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Friendly Fire (1979)

Not Rated | | Drama, War | TV Movie 22 April 1979
When they try to learn how how their son died in Vietnam, the Mullens meet lies and evasion on all sides.



Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 6 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Peg Mullen
Gene Mullen
C.D. Bryan
Dennis Erdman ...
Michael E. Mullen
John Mullen
Fanny Spiess ...
Mary Mullen
Patricia Mullen
Michael Flanagan ...
Father Shimon
Hilly Hicks ...
Willis Huddleston
William Jordan ...
Col. Byron Schindler
Vernon Weddle ...
Col. Georgi
Jack Rader ...
Sgt. Fitzgerald
Robert Wahler ...
Alan Hulting
Leroy Hamilton


In March 1970, a U.S. Army officer arrived at the Iowa farm of Peg and Gene Mullen and informed them that their son Michael had been killed in Vietnam by "friendly fire." Their determined attempts to learn more about the circumstances of their son's death are the subject of this true account film. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The true story of the anguish and courage of one American family.


Drama | War


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

22 April 1979 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Bala Traiçoeira  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


On a second tour of duty in Vietnam in 1970, Lieutenant-Colonel Norman Schwarzkopf, 37, was heading the Americal Division's 1st. Battalion, 6th Infantry, 198th Brigade, when a section of its company became trapped in a mine field. Schwarzkopf was the first to arrive at the scene in a helicopter and oversaw the immediate evacuation of the wounded. The factual events that unfold in this telefeature are based on the book by C.D.B. Bryan. Schwarzkopf's pseudonymous character, Col. Byron Schindler, is portrayed here by William Jordan. See more »

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User Reviews

A surprising Carol Burnett takes on government red tape in superior Vietnam-era story.

A stunning, sobering look at the crumbling lives of a heartland farm couple who are forced to deal with governmental apathy and red tape to learn the truth behind their eldest son's death in Vietnam. Superbly written and directed with careful detail as to period and attitude, this already rich and poignant production is all the more enhanced by powerhouse performances.

Comedy icon Carol Burnett is handed THE dramatic role of her career and passes with flying colors. As flag-waving mother-turned-war activist Peg Mullen, Burnett buries her legendary elastic face and broad gestures with startling, subtle conviction and lends bitter truth to the quietly distraught but unstoppable Mullen, a woman on a mission who learns to fight back with every untruth she is being fed. The scene where she visits her son's casket at the funeral home will haunt any viewer for a long time to come. Who would have thought Burnett would be up to this arduous task? Kudos to the producers for such a daring, valiant choice. Mullen, who grew up red-white-and-blue proud, went on, by the way, to serve as a significant symbol of protest against the Vietnam war, prompting the government to give unbiased, accurate accounts of military casualties.

Ned Beatty provides able support as the dutiful, grief-stricken husband who finds it just as difficult coping with the fact that his son died mysteriously by "friendly fire" (American artillery fire)during maneuvers than by heroism. Less committed to tackling government indifference and lies, he shows the inner turmoil of a man forced to stand in the shadows of his wife's newly-found obsession and celebrity, a move which threatens home and hearth. Timothy Hutton effectively portrays the neglected younger son who handles his grief in silence as well. Dennis Erdman as the older, ill-fated son, is superior appearing in war-time flashbacks to reveal the sad truth behind his unnecessary death. Sam Waterston as a well-meaning journalist shows appropriate strength and exasperation as a man caught between helping Mullen and fighting department politics himself.

But first and foremost, this is Burnett's show. For anyone who thinks of her as a limited, one-note slapstick queen will think again after witnessing this performance. Surprisingly, she lost the Emmy award for this once-in-a-lifetime role to Bette Davis, better known for her larger-than-life acting histrionics as well.

A must see TV mini-movie.

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