imino's film begins in Clairton Pennsylvania sometime in the early seventies and deals with scars left from the Vietnam war and the devastating effect it has on a community and a group of friends in particular.
Clocking off from the days work at local steelworks the friends end up in Welchs Lounge, a bar owned by friend John (Dzundza) where Stevie (Savage) who will go to war with Nick (Walken) and Mike (De Niro) is about to be married later that day.
Mike and Nick discuss the oncoming draft whilst packing their hunting gear for the last time.
They talk about "One Shot" a code where the deer must be taken by a single bullet (Two is Pussy), and their shortcomings about taking to the mountains one last time before the army.
A lengthy wedding sequence sees Mikes attraction to Linda (Streep), Nicks girl and a chance meeting with a Green Beret who has wandered in. His loneliness and alienation for me sums up the feeling surrounding the conflict and as warning to the three who remain ready to serve their country with slight apprehension of the unknown.
Following the celebrations Mike runs through the damp streets in the darkness followed by Nick who reveals his fear of being left in a strange land alone "Don't leave me over there, you gotta promise"
In the night as the refineries loom this bond is much the central factor in the set up of the characters all, a trust that carries through to the final act.
Deer Hunting for the last time they head for the mountains at dawn, Mikes tension has him refuse Stan his spare boots, they argue as their draft comes closer. With precision he takes the buck with one bullet with the trophy on the car hood heading back to the lounge.
Beers are cracked and the mood is jubilant until a melancholic piano rendition has them all in stark realisation of their situation. Here Cimino transports us to the battlefields of South East Asia with the sound of coptors fading in, a second and we are there ,a masterful piece of direction in my book.
The three are captured and held in a Viet Cong river prison where they are party to a deadly game of roulette Russian style.
Held underneath in water and pulled up at random with other prisoners they sit opposite and the revolver is revolved amongst cash and watches, ornaments of worth in a situation of worthless life.
Stevie fails to pull the trigger and is thrown into a rat infested cage left to die, Mike tells Nick that more bullets are needed in the gun if they were to face each other. The plan would be to get more bullets in the gun, going for broke they would go out in a haze of bullets .
In a tour de force of acting skill and drama they face off and Mike initiates their escape, Stevie is saved and as they drift downriver on a broken tree they hear the sound of whirring blades above.
Nick is picked up but enemy fire has the airborne move off, the other two fall back into the river. Badly injured Stevie is carried to safety as refugees crowd the smoke filled streets.
At hospital Nick seems to be suffering from his experiences, breaking down he is a man on the edge, another tragic casualty perhaps, all be it differing to the armless soldier he weeps over in the ward. He cannot go through with calls home and is later seen wandering the streets of crumbling Saigon at night.
Meanwhile Mike returns home to a warmth not usually reserved for veterans, he too suffers from an inability to connect, tense, he struggles to come to terms with his immediate past and later discovers that Stevie has also returned from the war wheelchair bound.
The community is clearly fractured from these events and Linda continues to wait for the return of Nick who it seems has been sending money to Stevie in hospital from Saigon.
She turns to Mike for affection who knows he must return for his friend.
In a dramatic finale he finds him drug fuelled and detached, gambling with his own life in a roulette den in the secrecy of Saigons backstreets.
They re-enact their face off, and subsequently back home a community weeps as an ability to seek and find solace in patriotism remains, Cimino's film raises questions regarding honour and trust whilst maintaining a level of sharp annhilation.
It's ability to portray humanity however gut wrenching is that makes it so engaging.
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By: Nik Allen
Political themes seen in society in the seventies influenced certain changes, these the cause for much of the shifting impetus in flair and confidence of creative cinema, the evolving mood was shown in an approach to filmmaking reflected by many of the fresh breed to emerge. One of these was Michael Cimino who's film The Deer Hunter was controversial in its depiction of the Vietnam War yet at the same time hailed as a work of a genius.
