So much of the Vietnam POW experience is portrayed in a negative light. There’s the obscene physical abuse as well as the unrelenting mental torture. There’s the inhuman living conditions and the years away from loved ones. There’s the uncertainty of whether you are going to live through the next morning or whether you’re going to get another meal. Then, even if there is a rescue mission mounted by a one man killing machine named Rambo or Braddock, there’s the distinct possibility that you might be one of the anonymous grubby guys who dies in the escape attempt.
But like everything else in life, nothing is all bad. Despite what all those slick American POW movies and their grimy Italian counterparts would have you believe, there is one big benefit to being a POW. And thankfully, Camillo Teti finally dramatized it in his remarkable Brothers In War. I speak of course of the tiger cage booty call.
As every guy who’s ever spent time in a tiger cage half submerged in some parasite-infested Vietnamese river will tell you, when you’re not worrying about some exotic worm crawling up into your shriveled dingus, you’re thinking about just how freaking horny this war has made you! (If only I was locked up in here with a showgirl from a USO tour, then the fact that I’m going to be beaten savagely before being shot in the head at dawn wouldn’t sting as much!)
Brothers In War bravely tells this story in all its relatively unsanitary glory and though you are sure to be grossed out by the groaning and thrusting happening in the fetid waters of the tiger cage, it’s all very tastefully done. With all the nasty bits obscured by a modesty-friendly waistline water level combined with the night time shoot of the scene, you’re not having to deal with much more than some bare chested sloshing about. Bonus points go to the guy, Stereo, for being able to accomplish all this with his hands tied behind his back!
Stereo and his army buddy (Josy) are teamed up on a mission to escort Mary, the showgirl and her oafish manager Bert out of hostile territory to De Nang.
Once their escort mission gets underway, you begin to wonder if the movie should have been titled Warjeep. Warbus was all about marines driving a bus to safety, while Brothers In War featured Stereo, Josy, Mary, and Bert cruising through the jungle in their jeep.
Brothers In War scribe Dardano Sacchetti also penned the other warbus epic, War Bus Commando the same year as this film, so it wouldn’t be shocking if Dardano thought what worked on a bus with Mark Gregory and Bobby Rhodes also would work with the stars of Bye Bye Vietnam and Cy Warrior.
Luckily, Stereo wasn’t a very good driver and managed to wreck his warjeep in the jungle during a big jeep chase with Charlie. He and his crew would have to hoof it the rest of the way, though they did get to ride in a boat that they had to clear of enemy corpses and also commandeered an enemy train before American forces blew it up.
Their journey on foot through the jungle provided an opportunity to really get to know the characters. For instance we learned that Josy was a thief as he stole Bert’s secret stash of money.
Then we learned that Josy was a comedian as he allowed Stereo to have a machete fight with Charlie while refusing to help for about five minutes before finally shooting the bad guy and announcing “I’m trying to sleep here!” to the disbelieving Stereo.
And finally, we learned that Josy was a scummy-assed rapist as he assaulted Mary while Stereo and Bert were trapped in a large muddy hole. Walking around in the jungle doesn’t create character so much as reveals the distinct lack thereof.
To Mary’s credit, despite being brutally raped in a driving rain storm in the mud, the next day she has on clean clothes, her hair is fine, and her make up is perfect.
Mary would also be raped again, this time by Charlie, after her one night stand in the tiger cage with Stereo.
It’s a testament to either her strength or her lack of brains that once they escape and Stereo also stupidly rescues Josy that she begrudgingly goes along with the plan and ends up laughing and smiling with Stereo once they get rescued.
Brothers In War does an excellent job dramatizing the impact of the horrors of war on a showgirl. From the opening moments when Mary belts out an extremely long and utterly painful version of “Hey Big Spender” to her ability to squeeze in hot tiger cage sex in between bouts of rape, it’s clear that if war is hell on soldiers that war is also hell on showgirls’ private parts!
Nowhere does the viewer get to experience the hellishness of the Vietnam war more intensely than during one scene between Mary and Stereo in the tiger cage. Mary is going crazy with worry about their fates and Stereo uses all his survival training to calm her. “Think about something pleasant! Like talking a walk! Or eating ice cream!” Then he suggests that they sing a song and he picks “Jingle Bells”! It all ends with Stereo screaming hysterically and shouting “Jesus Christ!” I feel better already!
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