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Sticks and Bones (1973)

 -  Drama  -  17 August 1973 (USA)
6.3
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A young man returns home from Vietnam blind. He is very bitter about the war and alienates his family and friends. This movie deals with the aftermath of war and how people react to it both veterans and their families.

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Title: Sticks and Bones (1973)

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Ozzie
Alan Cauldwell
Joe Fields
Asa Gim
Stanley Levine
Ronald Nealy ...
(as Ron Nealy)
Brad Sullivan
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A young man returns home from Vietnam blind. He is very bitter about the war and alienates his family and friends. This movie deals with the aftermath of war and how people react to it both veterans and their families.

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17 August 1973 (USA)  »

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Excellent, but no masterpiece.
28 February 2007 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

A master recording of this 1973 tele-drama is in the archives at CBS's Television City complex (where I saw it, thanks to someone who's got more influence at CBS than I'll ever have), but they are unlikely to re-release it due to various controversies. That situation is regrettable for two reasons: this is an excellent drama, and its controversial aspects have long since been eclipsed by other productions.

It's autumn, 1968, the peak of America's involvement in the Vietnam War. Tom Aldredge and Anne Jackson give impressive performances as suburban couple Ozzie and Harriet, who have two sons named Rick and David. Those names alone were responsible for some of the controversy in 1973, when this tele-drama was originally transmitted. The family's names are clearly meant to evoke the Nelsons: the white-bread married couple (and their two sons) who starred in the 1950s sitcom 'The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet'.

Rick (Cliff De Young) was wounded in Vietnam, and has come home blind. I was annoyed that much of the mise-en-scene in this production implies that, since Rick's eyesight is gone, his life is over: that attitude is an insult to all blind people, all injured servicemen (and -women), and all handicapped people. But Rick's blindness isn't the only problem. Some of his traumas from 'in country' have come back to America with him. His parents and brother are baffled by the arrival of Rick's master sergeant and a South Vietnamese peasant woman, who are apparently hallucinations that have become real ... or are they? Eventually, the rest of the family decide that they would be better off if Rick would just do the decent thing and shoot himself.

I didn't arrive in America until after the Vietnam War, so I never really experienced that conflict from America's viewpoint. (During the war, though, I interviewed several G.I.s who were on R&R in Queensland and who expected to go right back to the front lines.) Although playwright David Rabe's stagecraft is sure here, I got the feeling at several points during this production that Rabe was trying to be controversial merely for the sake of controversy, rather than for any higher purpose.

The cast are uniformly superb, as is the direction by Robert Downey. He cleverly shades the events in this drama so that we can never quite be certain whether we're witnessing real events or whether Rick's hallucinations have spread to the rest of the family. I'll rate this drama 7 out of 10, and I hope it becomes available again ... although it's now very much a period piece.


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