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Southern Comfort (film)

Southern Comfort (film)

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Southern Comfort is an American action
Action film
Action film is a film genre where one or more heroes is thrust into a series of challenges that require physical feats, extended fights and frenetic chases...

/thriller film directed by Walter Hill, working from a script by Hill, longtime collaborator David Giler
David Giler
David Giler is an American filmmaker who has been active in the motion picture industry since the early 1960s.He started his career as a writer, providing scripts for television programs such as Kraft Suspense Theatre and The Man from U.N.C.L.E....

, and Michael Kane. It featured Keith Carradine
Keith Carradine
Keith Ian Carradine is an American actor who has had success on stage, film and television. In addition, he is a Golden Globe and Oscar winning songwriter. As a member of the Carradine family, he is part of an acting "dynasty" that began with his father, John Carradine.-Early life:Keith...

, Powers Boothe
Powers Boothe
Powers Allen Boothe is an American television and film actor. Some of his most notable roles include his Emmy-winning 1980 portrayal of Jim Jones and his turn as Cy Tolliver on Deadwood, as well as Vice-President Noah Daniels on 24....

, Alan Autry
Alan Autry
Carlos Alan Autry is an American actor, politician, and former National Football League football player. He is best known for his role as Captain Bubba Skinner on the television series In the Heat of the Night; he also has been in numerous movies and other television shows...

, Les Lannom
Les Lannom
Les Lannom is an American actor and musician. Lannom is best known for playing Lester Hodges on the television series Harry O from 1974 to 1976, and his role as Sergeant Casper in Southern Comfort.-Career:...

, Peter Coyote
Peter Coyote
Peter Coyote is an American actor, author, director, screenwriter and narrator of films, theatre, television and audio books. His voice work includes narrating the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics and Apple's iPad campaign. He has also served as on-camera co-host of the 2000 Oscar...

, T. K. Carter
T. K. Carter
Thomas Kent Carter better known as T. K. Carter, is an American comedian and actor. He is best known for playing Michael "Mike" Fulton, an elementary school teacher, on the NBC series Punky Brewster and Mylo Williams on the Disney Channel series Good Morning, Miss Bliss as a supervisor, whose...

, Lewis Smith
Lewis Smith
-Early life:Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He graduated from Lookout Valley High School in 1974.-Career:Smith is best known for the role of Charles Main on the first and second part of North and South miniseries, He also played "Curly Bill" Brocious in the Kevin Costner film Wyatt Earp...

, Franklyn Seales
Franklyn Seales
Franklyn Seales was an American film, television and stage actor.-Career:Born on the island of St. Vincent, Seales attended Juilliard before appearing in various television productions of Shakespearean plays including Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew where he played the role of Petruchio...

, Brion James
Brion James
Brion Howard James was an American character actor. Known for playing the character of Leon Kowalski in the movie Blade Runner, James portrayed a variety of colorful roles in well-known films such as 48 Hrs., Another 48 Hours, Tango & Cash, Silverado, Red Heat, The Player and The Fifth Element...

 and Fred Ward
Fred Ward
Freddie Joe "Fred" Ward is an American actor. He began his career in 1979 alongside Clint Eastwood in Escape from Alcatraz. He is best known for his starring roles in the motion pictures Remo Williams, Tremors, Henry & June, Short Cuts, The Right Stuff and Exit Speed...

.

The film, set in 1973, features a Louisiana Army National Guard
Louisiana Army National Guard
The Louisiana Army National Guard is a component of the United States Army and the United States National Guard. The Constitution of the United States specifically charges the National Guard with dual federal and state missions. In fact, the National Guard is the only United States military force...

 squad
Squad
In military terminology, a squad is a small military unit led by a non-commissioned officer that is subordinate to an infantry platoon. In countries following the British Army tradition this organization is referred to as a section...

 of nine on weekend maneuvers in rural bayou
Bayou
A bayou is an American term for a body of water typically found in flat, low-lying areas, and can refer either to an extremely slow-moving stream or river , or to a marshy lake or wetland. The name "bayou" can also refer to creeks that see level changes due to tides and hold brackish water which...

 country as they come under threat from local Cajun
Cajun
Cajuns are an ethnic group mainly living in the U.S. state of Louisiana, consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles...

 settlers.

