which means Mike Mayo (the author) thinks SFG is better than BTF. Are you kidding, Mr. Mayo?
The movie is poorly acted (sorry, R. Lee), especially by the scene-chewing Hauser. The dialogue is cheesy. It is laughably inaccurate and unrealistic. It besmirches the American soldier by showing him committing atrocities. The only positive thing I can say is the enemy commander is portrayed in a sympathetic way. He is similar to the commander in “We Were Soldiers”. At the end, he realizes he was being used by the NVA so they could take over the war from the VC. They wanted him to suffer heavy losses. Unfortunately, the movie dilutes this message by having him make mindlessly bloody frontal assaults in broad daylight. There are at least twelve Vietnam War movies better than this. See them first.
Grade = F