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February 19, 2006



I saw it years ago. It was an excellent film about Vietnam, from the signature helicopter arrival near the opening, the contrast between the technocratic and the boots on the ground prosecution of the war, and the impacts on the individuals, both personal, and as soldiers.

When England still had its global empire, not all that many years, ago, many astute observers noted that England itself was barely militarized. One never saw soldiers, and the military class was alien and barely tolerated in some areas of society. (Not the areas you think).

Go Tell The Spartans was a military movie, about war and soldiers, and what it means to be a member of the class that is authorized to actually wield the deadly weapons and kill people in the name of so many others. We may approve or disapprove of our military's actions, and during the Vietnam War, lots of people disapproved, and even many of those who ostensibly approvided wanted no part of the war.

Still, we have to understand our military, and the military life, particularly when we live in a democracy, and the fighting is not limited to the aristocracy.

Was it a great movie? Not really. It was a what I call an almost great military movie, like Dogs of War. It's a solid cut down from great, but it says what it is trying to say very well. Think about what it means to be a soldier, what one has to face, and the decisions one has to make, and then think about the movie again.

bob mcmanus

I will go to IMDB to refresh my memory, but I also have a dim positive recollection. There weren't that many movies made at that time about Vietnam, and it was one of the better ones. I think I liked it better than "Coming Home" or "Apocalypse Now" or "Platoon". Grand Ambitions bug me sometimes. Not as much as
Kubrick's movie.

In WWII, the same comparison might be "Battleground" and "A Walk in the Sun" vs "Attack". "Attack" is a great movie, but is it a great WWII movie?

ben wolfson

You know, maybe the movie wasn't so great, but what modern flick would dare take as its name an allusion the products of our shoddy education would never recognize, not even as an allusion, as something they might want to investigate and understand? Stupidity, as Kant so famously observed, is a failing not to be helped, but ignorance is one not to be excused. Today's otiose students are happy to have the answers fed to them (and their professors are more than happy to take the opportunity to indoctrinate them with the foulest sorts of filth), and any chance the merest hint of curiosity or wonder has of asserting itself is quickly drowned out by omnipresent video games, television, and rap "music".

We are becoming a nation of savages; as Tacitus once observed, "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consecteteur adipiscing elit, sed do euismod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua"—sadly I fear that eloquent lament is doomed to fall on uncomprehending and uncaring ears.


That thingee Ben Wolfson just did? Funny!

How he do that?

bob mcmanus

Ben Wolfson is self-refuting, and does his reputation a disservice.

1) Everyone in the world except me reads Frank Miller, and I bet the allusion is recognized more than he believes. If not, it will be after 300 is released next year. And I was the only one on the Unfogged thread to recognize the studliness of Gerard Butler, soon to become a household name with his portrayal of Leonidas.

2) It was Cicero, not Tacitus. And yes, I know what the quote really is, yet it is still Cicero.

3) Wolfson was indeed funny, but now I think there is some hidden humour in Holbo's post that I am missing in my ignorance and stupidity.

4) Lancaster is a great choice, and Flame and the Arrow and Crimson Pirate are highly recommended, tho I am guessing already on your shelf.


I'm still trying to get a secure angle on the Wolfson thing. But I might as well mention that, to my knowledge, no hidden humor lurks in the post. I was just curious what people thought of the flick. (When you are compulsively ironic, I guess you have a problem if you ever want to get a simple answer to a simple question. Socrates was probably forever going to Target and asking them 'how do I set up my DVD player?' And the clerk is like: 'Oh no, I'm not going to play that game.')

Somehow I was pretty built up for this film. Honestly I can't even say why. But the anti-war parable, although sound, seemed rather stock. And the production values weren't that good. It's got that classic 70's 'all the explosions look like fireworks' thing. I don't think I'm spoiled and demanding that every war movie look like the first 15 minutes of "Saving Private Ryan". But, well, the characters were a bit off the rack. Cynical major with a heart of gold, wacky black dude on the radio, sergeant who's more competent than the stupid officers but been driven mad by war is hell, sleazy corrupt South Vietnamese official.

One interesting element was this: the peasants they take in (who turn out to be Viet Cong) include an alleged 14 year old girl. There is much ribaldry among the troops about who is or isn't going to sleep with her. They made sure to have her played by someone who couldn't be a day under 23. Sort of a way to split the difference, I guess. Lancaster is great, but I felt he sort of just walked through this one.


"But, well, the characters were a bit off the rack."

It is my experience from military people that in the middle and lower ranks at least character is most often off the rack. It's as if people assume one of a limited number of roles expected of them.

Tyrone Slothrop

I've never seen the movie, but I used to date a woman whose father wrote the book upon which the movie was based, and since I rarely get the chance to work that into my conversations on the interweb, this seems like a good place to do it.

Gary Farber

"I was under the impression it was some sort of classic war movie. But it didn't seem all that, like, good. Do you have an opinion?"

I recall it as a very minor Vietnam War film, albeit granted it was early in the genre. I don't recall ever seeing references to it as much more, though it's entirely possible, even likely, that my own view of it as minor and largely deletable from the genre without significant loss colors and filters my memories of others who thought better of it.

Everything you say in your 09:57 PM is how I remember the film, John.

For non-spectacular, non-Kubrick, non-Coppola, non-Stone, grunt-eye-view Vietnam War movies, I prefer the more recent Hamburger Hill and We Were Soldiers, though neither breaks the boundaries of the stock genre, either; but the execution of both was good, I thought. I'm prejudiced about HH, though, since I first read it in script form and worked on getting the not-quite-novelization produced. Terrific casting, though, of the then unknowns Dylan McDermott, Michael Boatman, Steven Weber, Courtney B. Vance, Don Cheadle, and others. It was the first feature film for all of them except Weber and Cheadle, and it was one of the first three or so for them; nobody's heard of any of the other films they were in before that one.

Not a big film for teh women actors, though.

Spartans was almost Craig Wasson's first film, too, except that he was also in The Boys In Company C, a near simultaneous also mediocre early 'Nam film.

Spartans also gave us, I think, the first feature role for Marc Singer. Why, we might never have had the same Beastmaster if not for that! (If only.) Also an early role for the fine David Clennon.

It's possible I wouldn't think Spartans was fairly forgettable if I remembered it more clearly.

phat willy

Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, here in honer of their laws here we lie. appears on a memorial in Greece to three hundred spartans who died in battle 400 years before the birth of Christ. They held out to a much larger Persian force before being betrayed. A good reference to the brave men who fought in Vietnam


But a much better epitaph is on the nearby memorial to Leonidas, which simply reads "Dolon laube." This was his reply to the Persian request that his troops should lay down their weapons: "Come and get them." Combines the Spartan virtues of courage, brevity and wit.

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