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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tragic prelude to American involvement in the Vietnam War
"Go Tell the Spartans" was the best film released in 1978 about the Vietnam War, which was the same year as both "Coming Home" and "The Deer Hunter." This is because those other films were less about the actual war than they were about relationships and the code of the warrior.
Based on Daniel Ford's novel "Incident at Muc Wa," the strength of this film is Wendell...
Published on 21 July 2004 by Amazon Customer

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent wide screen copy
An unusual film in that it is not all guts & glory & in places pokes fun at the US involvement in Viet Nam.
A very good wide screen copy & as always with Burt Lancaster a charisma uneaqualed in todays films
Published on 23 Sep 2009 by Andy B


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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tragic prelude to American involvement in the Vietnam War, 21 July 2004
By 
Amazon Customer (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
"Go Tell the Spartans" was the best film released in 1978 about the Vietnam War, which was the same year as both "Coming Home" and "The Deer Hunter." This is because those other films were less about the actual war than they were about relationships and the code of the warrior.
Based on Daniel Ford's novel "Incident at Muc Wa," the strength of this film is Wendell Mayes" brilliant script, which was nominated for a SAG Award. The film features one of Burt Lancaster's best performances as Major Asa Barker, a military adviser who knows in 1964 there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Lancaster heads a group of American military advisors in the time before Johnson made the massive commitment of troops to the war, who see the parallels between what is about to happen and the downfall of the French a decade earlier, and who know there is nothing they can do to stop their country from making a terrible mistake.
Obviously our reading of this film is colored by what we already knew in 1978 and what we take for granted now: the Vietnam War was a fiasco of epic proportions. Craig Wasson has the other main role as Corporal Courcey while other recognizable members in the cast are Marc Singer as Captain Olivetti, David Clennon as Lt. Finley Wattsberg, Dolph Sweet as General Harnitz and Clyde Kusatsu as Colonel Minh. Oh, and I have to make special mention of Dennis Howard, who plays Corporal Abraham Lincoln.
Ultimately, "Go Tell The Spartans" does not portray what it was like for grunts during the Vietnam War--you can watch "Platoon" or even "Forrest Gump" to get a much better idea of that experience than you will here--but this film does deal with the greater tragedy of the war than any other film I have seen, even if it takes place before we really got involved waist deep in the Big Muddy.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Burt Lancaster at his best, 22 Jan 2011
By 
fastreader (at danford dot net) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Go Tell The Spartans [DVD] (DVD)
I wrote the underlying book, so perhaps it's brash of me to review the film, but some background might be useful. The movie script was shopped around Hollywood for years, with most of the 1960s leading men playing Major Barker at one time or another, but nobody wanted to touch a Vietnam War movie while the war was going on. There was also a problem in that the US Army wouldn't cooperate in the project, meaning they couldn't borrow military equipment. (That's why you'll see a Marine Corps helicopter in one scene: the Sikorsky was available cheap.) Finally it was financed with Burt Lancaster in the star role, by selling $10,000 interests to doctors and lawyers who wanted to play at being movie angels and to drink coffee in the canteen with a Hollywood legend.

It was filmed along a river in Santa Barbara, California, with Los Angeles Vietnamese refugees hired as extras. Even so, they ran out of money, and Mr Lancaster not only gave up his fee but advanced money of his own to finish the job. I think he's great in the role, though he's much too old to be a US Army major. "Spartans" is one of several interesting films he made toward the end of his career, including "Castle Keep" and "1912"--movies in which he is making a personal statement more than he is trying to make money or burnish his reputation. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

