Uncommon Valor (1983)

R | 102 mins | Adventure | 16 December 1983

Writer:

Joe Gayton

Cinematographer:

Stephen H. Burum

Editor:

Mark Melnick

Production Designer:

James L. Schoppe
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HISTORY

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Uncommon Valor was originally conceived by actor Wings Hauser, who commissioned Joe Gayton to write the screenplay, then licensed the property to Paramount Pictures Corp. Shortly before the start of production, retired U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Bo Gritz, led an expedition into Southeast Asia to search for American soldiers, listed as “missing in action” (M.I.A.) during the Vietnam War, similar to that depicted in the film. The 17 Jun 1983 DV reported that actor William Shatner was developing a project based on Gritz’s mission, also to be released by Paramount. After reading the screenplay for Uncommon Valor, Shatner was convinced of the dissimilarities between the projects. The 10 May 1983 HR noted that composer Basil Poledouris was hired to score the film, although his name does not appear in onscreen credits.
       The lead actors prepared for their roles with a week of military training, followed by the start of principal photography on 6 Jun 1983 in Los Angeles, CA. Locations included the Los Angeles County Jail, Stage 14 at Paramount Studios, the art studio of sculptor Michael Todd, the racetrack at Indian Dunes Park in Valencia, CA, and the Newhall Land and Farm Company in Santa Clarita, CA, where the mock labor camp set was constructed. A “mini-gym” was supplied for actor Randall “Tex” Cobb, a professional boxer, who was training for an upcoming fight. Filming was occasionally interrupted by trespassers, several of whom risked detonating the landmines used in the “battle practice scenes.” Fire safety precautions were supervised by De Witt Morgan, an ... More Less

According to production notes in AMPAS library files, Uncommon Valor was originally conceived by actor Wings Hauser, who commissioned Joe Gayton to write the screenplay, then licensed the property to Paramount Pictures Corp. Shortly before the start of production, retired U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel Bo Gritz, led an expedition into Southeast Asia to search for American soldiers, listed as “missing in action” (M.I.A.) during the Vietnam War, similar to that depicted in the film. The 17 Jun 1983 DV reported that actor William Shatner was developing a project based on Gritz’s mission, also to be released by Paramount. After reading the screenplay for Uncommon Valor, Shatner was convinced of the dissimilarities between the projects. The 10 May 1983 HR noted that composer Basil Poledouris was hired to score the film, although his name does not appear in onscreen credits.
       The lead actors prepared for their roles with a week of military training, followed by the start of principal photography on 6 Jun 1983 in Los Angeles, CA. Locations included the Los Angeles County Jail, Stage 14 at Paramount Studios, the art studio of sculptor Michael Todd, the racetrack at Indian Dunes Park in Valencia, CA, and the Newhall Land and Farm Company in Santa Clarita, CA, where the mock labor camp set was constructed. A “mini-gym” was supplied for actor Randall “Tex” Cobb, a professional boxer, who was training for an upcoming fight. Filming was occasionally interrupted by trespassers, several of whom risked detonating the landmines used in the “battle practice scenes.” Fire safety precautions were supervised by De Witt Morgan, an inspector for the Los Angeles Fire Department.
       On 12 Jul 1983, the production moved to the Hawaiian island of Kauai for the Laotian sequences, which employed nearly 100 local teamsters and over 100 background actors “with Asiatic features.” Filming was delayed for two days due to rain, which reportedly ended after Reverend Will Kaina performed a benediction ceremony. Of the many sets built on the island, the largest was the ten-acre Laotian labor camp, which took three months to build and less than three weeks to destroy. Production on the island concluded 19 Aug 1983, after which the cast and crew flew to Bangkok, Thailand, for the final seven days of filming.
       Actor Gene Hackman, a former U.S. Marine, told the 12 Jul 1983 DV that he took exception to the “hawkish” nature of the screenplay and intended to give his character “liberal sensitivity.” Filmmaker Ted Kotcheff originally planned an additional five days of photography at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., pending the approval of the U.S. government. A news item in the Aug 1983 Box noted that Uncommon Valor was a working title, and an official title would be chosen prior to release. The budget was estimated at $14.5 million. The 28 Sep 1983 Var listed The Eight, Youth in Asia, and Last River to Cross among the film’s working titles, the latest of which was Missing in Action. Five weeks later, the 9 Nov 1983 Var confirmed Uncommon Valor as the official title.
       According to the 23 Jan 1984 HR, Paramount canceled its original advertising campaign two weeks before release due to its failure to address the film’s “emotional element.” A new campaign was conceived, which emphasized the characters’ victory at the story’s conclusion, and included the following line of dialogue as its slogan: “C’mon buddy, we’re going home.” Although the campaign targeted a young male audience, the studio determined that “word-of-mouth” was helping to attract an older demographic as well. The advertising budget was estimated at $2.5 to $3 million, which was standard for a major release.
       A studio press release, dated 5 Dec 1983, announced the picture’s 16 Dec 1983 opening in Los Angeles. Despite mixed reviews, Uncommon Valor took in $20,963,504 during its first month, making it the fifth highest-grossing release of the Christmas season. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Aug 1983.
---
Box Office
Mar 1984
p. R-38.
Daily Variety
17 Jun 1983.
---
Daily Variety
12 Jul 1983.
---
Daily Variety
3 Aug 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 1983.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Dec 1983
p. 3, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Dec 1983
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Jan 1984
p. 1, 28.
Los Angeles Times
19 Dec 1983
p. 3, 6.
New York Times
16 Dec 1983
p. 12.
Variety
28 Sep 1983.
---
Variety
9 Nov 1983.
---
Variety
14 Dec 1983
p. 16.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
as Wilkes
as Blaster
as Charts
and
as MacGregor
as Jiang
as Lai Fun
+

PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Paramount Pictures presents
A Milius-Feitshans Production
A Ted Kotcheff Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
DGA trainee
Dir, 2d Unit
1st asst dir, 2d Unit
2d asst dir, 2d Unit
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Addl photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Gaffer
Key grip
Still photog
Dir of photog, 2d Unit
Cam op, 2d Unit
Cam op, 2d Unit
1st asst cam, 2d Unit
1st asst cam, 2d Unit
1st asst cam, 2d Unit
1st asst cam, 2d Unit
2d asst cam, 2d Unit
Gaffer, 2d Unit
Key grip, 2d Unit
Arriflex BL III cameras supplied by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Sketch artist
FILM EDITORS
Ed consultant
Apprentice film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set dec
Prop master
Weapons furnished by
Weapons furnished by
Weapons furnished by
Prop master, 2d Unit
Const coord
Sculptures by
COSTUMES
Men's cost supv
Men's costumer
Women's cost supv
Ward, 2d Unit
MUSIC
Mus comp
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff cood
Title and opticals by
Title des
DANCE
Choreog by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Helicopter pilot
Scr supv
Unit pub
Tech adv/ Research
Scr supv, 2d Unit
Transportation coord
Transportation capt - LA
Transportation capt - Hawaii
Asst to Mr. Feitshans
Asst to Mr. Milius
Asst to Mr. Milius
Asst to Mr. Kotcheff
Asst to Mr. Dellar
Asst to Mr. Dellar
Spec weapons training by
Extras casting - Hawaii
Exec prod coord for Thailand
STAND INS
Stunt coord, 2d Unit
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Brothers In The Night,” written by Ray Kennedy, Kevin Dukes & David Ritz, performed by Ray Kennedy
“Sunshine Of Your Love,” written by Jack Bruce, Peter Brown & Eric Clapton
“Badman,” written and performed by Ray Kennedy.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Missing in Action
Youth in Asia
The Eight
Last River to Cross
Release Date:
16 December 1983
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 16 December 1983
Production Date:
6 June--late August 1983
Copyright Claimant:
Paramount Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
10 February 1984
Copyright Number:
PA200419
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
102
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
27205
SYNOPSIS

