Retrospective: Worst Picture/Best Picture Series – Inchon and Gandhi (1982)
Two epic films were released in 1982 that focused on key moments in Asia in the twentieth century. Gandhi, a film about the famous Indian who helped his country gain independence from the British Empire, and Inchon, a film focusing on a key battle during the Korean War. Both films were dream projects of the filmmakers involved.
INCHON and GANDHI
INCHON – “Variety may have found Olivier’s performance convincing, but his briefing on the landing alone could be used as a masterclass for ham actors.” – TrevorAclea, IMDb
GANDHI – “It’s a lively, searching performance that holds the film together as it attempts to cover nearly half a century of private and public turmoil.” – Vincent Canby, The New York Times
Gandhi, directed by actor Richard Attenborough, had been in development for decades before finally getting in production in 1980 thanks to the budget raised by Goldcrest Production Company and Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister at the time. But Inchon’s financier was God. The Unification Church, a religious movement founded in the 1950s in South Korea by Sun Myung Moon, provided the entire $46 million to make the film. The Church teaches that God is the creator and heavenly parent whose duel nature combines both masculinity and femininity. Perhaps that’s why they cast Rex Reed as the journalist in the film.
At the start of Gandhi, there is a tranquil bed of water along with peaceful chanting and the title Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi appears in large letters on the screen. A note then appears proclaiming that one man’s life can not be completely told on screen, but the following film will focus on the works of Gandhi. The story begins in New Delhi, 1948, and Mahatma Gandhi has just been assassinated. It is a dramatic moment followed by an even more dramatic and epic funeral. Let’s see, Chariots of Fire began with a funeral, I guess Attenborough really wanted that Best Picture Oscar. While this is a decent opening, it’s not as exciting as it could have been.
Inchon, on the other hand, knows how to begin. Similarly to Gandhi, the film opens with a text; however this note informs us that “This is not a documentary of the war in Korea, but a dramatized story of the effect on war on a group of people. Where dramatic license has been deemed necessary, the authors have taken advantage of this license to dramatize the subject.” I’m quite thankful this was shown; Gandhi didn’t begin with this message so I was confused for most of the film. It then begins with a narration informing us of America’s involvement in the Korean War. Then, a fast paced score explodes on screen with a giant bloodbath of North Korean Army upon South Korea in 1950 and the giant title INCHON! appears. I think it’s clear which film has the more gripping and memorable opening.
Gandhi is played by Sir Ben Kingsley and throughout the film we see him transform from a young attorney to an elderly man in a loincloth. The main hero in Inchon is General MacArthur played by Sir Laurence Olivier. Throughout the film, Gandhi can’t seem to figure out what kind of hairstyle he wants. We first see him with a full head of hair, then some kind of bushy mohawk, and gradually he ends up being bald and with a mustache. At least when we are introduced to General MacArthur he has the decency to keep his hairstyle throughout the story, something along the lines of a spray-on comb-over.
Though Gandhi focuses mainly on the title character and his involvement in his nation’s independence, Inchon is a star studded cast with a plethora of great storylines involving characters from many different backgrounds. Jacqueline Bisset plays Barbara Hallsworth, a woman about to get a divorce from Major Frank Hallsworth played by Ben Gazzara. While at, as the film’s text so eloquently puts it, “a small village, ten miles away”, Jacqueline must flee to the American embassy because her small village is about to be invaded. She encounters an old man on her escape who dumps his four grandchildren on her so they can escape as well. Meanwhile, her future ex is having an affair with Korean Toshiro Mifune’s daughter. However, he hears of his soon to be divorced wife’s trouble in the small village so he travels with the sexy beast Richard Roundtree, to save her. Roundtree has many clever lines throughout, such as a scene involving a native Korean in need of a ride to Seoul to get married, to which he asks Major Hallsworth “Do you think we can get her to the church on time?” It’s so amusing that we can pass over the fact that My Fair Lady was written six years after the Battle of Inchon took place. And so sets up the first act of Inchon.
Gandhi begins with his earlier life living in South Africa as a lawyer. There, he discovers that Indians are being oppressed by the British Empire in South Africa. Thus begins his fight for independence of his people through the use of non-violent protests. Early on he bumps into Reverend Charles Andrews, played by Ian Charleson aka Eric Liddell, who must have run to South Africa after having just wrapped Chariots of Fire. As Gandhi and the reverend walk down the streets in South Africa they bump into an angry Daniel Day-Lewis. Daniel’s actually not playing an angry thug, he just walked on set and was really pissed at Kingsley for taking the Gandhi role from him. So, after numerous encounters with angry locals and several arrests, the government finally listens to Gandhi’s pleas and the Indians are granted several rights in South Africa. With his success in Africa, he returns to his native India and plans to free his people there as well. And so sets up the first act of Gandhi.
