Film Review: And Then There Was the Fourth

Published by the Alternate Dream


USA 2013

Directed by Zak Knutosn

My rating: 4 out of 5

The story is straightforward enough.

Around the 1960’s, that great art-industry we call cinema, had fallen flat in its most creative factory, the Hollywood. The age of great studios was over and the little magical box that invaded every household in America had proved a jealous rival.

Then came four men who changed everything. They came out of the wilderness, mostly graduates of one of the only three films schools in the country, the University of Southern California. They, like the protagonist of heroic films, rescued cinema and made it popular again. It could now stand on its own feet. To this day, they are world-famous and loved for their services. At least three of them are.

Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola are world household names, especially among the filmgoers. They are known as the unquestioned masters. Their creations (E.T.; Jaws; the Star Wars; the Godfather) are still more watched than most films made ever since.

But, like any good story, this one also has an unsung hero. That rat from the four-pack gang that nobody knows about. The prince who was dethroned and hidden, lest he would come up with a claim to the throne. The unknown fourth has a name. And if Milius is seen by a wide audience, he shall not be unsung for too long.

Don’t feel bad for not knowing who John Milius is. Most people don’t. That’s the point of our story. But remember, please, that he had a role, at least as much as the other three boys, in shaping the cinema you know.

Even though you haven’t heard his name, you’ve heard many of his lines. There is “I love the smell of the Napalm in the morning” from Apocalypse Now, the only film for which he was nominated for the Oscars. Even when he wasn’t the main screenwriter, the producers knocked on his door for good writing. This is where Spielberg got the legendary Quint monologue in Jaws. You could like or loathe John Milius but you knew when it comes to writing dialogue, he is second to none.

Now it’s about time for the saga of Milius to be told and Milius, a documentary made about his life, does that and it does so superbly. The best thing about the doc is that it tells the story in a way that Milius would write it. You can be sure the filmmakers are a fan.

The larger-than-life persona is a maverick, if there ever was one. A gun-totting, NRA-member and a self-proclaimed ‘macho’ who considered himself a Zen Anarchist and ‘almost a Maoist.’ When the hippie students of the 1960’s wore “Nirvana Now” buttons with a peace sign, he wore a pin that asked for “Apocalypse Now.” It had, take this, a mushroom cloud on it.

Now imagine such a character, running wild in the liberal Hollywood. No matter how high you fly, they’ll get you. Or this is one theory that the film puts forward. It attributes the fall of Milius to being too out of line with the liberal party line of Hollywood. There are those who disagree.

Milius lines up every great name you can imagine to pay tribute to Milius: Other than the big three we named above, we have Martin Scorceesee, James Earl Jones, Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood as well as a myriad of other, less well-known bigwigs of the industry.

This says enough about the thunder that Milius’s name still has within the tops of Hollywood. There is no big name who wouldn’t line up to pay tribute to this most controversial man who might yet rise again.

You might be surprised that your Marxist correspondent is also paying tribute to a man considered too rightwing for the Hollywood. But you need to watch this film and get to know Milius to feel for yourself the allure of this lonely gunman-wanna-be. Besides, I at least share with him a disgust at the liberal status quo. And a love for those great films he made.

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