Harry's War (1981)

PG | 98 mins | Comedy-drama | 13 March 1981

Director:

Kieth Merrill

Writer:

Kieth Merrill

Cinematographer:

Reed Smoot

Production Designer:

Douglas G. Johnson

Production Company:

American Film Consortium
Full page view
HISTORY

End credits include short descriptions of the main characters’ fates after the conclusion of the film’s events, ending with the statement: “Harry’s war has just begun.” End credits include the following statements: "Shot on location at Ray Schmutz Farm, St. George, Utah" and “Special Thanks” to: “Utah National Guard and Facility; John Earle and Utah Film Commission; St. George Chamber of Commerce; St. George Police Department; St. George Fire Department; Dixie College; St. George Post Office; Washington County Courthouse; The ‘Wild Track’ People; Elizabeth Eiswald; The Students From Ladera School.”
       Opening credits list Elisha Cook’s character as “Sergeant Billy,” the description of the character’s fate at the end of the film states he is “Sergeant Billy Floyd,” and end credits read “Sgt. Billy.”
       An item in the 2 Mar 1979 DV reported principal photography would begin on Monday, 5 Mar 1979 and the 21 Mar 1979 DV noted it would be a six week shoot. According to the 4 Mar 1980 HR, writer-director Kieth Merrill was a former Utah resident, and the production was filmed entirely on location near St. George, UT, with a crew primarily from Utah. An article in the 4 Apr 1979 Var reported that locals of several Hollywood, CA, unions were pursuing disciplinary actions against members working on Harry’s War, a non-union film. Utah is a right to work state, therefore preventing sanctions against the production company. However, disciplinary actions were initiated by Grips Local 80, Studio Electrician’s Local 728, and Property Craftsmen Local 44, all Hollywood locals of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Some ... More Less

End credits include short descriptions of the main characters’ fates after the conclusion of the film’s events, ending with the statement: “Harry’s war has just begun.” End credits include the following statements: "Shot on location at Ray Schmutz Farm, St. George, Utah" and “Special Thanks” to: “Utah National Guard and Facility; John Earle and Utah Film Commission; St. George Chamber of Commerce; St. George Police Department; St. George Fire Department; Dixie College; St. George Post Office; Washington County Courthouse; The ‘Wild Track’ People; Elizabeth Eiswald; The Students From Ladera School.”
       Opening credits list Elisha Cook’s character as “Sergeant Billy,” the description of the character’s fate at the end of the film states he is “Sergeant Billy Floyd,” and end credits read “Sgt. Billy.”
       An item in the 2 Mar 1979 DV reported principal photography would begin on Monday, 5 Mar 1979 and the 21 Mar 1979 DV noted it would be a six week shoot. According to the 4 Mar 1980 HR, writer-director Kieth Merrill was a former Utah resident, and the production was filmed entirely on location near St. George, UT, with a crew primarily from Utah. An article in the 4 Apr 1979 Var reported that locals of several Hollywood, CA, unions were pursuing disciplinary actions against members working on Harry’s War, a non-union film. Utah is a right to work state, therefore preventing sanctions against the production company. However, disciplinary actions were initiated by Grips Local 80, Studio Electrician’s Local 728, and Property Craftsmen Local 44, all Hollywood locals of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). Some members of the Sound Technicians Local 695 were also on the payroll, as well as crew from Teamsters Local 399. The International Photographers Local 659 had no members participating in the film.
       The 4 Mar 1980 HR announced the film would premiere that day in Utah cities St. George, Ogden, Provo, and Salt Lake City. The 4 Sep 1980 HR reported that Taft International Pictures acquired worldwide distribution rights to Harry’s War and, although no release dates had been set, they planned test screenings in the U.S. before the end of 1980. The film was released in Los Angeles, CA, on 13 Mar 1981.
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
2 Mar 1979.
---
Daily Variety
21 Mar 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Mar 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Sep 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Mar 1981
p. 7.
Variety
4 Apr 1979.
---
Variety
1 Apr 1981
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
American Film Consortium Presents
A Kieth Merrill Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
2d asst dir
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam op
1st asst cam
Cam asst
Cam asst
Still photog
Elec gaffer
Best boy
Key grip
Dolly grip
ART DIRECTOR
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Asst prop
Set dresser
Set dresser
Draftsman
COSTUMES
Costumer
Mr. Herrmann's glasses furnished by
SOUND
Addl dial
Sd mixer
Sd boom
Post prod creative sd
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff supv
Spec eff
Spec eff
Titles
DANCE
Ballet consultant
MAKEUP
Makeup and hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Asst to the prod
Prod coord
Scr supv
Controller
Loc auditor
Extra casting
Extra casting
Extra casting
Chapman crane driver
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Honeywagon Driver
Honeywagon Driver
Pattim driver
Security chief
Catering
Loc equip
Post prod secy
Post prod secy
Scr res
Post prod completed at
Military equip furnished by
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 March 1981
Premiere Information:
Utah premieres: 4 March 1980
Los Angeles opening: 13 March 1981
Production Date:
began 5 March 1979
Copyright Claimant:
SRI Associates
Copyright Date:
14 April 1980
Copyright Number:
PA76543
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex Cameras by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
98
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
SYNOPSIS

