I can't believe this movie isn't more famous. Why aren't people screaming about it? The Siege of Firebase Gloria is the most intense, horrifying war movie I've ever seen. Forget the arty pretentiousness of Platoon. The overindulgence of Apocalypse Now. The disjointed structure of Full Metal Jacket. The comic book theatrics of Rambo. This is the real thing.

Who doesn't like to see R. Lee Ermey strut his stuff? He was the best thing about Full Metal Jacket. Ermey plays a Marine sergeant stuck in a worthless plot of land during the Tet Offensive near the end of the Vietnam War. The place is undergoing a barrage of "regular" Viet Cong soldiers hellbent on demoralizing the American soldiers.

Wings Hauser, one of the most intense actors in film history, plays Ermey's protegee, a corporal becoming unhinged by the endless horrors of the war. Of course being unhinged is a stock in trade for Hauser.

With these two actors in the cast, The Siege of Firebase Gloria is a sure bet for an enjoyable time. So why isn't it more well known?

I think the movie is too intense. Too relentless and realistic. Director Brian (Dead End Drive-In) Trenchard-Smith didn't have the budget Spielberg had with Saving Private Ryan, but he made do with what he had, with endless soldiers being shot up, decapitations, and exploding bodies everywhere. There are very few and very brief moments of levity to break the tension, but The Siege of Firebase Gloria is mostly a nonstop assault on the viewer.

To its credit, The Siege of Firebase Gloria shows sympathy toward the Viet Cong, as they are portrayed as dupes in a political web just as much as the Americans. The story suggests that the entire Tet Offensive was a ploy to decimate the Cong and in order to establish a new regime.

Maybe The Siege of Firebase Gloria came a hair too late. By 1989 the Vietnam War movie cycle had wound down. It's a shame, because fans of this sort of thing will eat this movie up. The bare bones Kino Lorber looks fine, but is mostly an unremarkable transfer and probably not a lot better than the DVD. Stream it or buy it in any form. If you're a fan of this sort of thing, you will not be disappointed.

Written by Mark Sieber

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