This week's biggest rental arrival, Oliver Stone's film adaptation of Ron Kovic's best-selling autobiography "Born on the Fourth of July," earned Stone a Best Director Academy Award for his efforts to depict the Vietnam War -- and its victims back home -- with a level of realism absent from the inspiring Hollywood war movies watched by young Kovic and others of his generation. Next week Best Film & Video will attempt to take that realism several steps further, when it launches a series of videocassettes featuring amateur movies of Vietnam combat and military life as shot by soldiers who took their movie cameras along on their tours of duty.
The three-title "Vietnam Home Movies" series, assembled by Vietnam Archives Director Michael Wiese, compiles footage shot by American soldiers with pre-video-era super-8 and 16mm cameras. Each $29.95 tape offers an hour's worth of combat action, bringing video stardom to their uniformed cameramen-narrators and the colorfully named divisions in which they served: "Helicopter Gunship Assaults" flies into enemy territory with Maj. Alfred Demailo and the Smiling Tigers and Capt. James "Bob" Powell and the Gunslingers; "Front-Line Artillery and Infantry Action" visits Ho Chi Minh Trail and Mekong Delta operations by Spec. 4 Jeffrey Overton and Rifle Company "C" and Staff Sgt. Steven M. White and Outpost Legionnaire; and "Operation Air and Sea" soars with Air Force Capt. Bill Claudio and "Sabre Fire" and wades through an amphibious assault by Petty Officer Wayne Lamond and the "Gator Navy."
The tapes will be available through the Bravo Vigil site at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and will be marketed through publications that cater to a military readership. But Best Film & Video, which is known for taking over low-priced instructional tapes abandoned by other video suppliers, is aggressively pushing video dealers to offer the tapes to disappointed customers who come in looking for Tom Cruise only to discover that all of the copies of his new video have been rented. "Vietnam Home Movies," the company says, is "the ideal add-on rental to 'Born on the Fourth of July,' " and Best President Roy Winnick says that "our series is very similar to 'Born' in terms of concept and content. They're very up-close and personal." In a world where "America's Funniest Home Videos" can rank as the nation's most-watched television show, Best and Winnick may be on to something; we'll have to wait and see what kind of home movies they can come up with when "Die Hard 2," "Problem Child" and other summer hits make the move to video in the coming months.
Jack on the Shelf The folks at Warner Home Video are taking a more conventional approach to the time-tested strategy of taking advantage of the competition's efforts -- in this case, tomorrow's big-screen release of Paramount's "Chinatown" sequel, "The Two Jakes" -- by promoting a half-dozen films featuring "Two Jakes" star and director Jack Nicholson. Included is the video debut of the 1966 low-budget drama "Flight to Fury," in which Nicholson did double duty as star and screenwriter; as the U.S.-Philippine joint production was filmed simultaneously in English and Tagalog, one has to assume Nicholson had some help on the translations. "Flight to Fury" is priced at $59.98, with the remaining reissues at $19.98, including "Ensign Pulver," "The Passenger," "The Postman Always Rings Twice," "The Shining" and "The Witches of Eastwick." The original "Chinatown," meanwhile, is already available at discount prices; Paramount Home Video had announced its low-budget reissue before the studios pulled the troubled sequel from its Christmas-season theatrical lineup last fall.
Men in Uniform Military types have more to look forward to later this month when NFL Films Video ventures outside the National Football League for the first time to capture some amateur Army action. "Field of Honor: 100 Years of Army Football" celebrates the on- and off-field accomplishments of a century's worth of cadets, including vintage footage from Army's championship teams of the 1940s and rare looks at the football heroics of halfback Dwight Eisenhower, center Omar Bradley and other team graduates who went on to larger playing fields. The 60-minute tape is one of 11 new NFL Films tapes arriving this month in time for the football season, including a look back at the 1989 season, a look forward at the likely stars of the 1990s, and a greatest-hits recap of NFL Films's popular "Football Follies" series; all are priced at $19.98.