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Ghost Canyon

'The Ugly American' [Blu-ray]
(Marlon Brando, Eiji Okada, Pat Hingle, Arthur Hill, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1963) 2019 / Mill Creek Entertainment)

Overview: Marlon Brando stars in this volatile political thriller based on the critically acclaimed best-selling book.

As a compassionate American ambassador to the strife-torn Southeast Asian nation of Sarkhan, Brando tries to keep the Communists in the north from overrunning the weakened democracy in the south by making sure a vital road into the country's inaccessible interior goes through.

But, from his very arrival, The Ugly American is met with suspicion and hate even by an influential freedom fighter now suspected of being a Communist agent.

Intrigue and danger surround Brando and co-stars Pat Hingle, Arthur Hill and Sandra Church, in this tense story of Cold War politics that remains all too real today.

Blu-ray Verdict: Despite 'The Ugly American' being filmed in a fictional Southeast Asian nation, the parallels between this film and Vietnam in the 1960s are quite obvious.

It's obviously NOT about this fictional place but is a commentary on the American government's reaction to nationalism and revolution.

While this nation was founded as a haven for revolutionaries, by the time the film was made, the policies were generally reactionary - bolstering up ANY government that was seen as keeping the status quo so long as they weren't communists.

Yet, like in the case of this fictional land, many revolutions had nothing to do with communism and SHOULD have been welcomed by the US but weren't.

This film begins with Marlon Brando playing a new ambassador to the tiny nation of Sarkan. Some of the senators at his confirmation hearing were not impressed - Brand's character appeared to be a political liberal and looked favorably upon the nationalistic movement growing within Sarkan.

After all, the leader was his old and dear friend. However, after assuming the post, both the friend and Brando behave quite stupidly. They should have been friends but very soon become bitter enemies.

Brando brands the ex-friend a communist and the friend rushes to the communist camp for assistance.

Several scenes in this movie are so vivid they are unforgettable. The airport demonstration that turns into a riot is unusually realistic for a movie of this period.

I should know as I've seen more than my fair share of riots in Asia and Central America. The attack on the opening ceremony of the Freedom Road is also realistically played out.

The eerie silence right after the attack is suddenly interrupted by wailing from the wounded. As the Ambassador's wife tries to tend to one of the casualties, a relief worker walks by and casually tells her, "Don't bother, she's dead."

The chaos at the besieged embassy near the end of the movie opens with the face of a bewildered and frightened child as US nationals scramble in the background to leave a country descending into hell.

My biggest problem with the film was its pacing. Brando - whose performance as the American Ambassador is one of his best portrayals, in my humble opinion - goes from close friend to bitter enemy VERY quickly - too quickly. Things escalate wildly out of control in an interesting manner but it's all just too rushed to be realistic.

But, aside from this, the acting is decent and the story quite compelling - especially the film's commentary on the apathetic American public.

Clever and insightful, this one probably looks a lot better today in hindsight then it did back in 1963 before the Cold War in Southeast Asia really heated up significantly. This is a New High Definition Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

'The Ugly American' [Blu-Ray] is out August 13th, 2019 via Mill Creek Entertainment.