Theatrical release (July 1972)
A chronicle of the controversial anti-Vietnam War political vaudeville tour of American military bases, fronted by Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland.
Restored and re-presented with a new introduction by Jane Fonda providing essential context, Francine Parker’s scrappy if somewhat shambolic film initially ran for only a week in its original release before public outrage removed it from theatres. The doc follows the FTA show – its initials standing for either “Free the Army” or “Fuck the Army,” depending on how riled up the performers got – a 1970s agitprop collective that was developed to support the sizeable and growing voice of anti-war soldiers. Obviously unable to play on military bases, the tour instead performed in towns just outside, drawing servicemen and women with explicitly anti-war messages – a deliberate alternative to Bob Hope’s jingoistic – and often sexist – USO tours. Parker’s film alternates between footage of the skits, songs, and spoken word performances by the likes of Fonda, Sutherland, Holly Near, and, especially, folk singer/civil rights activist Len Chandler, with vox pop interviews with disgruntled and straight-talking soldiers. Speaking frankly, as a film, it’s all a bit messy, but there’s no denying its energy and power, making the project and its reissue a worthwhile reminder of the activism that sprung up around the deeply unpopular Vietnam War – and the pivotal influence active military played in the anti-war movement.