(Oh, and the book is Incident at Muc Wa, available also for the Kindle e-book reader.)
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fighting endemic corruption more than the enemy ..., 15 Dec 2003
By 
MarmiteMan (Norwich, England) - See all my reviews
Adapted from Daniel Ford's novel 'Incident at Muc-Wa,' GO TELL THE SPARTANS is a fairly low-key morality tale set in 1964 (the iconic M-16 assault-rifle had not been introduced in South-east Asia yet), before the USA's main era of active military embroilment in Vietnam (1965-71). Major Asa Barker (Burt Lancaster) is a cynical veteran soldier sent as part of the US Mission's task to equip and train the Army of the Republic of (South) Vietnam (ARVN, pronounced 'Arvin' - a South-Vietnamese soldier was invariably termed 'Marvin the Arvin'). He is beset with doubts about his mission and its value: of the ARVN's ability to combat the Viet-Cong, as well as of the Republic's willingness to fight the growing Communist threat. The title refers to the following: most of the film's action takes place near a French military cemetery, above which is the inscription (in French) "Oh stranger, go tell the Spartans that we lie here, obedient to their word" - Simonides' epitaph to Leonidas' 300 Spartans who held-off the enormous Persian host at Thermopylae (480 BC).
A comprehensive deconstruction of the causes of the Vietnam War and the USA's involvement in it is more the province of serious academic study and Government-commissioned report-writing. And there have been many, very many of these since 1975. But perhaps a few key points might suffice to the casual reader and viewer of Vietnam War films.
First and foremost, the Republic of South-Vietnam was never a unified country, as the West would define 'a unified country.' As with most post-colonial nations, their national boundaries were an administrative technicality imposed on the region(s) by the former colonial powers, in Vietnam's case France. Ethnic divisions were uniform. The majority Viets stuck to the coastal lowlands and some of the river valleys, along with the sizeable Cham and Khmer minorities throughout the south. Then there were many ethnic minorities, collectively termed Montagnards (mountain peoples) by the French - Bru, Katu, Sedang, Bahnar, Jarai, Rhade, Muong, Stieng, etc. - and ne'er the twain did meet. The educated (Bhuddist and Catholicized) Viets were contemptuous of the savage Montagnards, and the (Bhuddist and anamist) Montagnards hated the arrogant and cruel Viets. The ruling Viets were insensitive to the Montagnards, either driving them into the arms of the Viet-Cong or turning them into very willing recruits of the US Special Forces training programmes. Regular ARVN and Montagnard 'Ruff-Puffs' (RF/PF = Regional Forces/Popular Forces organized and equipped by US Special Forces for regional/local self-defence) rarely ever co-operated in military operations.
The 'educated' and semi-Westernized Viets were The Problem. Top of the hierarchy (Roman Catholics all) was the French-installed but weak-willed and self-seeking 'Emperor' Bao Dai, until toppled in a brazenly rigged referendum by his premier, Ngo Dinh Diem in 1955. From then on President Diem and his cronies (Diem appointed his brothers to key government positions; his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu's wife, Madame Nhu, was South-Vietnam's 'First Lady') became increasingly autocratic - alienating further both Montagnards and Bhuddist Viets alike. Following open taunts from Madame Nhu and heavy-handed police actions against Bhuddist demonstrators (who felt that Catholic Diem's policies were increasingly discriminating against Bhuddist traditions), young Bhuddist bonzes (priests), in accordance with an ancient tradition, took to publicly dousing themselves in petrol and burning themselves to death whilst their co-religionists prevented fire-engines or ambulances from approaching. Such images caught by Western television crews were genuinely horrifying.
Meanwhile, the ARVN was notionally built-up with American arms and equipment by the US Mission (military advisors, later on MACV), but in the field showed a remarkable lack of aggression. In an action at Ap Bac (Plain of Reeds, NW of Saigon, 2 January, 1963) a numerically superior ARVN regiment, with ample air and artillery support, was ignominiously repulsed by a Viet Cong battalion of ca. 400 men. By 1 November, 1963 even senior ARVN generals were fed-up with Diem's autocracy, which was by then also alienating American aid, and instigated a coup (although the CIA may have aided the ARVN generals, the Kennedy administration opted for 'benign non-involvement'); Diem and Nhu 'died mysterously' during arrest the following day.
This got rid of autocracy but not of corruption. This was so endemic throughout the social strata - military and civil - of the Viets that it was incomprehensible to the Americans. The French belatedly understood it, but the Americans never did. Examples: ARVN officers above the rank of captain were reluctant to take part in field operations, condidering it beneath their dignity and status; junior ARVN officers receiving the ration of rice or other foodstuffs and/or ammunition for their troops, would often sell it, at public auction, to the highest bidder - which often included the Viet-Cong.
And another example is the key moment of GO TELL THE SPARTANS. Major Barker realizes that the only way to get the South Vietnamese provincial officer to use his artillery shells is to bribe the man to do so ... whilst being aware that even after accepting the bribe, the provincial officer still might not actually fire his artillery in support of Barker's military action, preferring to save the shells, perhaps for sale to the highest bidder later ... It was this basic but fundamental appreciation of South Vietnam's situation, as submitted in several fact-finding mission reports (having to cajole, bribe, or withhold suplies/subsidies from Viet civil and military officials alike to actually Get Things Done), that prompted the larger US military involvement in 1965. All that was needed was some kind of 'provocation.' The Tonkin Incident in August 1964 provided it.
And the rest became an unfortunate chapter in America's history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and Absorbing, 11 Feb 2011
This review is from: Go Tell The Spartans [DVD] (DVD)
"Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their
laws, we lie. "
Simonides.

