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The Deer Hunter (1978)

An in-depth examination of the ways in which the U.S. Vietnam War impacts and disrupts the lives of people in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania.

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Top Rated Movies #162 | Won 5 Oscars. Another 17 wins & 26 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Chuck Aspegren ...
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Pierre Segui ...
Mady Kaplan ...
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Mary Ann Haenel ...
Richard Kuss ...
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Storyline

Michael, Steven and Nick are young factory workers from Pennsylvania who enlist into the Army to fight in Vietnam. Before they go, Steven marries the pregnant Angela, and their wedding party also serves as the men's farewell party. After some time and many horrors, the three friends fall in the hands of the Vietcong and are brought to a prison camp in which they are forced to play Russian roulette against each other. Michael makes it possible for them to escape, but they soon get separated again. Written by Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

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Winner of 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture 1978 See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

23 February 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Man Who Came to Play  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs

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Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The Viet Cong Russian roulette scenes were shot in real circumstances, with real rats and mosquitoes, as the three principals were tied up in bamboo cages erected along the River Kwai. See more »

Goofs

Christopher Walken's character's Russian name Nikanor is misspelled as Nikonar in the movie. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Michael: Hey, watch out, Axel. We'll be calling him old fireballs after tonight.
Axel: Fuckin' A.
Michael: Not bad.
See more »

Crazy Credits

We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of our Thai crew in the production of "The Deer Hunter" See more »

Connections

Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Space Travellers (1992) See more »

Soundtracks

Foxy Lady
(uncredited)
Written and Performed by Jimi Hendrix
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
to call it masterpiece is to state the obvious
15 December 2006 | by See all my reviews

Of the first two American films about the Vietnam war with a priceless artistic weight, "the Deer Hunter" wins hands down over "Apocalypse Now" (1979) although Francis Ford Coppola's work is very potent too.

But would it be judicious to pigeonhole Michael Cimino's work in the category of the war movie? Unlike Coppola's visual nightmare, only the central part takes place in Vietnam and the filmmaker barely shoots one fight sequence before Mike (Robert De Niro), Nick (Christopher Walken) and Stevie (John Savage) are prisoners of the enemy and are forced to play Russian roulette in the notorious unbearable scene. Actually "the Deer Hunter" is a film straddling two movie genres: the war movie and the social drama. Rather than shooting a political film, Cimino chose to represent us the deadly impact this nightmarish war had on an American community whose hopes and values disappeared.

Dividing his work in three parts: before, during, after and thanks to symbolical images, scenes or even eloquent details, Cimino used and honed his own cinematographic language to set out his stalls and the result can only command respect and admiration. Each sequence could be separately taken and carefully studied like the representation of the humdrum but reassuring living standards of the blue-collars with their everyday rituals (Cimino's obsession with rites and customs) revolving around factory, bar, friends and hunting (you have to admire the startling contrast between the dirty little town and the gorgeous, wild landscapes). Archetypal sequences that epitomize life and it reaches its height in the famous, unusually long wedding sequence. Perhaps Cimino wanted to stretch this sequence to make his characters take advantage of this rapture moment. But even during this state of bliss that lives inside them, the imminent tragedy ominously lurks: Mike and Nick gently laugh at an officer who remains dumb and when Stevie and his wife have to drink in a dish, some drops fall on her wedding dress. This sequence also epitomizes the polar opposite to the sequence of the Russian roulette in which death is just around the corner. After the war when Mike comes back to the small town, he's completely altered. Before, a devotee of deer hunting; after his traumatizing experience, he can't kill one. He's unable to talk about about what he went through and for his sidekicks, the experience of a war like this one is incomprehensible. Cimino eschews classical, predictable storytelling and hasn't recourse to psychological study. Nearly everything occurs in gestures and looks while the suggested has a meaty part in the dialogs. Besides, during the whole movie the topic of the war is barely mentioned by the characters. A lyrical whiff blows on the film, dovetailed by Cimino's astounding directing.

Cimino was consumed with ambition and went at it hammer and tongs to get his crew completely involved in his project. He was hard on his actors (Robert De Niro has often said that "the Deer Hunter" was his most grueling role to date) and was obsessed with absolute control. But the efforts weren't vain at all and gave a heartfelt, invaluable yardstick in war movie, even American cinema which reached the streets when America rose from its ruins. It was also the beginning of the end for Cimino, a filmmaker ahead of his time and on the fringe of cinematographic trends.


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