Hollywood — The United States of America is becoming a favorite Hollywood heavy, second only to Nazi Germany as a source of villainy and infamy.
There is something about the American government that filmmakers find inherently evil. If Hollywood movies were made elsewhere, critics and moviegoers alike would brand most of them anti-American propaganda.
Favorite menaces in Hollywood films these days are the CIA and FBI who, according to moviemakers, is conspiring at all times to deny us outrights. Even the KGB doesn’t take as many raps as the CIA.
Next in order of menace is the Joint Chiefs of Staff, followed by an array of high-ranking military officers. Then come corrupt politicians and oily diplomats.
Right behind them are southern sheriffs and city cops. Thereafter, industrialists, capitalists and finally the just plain rich are singled out as favorite movie bad guys.
If a movie heavy turns out to be an impoverished criminal, pains are taken to make clear the felon’s plight is a result of pressure of some kind from the establishment, which has driven him or her to commit the crime.
Everybody likes to see the little guy beat the big guy and who or what is bigger than the United States government?
This year the trio of big-screen silo soaps, “Places in the Heart,” “Country’’ and ‘The River,”’ feature unfeeling bureaucrats from the Department of Agriculture wresting farms from God-fearing sod-busters. The fact that natural calamities and over-extended loans are involved is generally smoothed over.
“The Killing Fields’ like ‘“‘The Deer Hunter’ and “The Year of Living Dangerously,” fall into the let’s-blow-up-Southeast-Asia-again category. This time it is Cambodia, which would be a tropical paradise had not Uncle Sam been around. According to this film, the blood-thirsty Khmer Rouge was spawned by the U.S.A. In “Sharman” the heavies are once again minions of our federal and local governments, chasing down an_ innocent space alien with squad cars and helicopters.
Even in comedies the primary menace is good old Uncle Sam. It’s the State Department in “Protocol.’’ In ‘Beverly Hills Cop”’ it is the establishment Beverly Hills Police Department brass.
In “A Soldier’s Story,” of course, it is the system and the Army. In “Birdy” it is the Army once again, which puts that branch of the service far ahead of the Marines, Navy and Air Force for villainy.
“Iceman’”’ indicted almost every branch of the government, which seemed bent on killing a stone-age man miraculously brought back to life.
“Once Upon a Time in America’”’ ludicrously ties in an American Jewish mafia with a U.S. Senator.
But it’s not always the United States government and American institutions that make handy heavies for film fare. The USSR takes its shots, as do the dictatorial governments of South American countries.
Rarely, however, are insurgents portrayed in a bad light. The atrocities of left-wing South American and Asian regimes rarely are the focal point for villainy as compared to, say, the old imperialistic nations.
England is a wonderfully accommodating nation when it comes to playing the villain.
A couple of years ago it was “Gandhi,” an Academy Award winner that revealed the British Empire as the cause of all things evil in India. This year’s down-with-Brits film is “A Passage to India.
“Even ‘‘Amadeus’” —odds-on to win the Academy Award for best picture managed to take a swipe at the establishment in the form of Emperor Joseph II of Austria, an off-hand sort of aristocratic heavy who preferred the music of Salieri to Mozart the clod,
It is no wonder, then, that the most popular box office films were fantasies with no governmental agencies to fight “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,”’’ “Gremlins,” ‘“Ghostbusters,” ‘‘City Heat,’’ “The Natural,” “Purple Rain’”’ and ‘“‘Romancing the Stone. “Maybe the only picture altogether untainted by Uncle Sam’s calumny was Disney’s ‘‘Pinocchio.”
Article extracted from this publication >> January 25, 1985