In 1972 Vietnam, American soldiers Frank Rhodes and his wounded comrade, Paul MacGregor, are stranded on a battlefield after a barrage of enemy gunfire forces their rescue helicopter to leave without them. They are now among the 2,500 American soldiers classified as “missing in action.” Frustrated by feeble government efforts to locate the missing soldiers, Frank’s father, Colonel Jason Rhodes, travels to Thailand over the next several years in hope of finding his son. In 1982, Col. Rhodes acquires photographic evidence of Frank’s incarceration at a slave labor camp in northern Laos. He assembles a rescue team comprised of men who fought alongside Frank, with financing from Paul’s father, oil tycoon Harry MacGregor. Joining the team are “Blaster,” a professional surfer with an expertise in explosives, “Charts,” a helicopter pilot in need of a break from his failing marriage, and “Sailor,” a former member of a motorcycle gang. Wilkes, a hand-to-hand combat expert, declines due to the severe trauma he suffered during the war, while Johnson, a hospital administrator, is unwilling to interrupt his successful career. However, both ultimately reconsider and join the expedition. Throughout the process, Jason maintains telephone contact with Harry MacGregor, unaware that government agents are monitoring their conversations. Col. Rhodes flies his team to a replica of the Laotian labor camp, built by Harry outside Galveston, Texas. Their trainer is Kevin Scott, a youthful former United States Marine, skilled in the use of modern weapons. As training begins the following day, the combat veterans grow resentful of Kevin, who treats them like new recruits. Col. Rhodes advises Kevin to show the men respect and they ... +


In 1972 Vietnam, American soldiers Frank Rhodes and his wounded comrade, Paul MacGregor, are stranded on a battlefield after a barrage of enemy gunfire forces their rescue helicopter to leave without them. They are now among the 2,500 American soldiers classified as “missing in action.” Frustrated by feeble government efforts to locate the missing soldiers, Frank’s father, Colonel Jason Rhodes, travels to Thailand over the next several years in hope of finding his son. In 1982, Col. Rhodes acquires photographic evidence of Frank’s incarceration at a slave labor camp in northern Laos. He assembles a rescue team comprised of men who fought alongside Frank, with financing from Paul’s father, oil tycoon Harry MacGregor. Joining the team are “Blaster,” a professional surfer with an expertise in explosives, “Charts,” a helicopter pilot in need of a break from his failing marriage, and “Sailor,” a former member of a motorcycle gang. Wilkes, a hand-to-hand combat expert, declines due to the severe trauma he suffered during the war, while Johnson, a hospital administrator, is unwilling to interrupt his successful career. However, both ultimately reconsider and join the expedition. Throughout the process, Jason maintains telephone contact with Harry MacGregor, unaware that government agents are monitoring their conversations. Col. Rhodes flies his team to a replica of the Laotian labor camp, built by Harry outside Galveston, Texas. Their trainer is Kevin Scott, a youthful former United States Marine, skilled in the use of modern weapons. As training begins the following day, the combat veterans grow resentful of Kevin, who treats them like new recruits. Col. Rhodes advises Kevin to show the men respect and they will reciprocate. Over time, Col. Rhodes learns that Wilkes suffers from claustrophobia after being trapped in a collapsed tunnel with the bodies of the Vietnamese mother and son he accidentally killed. Sailor’s resentment toward Kevin results in a fistfight, with the veteran soldier as the victor. When Sailor demands an explanation of Kevin’s interest in the mission, the young man reveals that his father is also missing in action. Meanwhile, Harry MacGregor argues the merits of the expedition with Senator Hastings, who demands that it be cancelled. Harry defies the senator, even when his company is threatened with government harassment. As training nears completion, the team enacts the rescue plan in under three minutes, using live ammunition, and destroys the model prison camp. Harry MacGregor observes the exercise and rewards each of the soldiers a cash bonus. Later, when the soldiers arrive in Bangkok, Thailand, their weapons are confiscated by police. They steal a truck and drive to the northern part of the country, where they pool their bonus money and purchase weapons with the help of Jiang, an opium dealer. Jiang joins the expedition, accompanied by his two daughters, Lai Fun and Mai Ling. As they approach the Laotian border, armed guards attempt to confiscate their cargo, resulting in an exchange of gunfire. Mai Ling and the border guards are killed, and Jiang interrupts the journey to bury his daughter. Upon reaching the labor camp, Wilkes enters through a drainage pipe and finds four Americans among the prisoners. That evening, Blaster places explosive charges outside the camp, while Col. Rhodes, Charts, and Johnson commandeer three helicopters from a nearby military base. The invasion begins at sunrise, and although the prisoners are freed, their escape is delayed by the destruction of two of the helicopters. When some of the explosives fail to detonate, Blaster sets them off with gunfire, and is killed in the resulting explosion. Jiang is killed as well, and Sailor sacrifices himself to ensure his comrades’ escape. As the helicopter flies toward Bangkok, MacGregor informs Col. Rhodes of Frank’s recent death from illness. The expedition returns to the United States, and news media are on hand as the four soldiers are reunited with their families. +

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

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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.