08 November 2011

Vietnam In HD - From The Ground Up

'Vietnam in HD' hinges on film footage of the Vietnam War transferred to High Definition. The opening uses cuts, many less than a second, to propel images at the viewer like an M60. Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump. I had to freeze frame the image of a red headed and freckled young soldier to see he no longer had a face. I'm not sure why. I guess it sums up my take on this History Channel documentary. Beyond the surface lies something more.

Growing up on army posts, the images I saw 43 years ago on the CBS Evening News were of my neighbors, friend's fathers and my father. Consequently, my expectations may be different than yours. Beneath the sheen of high def footage, cheesy sound effects and Ed Burns speaking for Joe Galloway, there are, most importantly to me, the images of a war I grew up with and have never understood.

Back then, news footage of infantrymen slogging through the red clay and rice paddies were topped off with the nightly death count. Behind Walter Cronkite, flags from the US, South Vietnam and North Vietnam represented the numbers of KIA, WIA and MIA. Numbers were high in the KIA column next to North Vietnam's flag. Everyone knew we were winning. Except North Vietnam.

Vietnam in HD delivers powerful battlefield images tenfold. Interviews with veterans are insightful and honest. It is, as Arthur Wiknik pointed out in yesterday's interview, "...about my generation of warriors. We're finally being recognized in a way that's different. It's our voices. Our feelings. Our emotions. That's what I really like about it."

Narration is shakily delivered by a brittle voiced, Michael C. Hall. Footage does not necessarily fit the battle, sound effects over silent 8mm feels contrived and 'famed' actors speak for the actual participants resulting in a clunky transition between soldier and actor. This annoying device jerked me out of the story more than once and seems unneeded.

Still, I watched the two hour screener twice in one night. It pulls you in with powerful images and despite the short comings, it delivers a story not many Americans know or ever wanted to know. If viewers are lured into watching because of the 'Golden Globe' winning narrator or 'famed' actors, then I'm all for it. The stories and the people of this war are too important.

Vietnam In HD premieres tonight at 9PM and runs through Thursday night on the History Channel.


JMW said...

My dad served in Vietnam. He certainly experienced a very different homecoming than soldiers who fought in subsequent wars. I'll be sure to share information on this History Channel footage with him and will give him a big thanks on Friday, Veteran's Day.

Anonymous said...

Ed Burns couldn't carry Joe Galloway's dop kit on his best day.

gentleman mac said...

What's the best way to find out about service members during Vietnam? My father-in-law was blinded there but doesn't talk about it. I would like to know more but don't know how to go about getting more. Thanks for any direction.

Dallas said...


uncle got a dear john letter while he was over there.

and his name was john.

GSV JR said...

Golly, I wonder what A&E didn't like about this review. Haw haw haw. First graph is enough, here. Rest is gravy.

Anonymous said...

Looking back as a kid watching Cronkite deliver the news of Viet Nam nightly, it ALWAYS seemed like HD: the rather new reporting of war in the nearly instant medium of television being by far the best way to influence public opinion. The intention was to pound Americans at dinner time with continually negative news. Walter admitted to that. He also said it worked. He was right. It did.

I can watch color enhanced, packaged and edited-for-awards programming on the war. Or I can simply call up real-time, unedited, grainy black and white memories of sad newscasts showing loss on so many levels. I can recall in my mind my father listening for hours on the phone as the wife of a Green Beret friend (whose squadron, it was reported on the 6:30 news, was missing and presumed dead) feared her kids would grow up without a father. The soldier and his men would later show up from patrol fine, a case of mistaken reporting.

I can watch. I think I won't. I was too young "to go." I'm very thankful for that.


tintin said...

JMW- I think he'll like it.

Anon- That's dopp and I agree.

gent mac- email me.

Dallas- Me too. In Basic Tng. Except my Dear John was a phone call where she told me she had sex with a guy in the shallow end of a pool. I'm not sure I'll ever forget that even though I wish I could.

GSV- You forgo the "Hee."

tintin said...

Thanks for the comment DB. I've known you for 36 yrs. I'd never tell you what to do but if you can, give the 1st episode a viewing. If you don't like it change the channel. But like I said. I know you. I think you'll see something in this.

Main Line Sportsman said...

Watched with interest tonite. Great footage. Bad voice-overs as you state. Too many commercials. Recording the rest on DVR so I can FF thru the commercials and enjoy without the distraction.

By the way...what is the origin of "Dopp Kit"....always wondered about that...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Tintin. I'll look for at least the first episode. Unfortunately, I realized we don't get the History Channel because we don't have (gasp!) cable. But I'll catch it on video release. That way I can see other chapters if I like. I'm sure, as you say, I'll come away with something.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Tintin. I'll look for at least the first episode. Unfortunately, I realized we don't get the History Channel because we don't have (gasp!) cable. But I'll catch it on video release. That way I can see other chapters if I like. I'm sure, as you say, I'll come away with something.


tintin said...

Main Line- Each hour kicks off with 15 minutes of content followed by four minutes of commercials. The ratio then drops to seven minutes content to five minutes commercials. I find it annoying as well. Especially since they're the same commercials over and over. But what are you gonna do? That's right. Buy the DVD.

DB- I think you can get the DVD on Netflix very soon.

Main Line Sportsman said...

No help on the "Dopp" query?

tintin said...

Main Line- Chuck Doppelt, a distant uncle of mine, invented the "Dopp Kit" in 1919 only to have his invention stolen by Paolo Lauren in 1922. I'd be rich today if it were not for Mr Lauren.

wstroby said...

Started watching this and couldn't stop. An amazing amount of footage never aired before, considering it's been 40+ years since. Very evocative of that time. But still, watching this I wondered what the f*** we were doing there, wasting our bravest and best for some complex political strategy even the policymakers weren't always clear on

tintin said...

wstroby- I think you could ask the same question about Afghanistan today. Is it as simple as middle aged men in Wash DC wasting lives like they were office supplies? I dunno.

You'd think if our government hasn't learned from past mistakes, the American people would remind them.

But people don't care. I'm guessing that's 'cause there's no draft.