Welcome Home, Johnny Bristol (1972)

Article 3172 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-19-2010
Posting Date: 4-21-2010
Directed by George McCowan
Featuring Martin Landau, Jane Alexander, Brock Peters
Country: USA
What it is: Psychological drama or Paranoid conspiracy movie?

A POW from Vietnam returns to the states; he was only able to survive his captivity by recalling memories of his hometown in Charles, Vermont. When he’s well enough to leave the hospital, he takes his nurse to visit his hometown… only to find that it doesn’t exist.

It’s a little hard to discuss the fantastic content of a movie like this; for most of its running time, it walks a thin line between the truth and the illusion without letting on which is which, and to talk about what the fantastic content is would be to give away the game. Let’s just say that one possible explanation takes us on an exploration of madness (marginal horror) while another deals with the marginal science fiction of vast conspiracy theories. One of these does apply.

Whatever its fantastic content, I found this TV-Movie to be truly engrossing, it’s well written, well directed, and extremely well acted. In particular, Martin Landau as the tortured POW of the title gives one of his finest performances, but I also have to mention Forrest Tucker, who shines as a fellow patient in the ward. Jane Alexander is also strong as the nurse, and Pat O’Brien has a memorable cameo as a former recruiting sergeant with a faulty memory. The movie does a strong job of keeping you in suspense as to the nature of the truth, and even once you think you know which story is true, you’ll find out there’s still some details that are capable of changing the whole game. The ending is not a disappointment. Highly recommended.

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