(The following review contains plot spoilers)

This film, which had been scheduled to complete in 31 days, was shot outside LA, with an agreed budget of $ 1.5 million. The excellent script, by Wendell Mayes, was based on Daniel Ford's novel " Incident at Muc Wa ". The script itself had been doing the rounds since 1972 when the idea of a movie, with William Holden in the starring role of Major Asa Barker, stalled due to difficulties in raising the estimated $7 million finance.

Five years later, the director, Ted Post (Hang'em High 1968, Magnum Force 1973,) sent the script to sixty -five years old Lancaster, who, liking it greatly, immediately replied " This this a ....... Brilliant script. Don't let anybody touch it. I'm coming up and I'm going to do it with you." Lancaster's enthusiasm for the Movie was so great that not only did he agree to start shooting, while his knee injury (suffered during a golfing accident during the filming of John Frankenheimer's: The Train 1964,) was still bothering him, and thus forcing him to limp during the film, but also agreed to pay out $ 150,000 of his own money, in the last few days of the shoot, when the producer, according to Post, failed to honour his commitments.

Major Asa Barker (Burt Lancaster) a very capable officer, who has lost any likelihood of progression to a more senior rank on account of a personal indiscretion, was made a commanding officer of a poorly- manned outpost in rural South Vietnam. He knows that defending his command, with his available troops, consisting of a few American soldiers and a local militia of South Vietnamese, is hopeless but must obey General Harnitz' (Dolph Sweet) orders. Acting on orders, he sends out a detachment of troops into the jungle to reoccupy the former French base of Muc Wa. The tiny makeshift contingent succeeds initially in overcoming a small North Vietnamese ambush, but is soon overrun by the Vietcong. The first soldier killed is the outpost commander Lt. Hamilton (Joe Unger.) His next in command, Sergeant Oleonowski (Jonathan Goldsmith,) who is suffering battle fatigue and trauma, commits suicide. Major Barker (Lancaster) travels to the scene in Muc Wa and, while managing to relieve surviving US soldiers, chooses to stay behind with the idealist soldier Cpl. Courcey (Craig Wasson), who refuses to abandon the South Vietnamese militia to their fate. In the ensuing battle, every one, except Courcey, is killed. Courcey, having lost his idealism and dreams, is shown in the final frame, half- addressing an old Vietcong sniper he had seen earlier, uttering the last sentence in the narrative: " I'm goin' home, Charlie," and the year "1964" appears on the screen.

This marvellous film, thought by Stanley Kaufman of The New Republic, to be "The best film I have seen about the Vietnam War, " only managed to gross $3 million at the box office.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Review of the DVD, "Go tell the spartans"., 20 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Go Tell The Spartans [DVD] (DVD)
I truly enjoy a good war film with plenty of action and this certainly didn't disappoint I would certainly recommend this DVD.to anyone.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Early American involvement in Vietnam, 26 April 2010
This review is from: Go Tell The Spartans [DVD] (DVD)
An antidote to John Waynes 'Green Berets'. Fashionably anti-war message but well made with a decent cast. Worth a look if it's a fiver or less
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3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent wide screen copy, 23 Sep 2009
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This review is from: Go Tell The Spartans [DVD] (DVD)
An unusual film in that it is not all guts & glory & in places pokes fun at the US involvement in Viet Nam.
A very good wide screen copy & as always with Burt Lancaster a charisma uneaqualed in todays films
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5.0 out of 5 stars War, 12 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Go Tell The Spartans [DVD] (DVD)
This is a very good film and story at the start of the conflict. Good solid stars. A very good film for any collection.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This is a movie that you want to keep on ..., 1 Oct 2014
By 
Charles Hall (Hadleigh, Essex) - See all my reviews
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This is a movie that you want to keep on the shelf and watch more than once. Well acted throughout.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 22 Dec 2014
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This review is from: Go Tell The Spartans [DVD] (DVD)
Excellent film. Burt Lancaster fills the role admirably.
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Go Tell The Spartans [DVD]
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