Harry Johnson, a mild-mannered mailman, receives a letter from Beverly Payne, the woman who befriended him as a child after his mother’s death, and gets permission from his estranged wife, Kathy, to take their two daughters, Shawn and Shelly, to visit Beverly in St. George, Utah. They are greeted by gunfire at Beverly’s property, which houses her antiques and military surplus business, until Beverly realizes it is Harry, not the tax man. At dinner, they are welcomed to Beverly’s “mission,” where she regularly feeds people, and introduced to the guests, including retired Sgt. Billy Floyd, and a man calling himself Draper, who surreptitiously tape records Beverly as she rambles on about her crackpot political beliefs. Later, Beverly confides to Harry that eight years ago, an IRS (Internal Revenue Service) agent named Ernie Scelera audited her, and found nothing, but has been hounding her ever since, and recently sent Beverly a notice for $192,654 in overdue taxes. She asks Harry to take over her business, and, although he knows little about antiques, he accepts her proposition. Later, at the IRS offices, Commissioner Croft reveals Ernie is being considered for the district director position, and suggests that he drop Beverly’s case, but Ernie is certain she is hiding wealth behind her “mission.” As Harry packs his belongings, Kathy suggests he take sick leave to try the antique business for a short time, instead of quitting his job. Harry protests that she always wanted him to be more assertive, and he is certain everything will work out. Kathy has never met Beverly and, after questioning her daughters, mistakenly believes Beverly is young and attractive. ... +


