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Stone Revisits Relevant 'Platoon'

8 Jun, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

With Father's Day right around the corner, the studios are doing their usual scramble to pump out war movies and Westerns on DVD and pitching them as ideal gifts for dad.

But while most of what's coming out consists of simple repackagings or repromotions, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has upped the ante with a lavish new two-disc special-edition DVD of Platoon that was prepared in partnership with Oliver Stone, who directed the brutal 1986 classic about the life on the front lines during the Vietnam War — and the equally demoralizing battle among the soldiers and officers themselves.

The Twentieth Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD, which arrived in stores May 30 at $24.96, features a new high-definition transfer of the film and 10 minutes of additional footage not seen in the theatrical version. Stone provides a commentary track to both the original film and the deleted scenes. The DVD also includes several documentaries on the making of the movie and the Vietnam experience, along with new interviews with both Stone and Vietnam War veterans.

The buzz was so strong about the new spruced-up Platoon that the film was screened during the Cannes Film Festival, with a proud Stone in attendance.

“It's the first time I was officially invited to Cannes,” the director said.

Stone said the additional footage was found as MGM was combing the vaults, looking for extras to include on the DVD.

“I had forgotten about it,” he said. “I loved some of it very much — there's an alternate ending, additional dialog and scenes in which Johnny Depp is featured more — but I hadn't seen some of this material in years.”

Stone said Platoon is close to his heart because “it's the first film I directed that got me sort of established, and it went around the world like a shot.”

He said it took nearly 10 years for the film to get made. “The script was written in 1976 and got rejected everywhere,” Stone recalled. “Nothing happened, and it was frustrating.”

Stone, who served in the Vietnam War, said Platoon also is a very personal film because it's based in part on his own experiences.

“I had been there in the infantry and I was trying to show what it was really like,” he said. “Up to then, we had had this Rambo mentality. Only later did things start to shift, that Vietnam veterans had been caught in what was really a civil war among ourselves — an immoral war, a divided war. So the film reflects this civil war that existed on the American side, in that platoon — and that was part of the reason to make it.

“Until then, we had never really talked about how the men, in their platoons, were very divided themselves — that there was a battle going on between the men. And if you look at the really great war stories, you read about it there, too — about the Greeks fighting among themselves, for example.”

Stone said he's also jazzed about Platoon making a big DVD splash now because of the parallels he sees between the Vietnam War and the current situation in Iraq — not to mention countless wars, battles and skirmishes in between.

“When I made Platoon I thought it was a very pivotal point in my life,” he said. “I was hopeful that the militarism of the country would be diminished, and yet by the time I made Born on the Fourth of July three years later we were invading Panama, and then we had that series of wars in the 1990s.

“The worst is the second Iraqi war. The memory of Vietnam has faded so fast that the lessons we learned have not been learned. In a sense, we're repeating our mistake. We're not succeeding.”

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