Before Rolling Thunder, Coming Home, Deer Hunter and a little flick by the name of Apocalypse Now, this film popped up in a few select theatres as a harbinger of post-traumatic things to come. Since it was released in 1972, and probably shot in '71, one can assume the filmmakers and the novel upon which it was based, might've been influenced by the accounts told by John Kerry and other anti-war vets during the Winter Soldier testimonies.
What we get here is a small indie film that's not very polished, but has some honest moments that don't try to gloss over the oft-told story of a vet's return home with a lot of intellectual dissection. Michael Moriarty, in his introductory role, is Trubie, a reluctant armed services lad who seems to have fought the Viet Cong while fighting against his dad's starch-filled authoritarianism in his psyche. He returns home to the Bay Area of Northern California with his dim-witted soldier pal, William Devane.
Now, this is not exactly Bill Devane's shining moment on-screen, but he does irritatingly capture the obnoxiousness and immaturity many barely-grown soldiers possessed when they were called up to kill people. He laughs heartily at Road Runner cartoons and always lets his mouth overrule whatever common sense his brain might be trying to telegraph to others. Needless to say, he gets the crap beaten out of him several times in the picture.
And those beatings are served up by spring-taut Mitchell Ryan, a no-nonsense rapist and gung-ho sergeant, eager to see the weak-minded and the meek crushed under his indomitable will. Presumably, the War amplified these tendencies, and when he hooks up with Moriarty and Devane to go to Moriarty's Old Man's Place (the old man being Arthur Kennedy), well, he certainly brings the gunpowder to the flame.
The atrocities of the Vietnam War are conveyed through Moriarty's scarred character, when he relates how he viciously gunned down a Vietnamese woman and proceeded to fill her body with an entire magazine of ammo. Mind you, this is several years before this stuff was routinely discussed on screen.
"My Old Man's Place" is a comfortable character piece, most of it taking place at the dad's ramshackle farm in vineyard country. Since it's a '70s movie, don't expect sunshine and bunnies hopping in a field by the last reel. Overall, a noteworthy and extremely overlooked actors' ensemble gem from the best decade of films.
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