China 1960
Directed by Xu Youxin.

To help the Koreans against the evil imperialist Americans, Feng Yang, a scout for the Chinese army, must take a crack platoon to blow up the Kangping bridge, to cut off the American retreat/reinforcement and make possible a major assault on American positions. I've seen American movies about the Korean war, I've seen South Korean films about the Korean war, here at last is a film made by the other side.

Before leaving on their dangerous mission, they take a moment to do a litte performance for the troops in which an "American soldier" (one of the platoon wearing a large fake nose and mustache) gets fooled by the clever scouts, to much laughter from the audience.

The movie is set up kind of like a computer game. The commander explains the job to the scout: pass the 107th highland, then cross the No. 7 Road, then the Yiuchang river, then the Fengxiang valley, to finally arrive at the bridge. We watch the patrol's ingenuity as they tackle each obstacle with professionalism, intelligence, and courage.

Hysterically, the man with the prosthetic nose needs to put his american acting talent on the line to fool some South Korean troops. When he speaks English, his lines are clearly dubbed, and clearly not by an English speaker, as it is the most tortured English sentence I have ever heard in my life, as the dub artist sputter out, with a barely comprehensible accent, "God damn you, Fire, Fire is dangerous, do you want to die? Get out of hear, you (low mumble) son of a bitch." This nevertheless seems to be profoundly convincing. The scouts are also so adept at birdsong the noises they make are virtually indistinguishable from real birds, in fact, it is the same sound cue. No doubt about it, these guys are good.

As is usual for a propaganda picture of this sort, the enemy troops are ugly characatures, either completely villanous brigands, thieves, or drunken lazy fools, slavishly doting on the Americans in the hopes of a handout, while the peasants all secretly long for liberation and admire the Communist troops (The "People's Volunteer Army" as they called it, a grammatical slight of hand that allowed the Chinese to enter the Korean War without officially declaring war on anybody, you know, kinda like how the U.S. troops were there under the U.N. banner as a "police" force. Yeah, right.). There is also a lot of attention given to promoting nationalism and xenophobia, fostering a belief that non-Chinese and non-Koreans are less then human. Finally, there are lines which are designed to shame those who might hold a different opinion. "You are the son of a Korean. Why are you under Americans command?" an elderly woman spits. Of course, many heroic sacrifices are made along the way. In the end, as with most Korean war movies, one can't help but ask -- for what? For a war that never ended, a nation divided, a crazed hermit kingdom filled with brainwashed puppets on one end and an upwardly mobile economic tiger on the other. Only one guess as to which China likes working with the most now? Hint: it's not the one they were helping during the war. All this loss of life, such a fucking waste.

Whatever its merits as a propaganda device, RAID is a well made film by a director with a great sense of composition and black and white photography. For no apparent reason, however, the last reel of the film appears to have been ever so slightly colorized. The actors are quite good. These old Chinese war movies should be seen. Everyone should see propaganda pictures made outside their own country, it is incredibly instructive and reveals clearly the way we are being manipulated by movies made in our own country without our even realizing it. But I'm on to you now, Hollywood, better watch out!

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on June 01, 2005.

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