Sometimes forgotten because of his huge but eloquent disaster Heavens Gate, the director here gave us the quintessential American seventies drama, with the ghost of the Vietnam war still hovering it dealt with traumas affecting a small town in the heartland and in particular three steelworkers, descendants of Russian immigrants who bear lasting scars from the war.
The story is more or less shown in three segments, prior to, during, and the effects, post-war on return to the homeland. The characters are shown initially in their natural environment, the friendships, relationships, then in conflict the inhumanity and violence that would see disillusionment on return. Strangely there are no signs on rejection from a society for these boys.
The directors obsession with the identity of the protagonists was the substitute for any overriding political agenda, the sole purpose of highlighting psychological wounds on those who like a communities were reeling from war were enough to stir up passionate views from critics, largely though the film was received extremely well with accolades awarded for due skill.
For me the simple theme here seems to be about friendship, its ultimately where Cimino's film succeeds, the poignant interactions make it tick and portray a level of human emotions rarely seen, the personal feeling of involvement, unforgettable.
These qualities therefore make the film a masterpiece in drama, a view validated by the stunning photography and the somewhat superior acting on show.
Zsigmond gave the picture a wonderful atmosphere, capturing industrialised Pennsyvannia with an exquisite grime, balanced with the superlative stuff seen in the mountain scenes and the shadowy deep blacks of the crumbling almost decadent Saigon, this was a masterful film to look at.
De Niro's authoritative performance as Michael confirmed the actor as a major star to emerge during this decade. John Savage's Stevie was also immense, a tragic and lonely characterisation that begged more important roles in the future, and Nick, played by Christopher Walken who's slide into dementia can only be described as magnificent earning him an Oscar for best supporting actor.
In fact strong stuff came from the whole cast including Streep and Cazale, without doubt a collective tour de force, a feature that seemed particular to the unique cinema of this decade I may add. The phenomenon was still shaping itself when I was still very young, eleven in fact when this film was released, I didn't see it until it was one of the first releases in the tape market, the initial toploader VCRs gave the opportunity to view these so called seminal films, but even then however long and however confusing to my mind, it had a lasting effect on me, this was how films should be made I thought.
Now seen in the present day on dvd it can still pack a solid punch and its still difficult to dismiss the Viet Cong prison scenes as done for or dismissive retro, this level of performance is uncanny surely if slightly but enjoyably dramatic to the extreme.
I think the Deer Hunter tried to be as sincere as possible in its stance toward the traumas that surround those close to this particular war, with themes being reproduced over the years to a more traditional beat, time has seen screenwriting lack punch or appear too contrived. The universal importance of its subject are still paramount but the portrayal altered somewhat, losing something precious and sincere in the process.
This what is lacking is captured in many scenes in Cimino's 1978 film, among many memorable moments one in particular stands out for me, i cant just cant get rid of, it always rocks, a moment really rather than a scene.
As the film reaches its final stage Mike goes back to Saigon and confronts Nick in the hidden roulette playhouse, he fails to rekindle any memory from a man fractured from his experiences, oblivious as to his friends identity, the scars on his arm confirm total disillusionment.
Joining in the game in an attempt to jog his memory, the revolver spins to De Niro who holds it up to his head...
Amongst the crescendo of noise from a delirious mass, the dimly lit gambling hall is packed with those who care nothing for human life, this void is seen as contradiction to De Niro's journey back to salvage life and have it prevail. A strange and powerful set of opposing emotions.
"Is this what you want?........."Come home Nicky, just come home"
He pulls an empty chamber and is drowned out by the sound of the frenzied crowd.
Set deep in the mire and chaos the unreachable GI seems to come back to not only his friend but also to us, it could be a flashback or nostalgia, fragments of memory can be seen in his watering eyes and trembling mouth.
An awesome moment, breathtaking acting that brings closure to over two hours of pure involvement in a film achieving a pinnacle in intensity, this scene and these qualities above all else strike me as the essence of The Deer Hunter.
ive seen it about 20 times and it still delivers.
In fact it's one of the best films ever made.