Plot


It is 1973. Members of an undisciplined patrol of Louisiana Army National Guardsmen are meeting in the Bayou's swamps for weekend maneuvers. Corporal Hardin (Boothe), a cynical transfer from the Texas National Guard, is disgusted with the behavior and arrogance of his new squad. A married man, he wants no part of a date with prostitutes that PFC
Private First Class
Private First Class is a military rank held by junior enlisted persons.- Singapore :The rank of Private First Class in the Singapore Armed Forces lies between the ranks of Private and Lance-Corporal . It is usually held by conscript soldiers midway through their national service term...

 Spencer (Carradine) has waiting for the men. Nevertheless, he is befriended by the amiable Spencer, the two seeming to agree that they are the only level-headed soldiers in the squad.

In the swamp, the patrol gets disoriented and will need to turn back unless they steal several pirogues (cajun canoes). They end up frightening and angering local Cajun
Cajun
Cajuns are an ethnic group mainly living in the U.S. state of Louisiana, consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles...

 hunters as they return in time to see their boats being taken. PFC
Private First Class
Private First Class is a military rank held by junior enlisted persons.- Singapore :The rank of Private First Class in the Singapore Armed Forces lies between the ranks of Private and Lance-Corporal . It is usually held by conscript soldiers midway through their national service term...

 Stuckey (Smith) fires blanks from his M60 machine gun
M60 machine gun
The M60 is a family of American general-purpose machine guns firing 7.62×51mm NATO cartridges from a disintegrating belt of M13 links...

 at the Cajuns as a prank. The threatened Cajuns fire back, killing the squad leader, Staff Sgt. Poole (Coyote).

The second-in-command, Sgt. Casper (Lannom), orders the squad to continue the "mission." The squad discovers that Cpl. Lonnie Reece (Ward) secretly brought along a box of live ammunition for hunting purposes. Caspar divides the ammo evenly amongst the squad in order to better their chances of defense. Upon reaching the shack of a one-armed French-only speaking local Cajun hunter and trapper (Brion James), Caspar orders he be placed under arrest. An emotionally unstable soldier, Cpl. "Coach" Bowden (Autry), then uses a jar filled with gasoline to burn the shack igniting the explosives inside, causing the house to be destroyed.

The soldiers begin to get more paranoid. Hearing the barking of dogs, they hope they are about to be rescued. But the dogs belong to the Cajuns who are now hunting the soldiers because of Stuckey's stupid prank. A dog attacks Stuckey, but Spencer and Hardin manage to frighten the creature, and send it running away. The squad begins to realize that lethal traps have been set for them. PFC Tyrone Cribbs (Carter) walks into one and is speared to death. Cribbs and Poole are buried before the squad camps for the night. In the morning, Hardin sees Reece trying to get the captured Cajun to talk by dunking his head in the swamp. The two soldiers get into a fight. The Cajun directs Hardin's attention to a nearby tree and tells him to kill Reece. Hardin takes a bayonet and stabs Reece against the tree, finally killing him. The Cajun prisoner escapes and the squad buries Reece.

The soldiers grow tired of Sgt. Casper due to his strict military regulations and inability to lead them out. Spencer assumes command and they decide to head for the interstate. Suddenly, Simms becomes frightened. He hears a noise and fires blanks fom his rifle. The soldiers run back towards him, but are not pleased and accuse him of wasting time. As they continue on their journey, Simms becomes frightened again, but this time, he sees a Cajun hunter and fires his blanks. The soldiers then discover that the Cajun hunters have dug up the bodies of the three dead soldiers and tied them to a tree. Horrified, they flee directly into more Cajun traps, but this time they are in the form of falling trees. They manage to avoid them all and reach a clearing. There, they fire blanks at the Cajun hunter while Simms and Casper take shelter behind a tree. The two men realise that they have nothing left except blanks.

Casper throws a makeshift hand grenade towards the hunters, but he misses them. Spencer and Hardin fire into the maneuvering Cajuns and one goes down behind a tree. The men retreat and see an Army helicopter hovering overhead above the thick mass of trees. Stuckey runs after it, but he drowns in quicksand. The soldiers split up and search for Stuckey for a few hours, to no avail. A Cajun position is spotted, and Casper fixes his bayonet
Bayonet
A bayonet is a knife, dagger, sword, or spike-shaped weapon designed to fit in, on, over or underneath the muzzle of a rifle, musket or similar weapon, effectively turning the gun into a spear...

 to his M16 rifle
M16 rifle
The M16 is the United States military designation for the AR-15 rifle adapted for both semi-automatic and full-automatic fire. Colt purchased the rights to the AR-15 from ArmaLite, and currently uses that designation only for semi-automatic versions of the rifle. The M16 fires the 5.56×45mm NATO...

 and charges, only to be shot dead. Simms (Seales) arrives on the scene and breaks down over the situation, only to be shot dead as well.

