Theme Song: “I Am Your Child” by Barry Manilow plays over the closing credits, but that’s not really that interesting.
“Home Again America” by Alan Menken
“The Wind Knows Better Than I” by Alan Menken
If my theory about this movie is correct, these songs were added in when the film was re-edited in 1980. They’re great examples of late 70s California singer/songwriter songs a la Joseph Brooks and Richard Baskin.
Interesting Dated References: People with conviction who were willing to die for things they believed in. People who let their moral compass guide their way through life. Erik Estrada in a minor supporting role.
Best Line: Said by nurse to soldier throwing fit on psych ward floor — “Get up off the floor, it’s just been Simonized.”
Social Context: The Line (original title Parades aka Break Loose) deals at length with Vietnam-era soldiers protesting the war and their subsequent mistreatment in a military stockade. Unfortunately it’s very heavy-handed, with several dozen awkward editing choices and pacing shifts, which could be due to the extensive editing detailed below.
Summary: The first 20 minutes of The Line focus on Rusty the ‘Nam vet returning home from war. This includes the obligatory shot of Rusty walking down a dirt road carrying a duffle bag and wearing a headband to hold back his heinous mullet. He hooks up with his old girlfriend, does a little monologue about the horrors of war, and has flashbacks. The details of Rusty’s homecoming remain a little vague, and his parents, suspicious he’s AWOL, call the government to come get him.
Then things get a little goofy with the movie as we’re transported to a military prison for deserters and malingerers, which really, really resembles the prison setting of Cool Hand Luke. The character Rusty takes a back seat and The Line turns into an ensemble piece as we watch various prisoners suffer rigors and abuse at the hands of Sergeant Hook (Brad Sullivan, who my sister and I will remember from Funny Farm).
When we do see Rusty again, he is a full-blown suicidal schizophrenic, complete with delusional rambling. While on job detail, he tries to run away and is shot and killed by an MP.
So at this point the movie shifts again and becomes about soldier/prisoner Potofski (Lewis Stadlen, previously on The Betamax Rundown in Windy City). The shooting of Rusty has led to civilian protests and unrest on the military base, and Potofski organizes his fellow prisoners to conduct a sit-in protest. This infuriates Captain Jinks (David Doyle, Bosley of Charlies’ Angels fame) who encourages the MP to escalate force.
There are numerous scenes of the protesting crowd, which then storms the gate during the sit-in, and some weirdo in a bowler hat who looks like Isaac from Children of the Corn gets shot in the fucking forehead.
Worth Mentioning: From the limited information I can find online, it seems Parades was originally released in 1972 as an ensemble piece that didn’t focus on Rusty’s background at all. A write-up from TV Guide from that year under the title Parades states, “This film tells of the mistreatment of AWOL prisoners at the fictional Fort Nix.” In 1982 there’s another TV Guide listing under the title The Line, which states, “For some reason director Robert J. Siegel resurrected an earlier film of his, a 1972 picture called PARADES, and incorporated it into this story about a Vietnam War deserter.”
The title card at the beginning of The Line lists 1980, so Siegel must have decided to film more back story about Rusty and re-edit Parades. This is further supported because none of the cast in the first homecoming segment (parents, girlfriend) are listed in the credits. Also, Rusty looks totally different in the homecoming segment than the prison segment, and I’m not just talking about the stupid mullet wig.
I’d be curious to hear from director Siegel about what went on with this movie. The actor who played Rusty, Russ Thacker, died in 2012. You probably don’t care, though, and all my efforts attempting to uncover information about forgotten movies is by far the most pointless thing for me to spend my time doing, even more so than watching the news or paying credit card companies money they claim I owe them.
Poster and Box Art: The poster for Parades is good in theory, but the execution is a little awkward. The poster for The Line tries to make a statement, but isn’t very effective.
This European poster on the other hand, has an awesome visual. Why wouldn’t they just use this for all the marketing?
The Line has such a confusing lineage that during the Erik Estrada-mania that swept our nation it was released as Bulletproof. Featuring Estrada in his full CHiPs outfit and text about “the front line” and “bullets flying,” this is one of the most brazen cash-in attempts I’ve ever seen of a minor role being exaggerated to boost sales.
Availability: Used VHS (big box released by USA video) under the title The Line, or Bulletproof on eBay.