Siege of Firebase Gloria, The (1989)

The Siege of Firebase Gloria (1989), directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith.


[Sgt Major, after an enemy attack is repulsed]: Go out and kill the wounded; I don't want any surprises tonight.

A Marine patrol discovers a massacred village and other signs that something big is about to happen: it's the eve of the Tet Offensive. They make it to a remote firebase to find the whacked out CO is not managing very well: he wears nothing but boots, smokes too much dope and spends his days in intimate congress with girlie magazines.

The Sergeant Major (R. Lee Ermey) decides to retire the CO (but "I don't want him killed") and assumes command, fortifying the outpost as best he can. Over the next days they repel repeated assaults from superior forces, losing their outer defenses and pulling back into ever tighter circles. Finally they are overrun and it's hand to hand, looking bad...

A Vietnam war action picture heavy with blood, sweat and testosterone. It's meant to be realistic-looking with plenty of severed limbs and heads and wind-rows of enemy dead, but we also get familiar war movie cliches. We get some perspective from the other side, where the attackers are disciplined and have their own rough soldierly humor.

Ermey, as you might expect, brings conviction and unpolished believability to the role. Wings Hauser has intense passion as a man eaten up with his private grief. You don't want to ask him: "What kind of animal are you?"

Despite some roughness to the plot and acting it's exciting as the fighting just gets worse and worse, a real nail-biter nicely staged. The orphan boy from the village obviously represents "the future": whoever is holding him at the end wins. I could have done without the voice-over narration.

Made in the Philippines. The score is from the usual 80s filmmaker's friend: the one-man-orchestra-in-a-box synthesizer.

MGM Limited Edition Collection DVD-R. "Made from the best available materials", meaning some scenes have enough noise to look like snowfall. But it's watchable and I'm happy to have it. This had been on my want list for years when it popped up as a manufactured on demand disc.