The remaining group of Spencer, Hardin and the addled Bowden (who has been disarmed and tied up) escape and camp for the night. They awaken at morning's light by a freight train and discover train tracks nearby. Bowden is hanging in a noose from the bridge. The escaped Cajun prisoner appears on the train tracks overhead. Now speaking fluent English, he warns the two remaining men to leave the Cajuns' territory while they still can, giving them directions on how to get out.

Spencer and Hardin make their way to a remote dirt road where they get a ride from a Cajun couple and are brought to the next town where the local Cajun community is celebrating with a party. As Hardin and Spencer go into a warehouse to get washed up, Hardin believes he spots two of the Cajun hunters getting off a boat. Spencer tells him he is paranoid and not to worry. Hardin is not convinced. He sees the two Cajuns speak to the man who gave him and Spencer a ride, followed by hangman nooses being thrown over a wooden frame. Hardin grabs a large knife and leaves the party. He is spotted, pursued back into the warehouse and shot through the shoulder by a third Cajun trapper, who then prepares to kill him. Meantime, a slaughtered pig is hung by the legs using the nooses and skinned and gutted.

Spencer runs in firing blanks from his rifle. The distracted Cajun turns his gun on him, but the injured Hardin stabs the Cajun in the inner thigh. Spencer runs as the two Cajuns Hardin saw on the boat enter the room. Spencer knocks one of them out with his rifle, only to see another Cajun blocking his exit from the warehouse. As the Cajun is about to shoot Spencer, Hardin grabs him and Spencer stabs the Cajun with a fixed bayonet. The pair leave the town and see an Army helicopter overhead and an unidentified truck coming towards them. The film ends as they see the truck bears U.S. Army markings.

Background


The plot of Walter Hill's previous film, The Warriors, is based on a similar idea, that of a group of warriors who are chased by a large number of enemies through treacherous territory in order to reach their home; in this case, Coney Island
Coney Island
Coney Island is a peninsula and beach on the Atlantic Ocean in southern Brooklyn, New York, United States. The site was formerly an outer barrier island, but became partially connected to the mainland by landfill....

. For Southern Comfort, home is English-speaking Louisiana. The literary archetype for this film can be found in the Anabasis
Anabasis (Xenophon)
Anabasis is the most famous work, in seven books, of the Greek professional soldier and writer Xenophon. The journey it narrates is his best known accomplishment and "one of the great adventures in human history," as Will Durant expressed the common assessment.- The account :Xenophon accompanied...

 of Xenophon
Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...

. The Anabasis tells the story of the Ten Thousand
Ten Thousand (Greek)
The Ten Thousand were a group of mercenary units, mainly Greek, drawn up by Cyrus the Younger to attempt to wrest the throne of the Persian Empire from his brother, Artaxerxes II...

, a Greek mercenary army that had fought for Cyrus the Younger
Cyrus the Younger
Cyrus the Younger, son of Darius II of Persia and Parysatis, was a Persian prince and general. The time of his birth is unknown, but he died in 401 B.C. The history of Cyrus and of the retreat of the Greeks is told by Xenophon in his Anabasis. Another account, probably from Sophaenetus of...

 in his attempt to usurp the throne of the Persian Empire from his brother, Artaxerxes II. When Cyrus died in the Battle of Cunaxa
Battle of Cunaxa
The Battle of Cunaxa was fought in 401 BC between Cyrus the Younger and his elder brother Arsaces, who had inherited the Persian throne as Artaxerxes II in 404 BC. The great battle of the revolt of Cyrus took place 70 km north of Babylon, at Cunaxa , on the left bank of the Euphrates River...

, the Greeks were forced to march through unfamiliar territory in what is now the countries of Iraq and Turkey while frequently being attacked by the people living in those regions.

The film is supported by an atmospheric soundtrack by longstanding Hill collaborator Ry Cooder
Ry Cooder
Ryland Peter "Ry" Cooder is an American guitarist, singer and composer. He is known for his slide guitar work, his interest in roots music from the United States, and, more recently, his collaborations with traditional musicians from many countries.His solo work has been eclectic, encompassing...

. The song "Parlez Nous à Boire," sung during the scene in the Cajun village at the end of the film, was performed by Cajun musician Dewey Balfa
Dewey Balfa
Dewey Balfa was an American Cajun fiddler and singer who contributed significantly to the popularity of Cajun music. Balfa was born near Mamou, Louisiana...

