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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:
C.D. Bryan
Dennis Erdman ...
Michael E. Mullen
John Mullen
Fanny Spiess ...
Mary Mullen
Patricia Mullen
Michael Flanagan ...
Father Shimon
Willis Huddleston
William Jordan ...
Col. Byron Schindler
Vernon Weddle ...
Col. Georgi
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

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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:


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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Carol Burnett dyed her trademark red hair brown for the role of Peg Mullen. See more »

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User Reviews

Give 'em Hell, Carol!
10 May 2010 | by See all my reviews

Based on a true story, this memorable ABC-TV movie begins in 1969 Iowa, during the Richard M. Nixon Administration. Wide-eyed young Dennis Erdman (as Michael E. Mullen) goes off to fight the Communists in Vietnam. He leaves behind loving parents Carol Burnett and Ned Beatty (as Peg and Gene). From the opening, you know this kid is going to die - it's conveyed not only in the painfully obvious title, but also through the foreshadowing performance from Ms. Burnett, under David Greene's deliberate direction.

The farming family is told son Erdman died from "Friendly Fire" (herein defined as "any artillery from forces not the enemy"). But, the official explanation does not seem to match up with facts. Burnett and Mr. Beatty learn about how the military manipulates casualty figures. She becomes an anti-war activist. Later, investigative journalist Sam Waterston (as C.D.B. Bryan) enters the picture - and, to be fair, he (plus a flashback) offers a reasonable explanation for altering the facts regarding the tragic Vietnam incident.

Still, that the military seeks to alter circumstances, regarding death during military service is a dishonor. Like the movie points out, those who die by "Friendly Fire" (or from wounds inflicted during battle) are just as dead as those who die in battle. Incredibly, this fact-altering practice surfaced again, during the George W. Bush Administration, with the death of Patrick "Pat" Tillman. And, ironically, one of President Bush's opponents, Vietnam veteran John Kerry appears in TV footage, speaking out against the war.

"Friendly Fire" is long and obvious (most of the time), but retains a haze of mystery and loss throughout. Done so close to the actual war, the period detail can't be beat. Four Emmys were shared among executive producer Martin Starger, producer Philip Barry, co-producer/adapter Fay Kanin, director Greene, musician Leonard Rosenman, and sound editor Bill Wistrom. Burnett and Beatty were nominated for leading roles, and there are more than a dozen small, effective parts. Brother Timothy Hutton (as John) leads the pack.

****** Friendly Fire (4/22/79) David Greene ~ Carol Burnett, Ned Beatty, Sam Waterston, Timothy Hutton

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