Like Gandhi leaving his home in South Africa to save India, MacArthur leaves his home in Tokyo to save South Korea. When he arrives on scene, this time played by Olivier’s stand in, his House of Wax figurine, MacArthur passes over Inchon, the city which would be a perfect area for invasion. There is a moment in Gandhi where he goes on a fast while in prison. But before greeting his fellow officers to describe the plans for invading Inchon, General MacArthur takes a vow of silence for two minutes to enter the room, pace about, light a match, and smoke his pipe. Finally, after the silence ends, he gives a moving speech with the unforgettable line “I can almost hear the ticking of the second hand of destiny.” Finally, because we haven’t heard him mention him for nearly three minutes, MacArthur concludes his game plan for the invasion by claiming that God is on their side and they cannot fail.
Gandhi’s teachings of nonviolence are indeed noble, but watching Jacqueline Bisset in Inchon shows that sometimes violence is a necessity and one can still have a fun time after killing someone. Driving the children, she is stopped by a North Korean who threatens her and she shoots him to death. Shortly after, the children in the backseat are yelling with each other and she tells them to be quiet. After a brief silence, the kids laugh, and Jacqueline Badass once again tells them to be quiet, but cracks a smile and the whole car erupts into laughter. I guess Gandhi never experienced the joy of killing ones enemy and the humor that can result from it. Just one lesson we unfortunately were never able to receive from the peaceful man.
Both films have a clever way of cutting between scenes. Leading up to the key moments in the story, Gandhi has usually just given a moving speech to a large audience, and before any key moment happens in Inchon, General MacArthur has usually just given a moving speech to his wife while they’re both wearing bathrobes. Also, in Inchon, whenever there is a need to jump to another scene, they cut to a bunch of South Koreans being murdered by North Koreans. And whenever a period of time passes in Gandhi or there needs to be some time filler, Gandhi just gets arrested. Granted, there is a horrific moment in Gandhi where over 1,500 unarmed Indians are killed by British soldiers, but their deaths aren’t as acrobatic as the deaths in Inchon.
Speaking of that horrible massacre in Gandhi, after all the civilians have fallen, it cuts to Gandhi and his friend Dhalsim from Street Fighter the Movie roaming the empty area in silence. However, in Inchon, while driving past the aftermath of a massacre, in order to keep her little Korean companions from seeing the horror, Jacqueline tells them all to play a game, and a cheerful game of Patty Cake quickly ensues. Perhaps that is why Gandhi broke for an intermission right after the massacre, so the viewers watching the film could play their own game of Patty Cake to forget what they had just seen. But don’t think Gandhi is the more epic and prestigious film because it has an intermission, Inchon has one as well, the six-minute scene where Bisset and the Major reunite. It is a perfect moment to get up and go to the bathroom.
While MacArthur prepares for his attempt at bringing peace to Korea by invading Inchon, Gandhi prepares for his attempt at bringing peace to India by invading the Indian Ocean by making salt. Because it is against the law for Indians to make and sell salt, the British intervene and, what ho! It’s Sir John Gielgud, another friend from last year’s Chariots of Fire. He must have been tired of complaining about the Jews in the Olympics that he decided to run to Asia and complain about the Hindus in India.
At the closing of the film, after America successfully took Inchon, MacArthur returned a hero. About to speak at the US Embassy in Korea, countless press arrived because there is news that the General is going to make an important announcement. As the room hushes, a journalist quietly says into his recorder that America’s greatest soldier is about to make a statement that could change history. Approaching the podium, MacArthur begins his speech: “Our Father, who art in heaven…”
Meanwhile, after Gandhi successfully got Britain out of India, new problems arose. The Hindus and the Muslims started fighting amongst each other, demanding their own portion of the country for either India or Pakistan. These new acts of violence of course led Gandhi to take another fast. Withering away, the two sides agreed to stop fighting and the violence ended. MacArthur prayed to God that the invasion would succeed and Gandhi prayed to God that the violence would stop. I guess God answers everyone’s prayers.
So why were these two films made? Richard Attenborough made Gandhi to show that such a man did exist who spoke of peace and tolerance and non-violence. Sun Myung Moon made Inchon to show that General Douglas MacArthur did exist who loved God and loved people. Now, as we look back on both films, one has been shown throughout the world and recently received a BluRay upgrade. The other is only shown on The GoodLife Television Network which is owned by the Unification Church. I won’t give away which film is which. But in the end, what’s most important is that both films show that these events occurred and that we should not forget it.
[author image=”https://fbcdn-sphotos-a-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-frc1/t1/55_534157521904_4130_n.jpg” ]Jeff spends too much time watching movies, but when he’s not watching them, he helps make them by working in the grip and electric department. Some would say he chose this profession because of the thrill of being on set and helping create art, but the real reason is most G&E don’t need to wear pants. Along with being a film nerd, Jeff enjoys riding his bike everywhere around the Southern California and watching his friends perform improv.[/author]