The odd angry soldier
The Odd Angry Shot (Australian Film Commission, 1979) Vietnam war film reviewed by Everard Cunion in November 2021
We are treated (euphemism) to this lengthy card game. You just know it is leading up to something. That something is the first of several events that justifiably earned this movie its reputation for hard-hitting realism. It is not for the squeamish.
Incidentally, if you wonder, as I did, why some of these soldiers wear US Air Force Air Defense Command orange flight suits when off duty, I came across an example of such trade between the Australians and Americans elsewhere…
Or we get one of the Aussies to donate one of their hats or an old flying suit or something like that. The grunts like that stuff.
— A Lonely Kind of War, Forward Air Controller, Vietnam, Marshall Harrison, 1989
Some of the actors look young, yet they come across (to me anyway) like the highly trained soldiers they represent.
Contemporary photos of Australian air force Hueys I have seen all show them in US Army plain olive drab. I suspect the tan camouflage striping was added after the war. It was filmed ten years after the action it depicts.
The film portrays the Australians’ different approach to waging jungle war from that of the Americans. Based of the Australians’ experiences in Malaya, that approach produced no better results, at least according to what I have read.
The film has a slightly low budget feel compared to Platoon and Apocalypse Now, for example. We hear the sound of jets overhead on several occasions, but never see them. I feel that aviation enthusiasts are unlikely to be disappointed though. You see Huey gunships in action with the Australian distinctive twin M60 door guns each side as well as forward firing guns and rocket pods. (The Australians did not use the purpose-made Cobra gunship, as far as I am aware.) And a ‘dust-off’ medevac version. Even a CH-47 Chinook makes an appearance.
Harry, the section’s corporal, played by Graham Kennedy, seems to me so real a character that he imparts to the film something of the feel of a fly-on-the-wall documentary. His comment here unwittingly anticipates a double tragedy.
Related digression: Such horrors ‘back home’ were real. The girl friend of U.S. Army Cobra pilot Randy Zhan’s room mate was killed when she was thrown from a horse; as described in Zahn’s book Snake Pilot. (Indeed, the same happened to the sister of a work colleague of this author in the early 1980s.)
One of Harry’s comrades asks why they are fighting. Harry explains that they will all be sold out by the politicians at home after the communists win the war: “Everyone’s got to be somewhere. And you’re here. So get used to it.” (Admiral Tarrant says much the same to Lt. Harry Brubaker in The Bridges at Toko Ri. See my review.)
Coronation Street is (or was) a dismal British television series about people with northern accents in their homes, pubs, and shops. I am shocked to hear that it aired in Australia. I thought Australians had better things to do. Like flying F-111s or Hueys, and going walkabout with Jenny Agutter.
While their helicopters are American (operated by the Royal Australian Air Force) their weapons are a mix of American M16s and M60s, and L1A1 (FN) rifles as used by the British at that time. Unlike the Americans, the Australians did not wear steel helmets.
“Throw smoke, over.”
“Smoke thrown, over.”
“I see blue, over.”
“Blue is correct, over.”
Another review I came across points out that the digitization process changed some of the colors, which seems to be borne out by the purple smoke here, which according to the sound track was blue. Nonetheless, in general the color of the film on DVD seems perfectly acceptable to me.
Why not just call in an air strike? One of the soldiers asks that obvious question and the answer helps us viewers understand the action.
This rather non-Vietnam style bridge is the scene of the last action. Another of their comrades is killed here.
Thy are wearing base camp attire under their combat gear because they are called out in a hurry for this mission. Fortunately, none of them wore orange flight suits…
Barman: “Just back from Vietnam?”
Harry (before Bill has time to speak): “No.”
Saving pilot Durant: My review of the 2001 movie Blackhawk Down, with more helicopter action
The odd angry howitzer shell, my review of Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan, 2019, the other Australian Vietnam war film
Military history of Australia during the Vietnam War in Wikipedia