Ciminos disastrous (but arguably brilliant) "Heavens Gate" sadly became more famous in its part destruction of the United Artists company but he returned to form casting Mickey Rourke in one of his better films "Year of the Dragon".
know some The Deer Hunter trivia that we could add? [Please
send it in]
Mingo Jct. Ohio, Stubenvill Ohio, and Wearton West Vergina. [Thanks to Craig Ryan]
I know that one of the locations was weirton west virginia because I was born and raised there, when deniero ran down the street tearing his cloths off he was in the north end of weirton where my grandfather was born. I do believe that basketball court is still there across from the mill [Thanks to josh]
Struthers Ohio- The bowling Alley; Campbell Ohio- Some of the mill footage; Mill Creek Park- Youngstown Ohio [Thanks to Leonard Costantino]
One bar scene was shot at the Bowladrome, an eight lane bowling alley in Struthers, Ohio, a suburb of Youngstown. [Thanks to Cy Zibrik]
You've probably received this comment before, but I'm fairly certain that the actual deer hunting scenes in the movie were filmed in the North Cascades region of Washington State, specifically in close proximity to Mt. Baker. I spent several days hiking there about eight years ago, and have hiked all over the American west. As I watched the film, I found myself more and more convinced that the mountain scenes were shot in the North Cascades. In the final scene, around the time Robert Deniro's character allows his deer to get away, they show a spectacular view of Mt. Baker rising in the background. An access road actually leads up to within a short walk of that specific view, which would make sense, since they must have been lugging a good bit of equipment with them to film those scenes.
Side note: Several of the American "beat poets" spent time up in those mountains during the 1950's at mountaintop lookout posts. Most notably, Jack Kerouac spent the summer of 1956 in a lookout on nearby desolation mountain. He published "On the Road" the following year. Perhaps this might have influenced the director's choice of location.
Side note 2: As a resident of New England, visitor to Pennsylvania, and avid hiker, I found it hard to overlook the impossibility of the characters' hiking trips to the mountains. There is NO scenery anything like that depicted in the movie anywhere within 1500 miles of Pennsylvania: one of the scenes shows glaciers in the background. So it was quite a trick when they made a 4,000 mile round-trip drive to hunt a deer in their tuxes in the first deer hunting scene, apparently returning the following morning. Oh well, maybe I read too much into this - it was indeed a fantastic film. I saw it last night on DVD and loved it. [Thanks to Joe O'Brien]
According to imdb.com, the church in the movie was "Theodosius Russian Orthodox Catholic Church" in Cleveland, Ohio. They state the name plaque can be clearly seen in one scene. Also according to them, the wedding reception was filmed in Clairton, must be Pa, a suburb of Pittsburgh. I was told that some scenes were filmed near Mount Carmel, Pa. (more toward the central / eastern part of the state)When I once drove thru the town of Mount Carmel, I could swear that I saw the reception hall there. The Mount Carmel Pa web site mentions nothing about the movie. [Thanks to Brian Sakal]
Mingo Junction, Ohio (across the river from West Virginia and near the Pennsylvania border as well, 50 miles or so from Pittsburgh). The "7" sign you see at the beginning is Ohio Route 7, which runs along the Ohio River south to Ironton at the Kentucky border (200 miles away). The area around Mingo Junction is old steel mill country. The location depictions are VERY accurate. In fact, seeing "The Deer Hunter" led me to travel to Pittsburgh and the surrounding area simply to see where it all took place. [Thanks to FD Austin]
Can you help? Do you know any of the filming locations used for The Deer Hunter? [Please send them in]
|Trailer, Commentary, Featurette, OutTakes|
2 disc Legacy Series Edition|
|Trailer, Commentary, Featurette|
new 2 Disc Special Edition|
John Williams score sums up the mood more than adequately, whenever it is heard the film immediately comes to mind.
Also the lesser known additional pieces played when the De Niro character returns home and the troublesome atmosphere of the community is seen.
2. Praise the Name of the Lord
5. Struggling Ahead
7. Waiting His Turn
8. 'Memory Eternal
9. God Bless America
Soundtrack Available: On CD
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