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The Green Berets (1968) was a highly personal project by actor and American icon John Wayne. The film was the first major Hollywood production to address the Vietnam War, and its pro-war sentiments are still controversial today. Loosely based on the 1965 book by Robin Moore, the film tells the somewhat fanciful exploits of a squadron of elite American troops who defend an American encampment against Viet Cong guerrillas and then undertake the daring kidnapping of a North Vietnamese general. Wayne co-directed with Fred Kellogg (and, uncredited, Mervyn LeRoy), and led a cast of familiar faces including Jim Hutton, Aldo Ray, David Janssen and George Takei.
When Miklós Rózsa was asked to score The Green Berets, he said, "I don't do westerns!" He was told, "It's not a western, it's an eastern!" and signed on to provide a traditional, stirring symphonic score. In the face of conflicting genres—war, western, and exotic adventure—Rózsa relied more than anything on his own inimitible style of full-bodied action and suspense to characterize the conflict. The result has thrilled his fans for over 30 years.
The unlikely pop hit by Barry Sadler, "Ballad of the Green Berets," is used in the film's main and end titles (arranged by Ken Darby), but not in any of the interior score. Rózsa instead provides a flavorful concoction of stirring anthems, noirish tension, a jaunty march for Jim Hutton's comic relief character, and several pieces of Asian-styled source music (including authentic instrumentation). His pulsating theme for the Viet Cong is only shades removed from a Native American war chant—but this is a film, after all, where the sun sets in the East.
Rózsa's score to The Green Berets is presented in complete, chronological form. The extensive liner notes are by Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall. Due to licensing restrictions, we regret the absence of motion picture artwork in the packaging for this CD, but the music is all present and accounted for in spectacular stereo sound.