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FRIENDLY FIRE

           

For Hicksflicks.com, Aug. 22, 2014

While becoming a comedy icon with her own long-running variety TV show, Carol Burnett dabbled in theatrical and television movies from time to time. But it was after her show ended that she broached serious dramatic roles, and none with more ferocity than "Friendly Fire" (1979), an ABC-network film based on the book of the same title.

A true story, "Friendly Fire" has Burnett and Ned Beatty playing Peg and Gene Mullen, a rural Iowa couple who declare war on the government when their son is killed by American "friendly fire" in Vietnam and no one will tell them why or how it happened.

           

      Carol Burnett, Ned Beatty at son's funeral in 'Friendly Fire'

Burnett gives a compelling, emotional performance that earned her an Emmy nomination, playing a woman who transitions from flag-waving patriot to distraught anti-war activist, gaining a following and celebrity that she feverishly embraces as she attempts to hurdle the red-tape obstacles placed in her path by an embarrassed U.S. military.

Beatty is equally good, albeit more internalized, as a man who's not quite sure how to react to all that has happened, including his wife's newfound obsession. Beatty also earned an Emmy nomination.

           

The sterling cast includes Sam Waterston, Hilly Hicks and David Keith, along with Timothy Hutton in his second TV movie.

Hutton is terrific as the younger son who finds himself neglected in the wake of the family's tragedy — a role that is not dissimilar to the Oscar-winning character he would play the next year in his first theatrical film, Robert Redford's "Ordinary People."

"Friendly Fire" is a heart-wrenching, disturbing and very moving TV movie that has been out of circulation far too long.

             

There was a VHS release in 1987, but this marks the film's DVD debut, thanks to Kino Lorber's efforts of late in releasing theatrical and TV films that have been in limbo for far too long, as well as giving Blu-ray upgrades to classics that have long been on DVD (see "What's New, Pussycat?" above).