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From the Archive: Siskel and Ebert on Vietnam Movies

Daniel Hautzinger
The poster of Apocalypse Now.

As Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's monumental documentary series The Vietnam War approaches – the first of ten parts premieres Sunday, September 17 at 7:00 pm – we're looking back into out archive at programs that discuss the war. (You can explore more archival video and photographs as well as the stories of Chicago veterans and contemporary articles about the war on our Vietnam War microsite.)

In 1980, after the Vietnam war had ended, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel looked back at some of the films that had tackled the war and its after-effects in their review show Sneak Previews. Besides the 1968 John Wayne film The Green Berets (notable as the singular pro-war film that had been made and is discussed), all the films date from after the United States had withdrawn from Vietnam, in 1973. During the war, Hollywood was silent, perhaps because the era was so divisive. But Siskel and Ebert praise the films that did eventually tackle the difficult subject matter of the justness of the war, the insanity of combat, and the struggles of veterans. They review The Deer HunterApocalypse NowComing HomeRolling ThunderHair, and the documentary Hearts and Minds. "The American motion picture industry can be sort of proud," says Ebert. "They took some fairly serious issues and they did a pretty good job of dealing with them seriously and thoughtfully."