.

The film includes many actors, including Fred Ward
Fred Ward
Freddie Joe "Fred" Ward is an American actor. He began his career in 1979 alongside Clint Eastwood in Escape from Alcatraz. He is best known for his starring roles in the motion pictures Remo Williams, Tremors, Henry & June, Short Cuts, The Right Stuff and Exit Speed...

 and Peter Coyote
Peter Coyote
Peter Coyote is an American actor, author, director, screenwriter and narrator of films, theatre, television and audio books. His voice work includes narrating the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics and Apple's iPad campaign. He has also served as on-camera co-host of the 2000 Oscar...

, who had one of their first big roles here.

Cast

  • Keith Carradine
    Keith Carradine
    Keith Ian Carradine is an American actor who has had success on stage, film and television. In addition, he is a Golden Globe and Oscar winning songwriter. As a member of the Carradine family, he is part of an acting "dynasty" that began with his father, John Carradine.-Early life:Keith...

     as Pfc. Spencer
  • Powers Boothe
    Powers Boothe
    Powers Allen Boothe is an American television and film actor. Some of his most notable roles include his Emmy-winning 1980 portrayal of Jim Jones and his turn as Cy Tolliver on Deadwood, as well as Vice-President Noah Daniels on 24....

     as Cpl. Hardin
  • Fred Ward
    Fred Ward
    Freddie Joe "Fred" Ward is an American actor. He began his career in 1979 alongside Clint Eastwood in Escape from Alcatraz. He is best known for his starring roles in the motion pictures Remo Williams, Tremors, Henry & June, Short Cuts, The Right Stuff and Exit Speed...

     as Cpl. Reece
  • Franklyn Seales
    Franklyn Seales
    Franklyn Seales was an American film, television and stage actor.-Career:Born on the island of St. Vincent, Seales attended Juilliard before appearing in various television productions of Shakespearean plays including Macbeth and The Taming of the Shrew where he played the role of Petruchio...

     as Pfc. Simms
  • T. K. Carter
    T. K. Carter
    Thomas Kent Carter better known as T. K. Carter, is an American comedian and actor. He is best known for playing Michael "Mike" Fulton, an elementary school teacher, on the NBC series Punky Brewster and Mylo Williams on the Disney Channel series Good Morning, Miss Bliss as a supervisor, whose...

     as Pfc. Cribbs
  • Lewis Smith
    Lewis Smith
    -Early life:Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He graduated from Lookout Valley High School in 1974.-Career:Smith is best known for the role of Charles Main on the first and second part of North and South miniseries, He also played "Curly Bill" Brocious in the Kevin Costner film Wyatt Earp...

     as Pfc. Stuckey
  • Les Lannom
    Les Lannom
    Les Lannom is an American actor and musician. Lannom is best known for playing Lester Hodges on the television series Harry O from 1974 to 1976, and his role as Sergeant Casper in Southern Comfort.-Career:...

     as Sgt. Casper
  • Peter Coyote
    Peter Coyote
    Peter Coyote is an American actor, author, director, screenwriter and narrator of films, theatre, television and audio books. His voice work includes narrating the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics and Apple's iPad campaign. He has also served as on-camera co-host of the 2000 Oscar...

     as Staff Sgt. Poole
  • Alan Autry
    Alan Autry
    Carlos Alan Autry is an American actor, politician, and former National Football League football player. He is best known for his role as Captain Bubba Skinner on the television series In the Heat of the Night; he also has been in numerous movies and other television shows...

     as "Coach" Bowden (billed as Carlos Brown)
  • Brion James
    Brion James
    Brion Howard James was an American character actor. Known for playing the character of Leon Kowalski in the movie Blade Runner, James portrayed a variety of colorful roles in well-known films such as 48 Hrs., Another 48 Hours, Tango & Cash, Silverado, Red Heat, The Player and The Fifth Element...

     as Cajun Trapper
  • Sonny Landham
    Sonny Landham
    William M. "Sonny" Landham is an American movie actor and political candidate.-Acting career:At the beginning of his acting career, Landham was an actor in pornographic films...

     as Hunter
  • Marc Savoy
    Marc Savoy
    Marc Savoy is an American musician, and builder and player of the Cajun accordion.Savoy holds a degree in chemical engineering but his primary income is derived from his accordion-making business, based at his Savoy Music Center in Eunice, Louisiana. His wife is the singer and guitarist Ann Savoy,...

    , prominent traditional musician, in a cameo role as a Cajun accordion player

External links