Harry Johnson, a mild-mannered mailman, receives a letter from Beverly Payne, the woman who befriended him as a child after his mother’s death, and gets permission from his estranged wife, Kathy, to take their two daughters, Shawn and Shelly, to visit Beverly in St. George, Utah. They are greeted by gunfire at Beverly’s property, which houses her antiques and military surplus business, until Beverly realizes it is Harry, not the tax man. At dinner, they are welcomed to Beverly’s “mission,” where she regularly feeds people, and introduced to the guests, including retired Sgt. Billy Floyd, and a man calling himself Draper, who surreptitiously tape records Beverly as she rambles on about her crackpot political beliefs. Later, Beverly confides to Harry that eight years ago, an IRS (Internal Revenue Service) agent named Ernie Scelera audited her, and found nothing, but has been hounding her ever since, and recently sent Beverly a notice for $192,654 in overdue taxes. She asks Harry to take over her business, and, although he knows little about antiques, he accepts her proposition. Later, at the IRS offices, Commissioner Croft reveals Ernie is being considered for the district director position, and suggests that he drop Beverly’s case, but Ernie is certain she is hiding wealth behind her “mission.” As Harry packs his belongings, Kathy suggests he take sick leave to try the antique business for a short time, instead of quitting his job. Harry protests that she always wanted him to be more assertive, and he is certain everything will work out. Kathy has never met Beverly and, after questioning her daughters, mistakenly believes Beverly is young and attractive. At the IRS offices, Ernie informs his employees that he wants the Beverly Payne situation handled. When Harry arrives to discuss Beverly’s situation, the clerk rushes him inside, and, later, Harry informs Beverly that an agent told him they might have to go to tax court, but everything will be fine. Beverly insists there is no tax court, just a judge. As the group eats dinner, Beverly and Billy discuss their conspiracy theories and a guest insults Beverly. Billy fights him and, during the scuffle, Draper’s tape recorder is revealed. As Draper is kicked out, Karen and her daughters arrive. Karen does not want to stay overnight, but Beverly insists, and puts Harry and Karen in the same bedroom. The next day, after Harry gives his family a tour of the property, Karen is ready to leave, but their daughters want to play a game of hide and seek. As the girls hide inside, Shelly falls into a hidden bomb shelter. Outside, Harry hides in an old airplane, but Billy cautions that he is sitting on old land mines. Realizing Harry has triggered one, they cautiously place it in a water barrel where it explodes. Karen leaves with the girls, promising never to return. Harry shops for supplies, and learns that the IRS has seized his bank accounts. At the IRS office, he cannot get answers until he forces his way into Ernie’s office. Harry insists there has been a mistake, but Ernie threatens Harry unless he helps resolve Beverly’s case. In tax court, Harry represents Beverly, thinking it will be a simple matter of proving that she feeds needy people and gives away more than her deductions. However, the IRS plays Draper’s tapes of her discussions, and claims Beverly runs a political organization. Harry is surprised to learn he is Beverly’s sole heir, and the IRS argue that he is protecting his inheritance. As the judge upholds the IRS position, Beverly collapses and dies. After her funeral, Harry returns to the property to discover IRS warnings not to enter government property. Ignoring the signs, Harry finds Ernie waiting on the front porch. Ernie is sorry about Beverly’s death, but claims it was not his fault. She frustrated the system, and the system won. Harry orders Ernie to leave, but the IRS agent claims it is now government property and promises to evict Harry for trespassing. The next morning, Ernie is interviewed at the local television station, and, although he admonishes reporter Roger Scoffield not to mention Beverly’s case, Scoffield starts by questioning Beverly’s death at the IRS court. Meanwhile, Harry dresses in a war uniform, and drives a tank to the station. As Ernie defends himself on-camera, Harry drives inside and declares war on the IRS, challenging their right to deny due process to citizens like Beverly. Police arrive, but producers keep them at bay while filming Harry’s speech. As Harry drives away in the tank, police chase him through town, and into the countryside. An officer blocks a bridge with his vehicle and shoots at Harry, but Harry’s tank barrels into the police car, knocks it off the bridge, and it explodes. At his office, Ernie orders a total news blackout, but Croft arrives to a gauntlet of press and blames Ernie for creating a situation that could destroy the IRS. Two of Ernie’s agents go to Harry’s property and are greeted by signs warning the place is mined. Thinking it is a bluff, they toss rocks, which ignite a mine and blow up their car. Later, police surround the property and Ernie keeps the press away with claims that Harry has been committed to a hospital, and they are securing the place until the National Guard can deactivate Harry’s mines. Ernie leaves female IRS agent Crowley to handle Major F. Andrews, who is furious that the IRS blackmailed the Army into getting involved. Harry sends a message to Andrews that he wants press coverage, but Crowley denies the request. Andrews orders her to get Harry out before he returns to level the building. Police officers attack with tear gas, but Harry has a gas mask, and lobs the gas canister back at them. Meanwhile, Kathy and the girls arrive, and Billy sneaks them through a tunnel toward the house. An IRS agent follows them, and as Harry approaches, the agent shoots, but Harry wounds him with an arrow in the leg. Kathy apologizes to Harry and they kiss. When Harry learns there is a media blackout and that Ernie claims Harry is in the psychiatric hospital, he sends Billy to get the press. As Billy leaves, he is shot by the wounded IRS agent, but escapes. Andrews returns with a tank to level the building and his men plant explosives. Harry insists that his family get to safety, but the IRS agent blocks the exit, so the family runs inside the building. Andrews is shocked to see children inside and halts the demolition, although agent Crowley does not believe Harry has hostages. Harry hides his family in the bomb shelter, and writes a letter documenting his case. As night descends, Billy arrives with the press, including television reporter Roger Scoffield, who ignore Crowley’s demands to leave. Harry offers to exchange his “hostages” for Ernie, and hands his wife the letter, telling her to distribute it if anything happens to him. As cameras cover the exchange, Harry holds Ernie at gunpoint and declares that his property was seized without due process because the IRS thinks they are above the Constitution. As the spectators clap, Harry puts down his weapon and goes inside. Ernie seizes a gun and shoots, igniting the Army’s explosives, and the building goes up in flames, trapping Harry inside. As everyone backs away from the inferno, Ernie is taken to a sanitarium to await a Congressional investigation. The next morning, all is quiet in the smoldering ruins when the bomb shelter opens. Harry’s war has just begun and he plans to run for Congress under an assumed name. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.