The Grey Chronicles


War Freak!

That’s what my wife calls me some days; not every day, though. Especially now that I am under work, i.e., with the steel plant on shutdown, and I am only scheduled to work with for three days during each pay period, I have now the “luxury” to watch all the previously purchased war videos, single or collection.

Band of Brothers

With my shifting work schedule for NSC, when the Band of Brothers was shown on HBO via cable, I was fortunate to see just some of the episodes. Augmented by a cursory visit on HBO’s web site for series and episode guides, I was able to follow the storyline even though I missed most of the featured episodes. Before the whole series ended, a friend gave me the opportunity to read the book by Stephen Ambrose of the same title. Reading the book was very enlightening especially for some of the scenes shown in each episode. Book to film, as oftentimes the case, is a lost-in-translation scenario.

Previously, I bought a complete set of Band of Brothers on VCD, then when it became available—even I don’t really understand myself sometimes—but I also bought another copy of the Band of Brothers on DVD-format. In the tenth episode: We Stand Alone Together, it tells Easy Company’s remarkable story in their own words. Featuring recent interviews with real-life company members, whose deeds are dramatized in Band of Brothers combined with rare and archival photographs and film footage, these are the voices and the lives of the men dramatically portrayed in the screen. Through it all, each veteran recalls that his reliance on his brothers-in-arms is the reason any of them made it back alive. For their repeated acts of courage and bravery, the entire division, as well as individual soldiers, earned multiple citations, including the Purple Heart, Silver Star, Bronze Star and Distinguished Service Cross. Their stories resonate with the reality of their experience.

The DVD format offered a glimpse on the behind-the-scenes of making the episodes. Interviews with the executive producers, Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg, and the author of the book, Stephen Ambrose, provided a much more complete picture than what HBO offered on television.

Combat!Another war epic Combat! (1962) featuring Lt. Gil Hanley [Rick Jason] and Sgt. Vince Saunders [Vic Morrow]. This was a 30-minute TV-series shown during my primary grades, back when my family did not even have our own TV set then. I had to peep through window grills for our neighbor’s television screen while elbowing other neighborhood kids just to see the action. Fortunately, a bootleg[?] DVD copy was recently released offering 28 original episodes of the series. I could not pass up the chance to see it, maybe with the belief of at least revisiting my childhood? Compared to then, now I could see the action, without me elbowing others kids just for a vantage view, within the confines of my very own living room on a large-screen colored television.

Tour of Duty Season IWhile I was in college, my father and I watched another war-series, Tour of Duty (1987), featuring Terence Knox, Stephen Caffrey, Tony Becker, Stan Foster, Ramon Franco and Miquel A. Nuñez, Jr. of Bravo Company fought battles in the Vietnam War. The five-disc DVD set captured even the original soundtrack plus extreme combat action and intense human drama focusing on issues unique to the Vietnam era: the devastating effects of chemical warfare, the massacre of Vietnamese civilians, the growing problem of heroin addiction; and the difficulties the soldiers faced returning home to a country bitterly divided by war. For me, Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989), Martin Scorsese’s Apocalypse Now! (1979) and its 2004 reissue, Apocalypse Now! Redux and even Joel Schumacher’s Tigerland combined pales in comparison to the impact, at least in terms of issues tackled, in the Tour of Duty.

Earlier I also chanced upon an obscure, at least unknown in this part of the world, two-disc 14-episode DVD, Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s War, featuring Sean Bean as Lt. Richard Sharpe. It follows the story of a soldier promoted from the ranks to an officer in Sir Arthur Wellington-led war against the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1809. Sharpe transformed a rag-tag Rifles men into a fighting unit in pursuit of various campaigns, particularly Talavera and Badajoz, which earned him a rank of Major until Wellington finally defeated Napoleon in Waterloo. In the last episode, Waterloo, it portrayed a young Prince William (Paul Bettany) never knowing when to form a line or a square against a cavalry.

Generation KillIn Iain Softley’s Generation Kill, based on the award-winning book by Evan Wright, who originally reported the story in a series of articles for Rolling Stones, follow the highly trained Marines of the First Recon Battalion through the first 40 days of the Iraq war. The seven-part miniseries portrays the true story of the young Marines’ experience at the tip of the American invasion, as they contend with equipment shortages, incompetent commanding officers, ever involving rules of engagement and an unclear strategy. The series featured Kellan Lutz, James Ransone and Stark Sands with Sgt. Rudy Reyes, a First Recon Marine, portraying himself. The DVD also included K-PAX featuring never-before-seen behind-the-scenes footage with cast and crew interviews. Jarhead (2005) is definitely not in its league, even with Jake Gyllenhall, Peter Sarsgaard, Chris Cooper and Jamie Foxx acting.


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  1. Rey,
    Band of Brothers made my 2 boys (hubby and son) closer, with burned popcorn on the side. They say it is one of the best war movies they have seen. Me, I would have been happy with a bootleg copy of “Combat” – not so much for the story – but more for the memories like you had –watching it on a neighbor’s TV – over wooden jalousy(sp?) windows. ;)

    Comment by emarene — 2009.May.1 @ 10:49 | Reply

    • I forgot to mention that “Black Hawk Down” became sort of a bonding movie with my eldest son; and “Behind Enemy Lines” was for my second son! Now all of us [from grandfather, father to sons] are war freak, at least in the eyes of my wife! LOL!

      Comment by reyadel — 2009.May.7 @ 19:35 | Reply

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