Death of a Soldier

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Based on a true story, James Coburn portrays a military lawyer assigned to defend a confessed psychotic killer. Set in the context of WWII and the uneasy US-Australian military alliance. …The obscenity of war. The brutality of murder. The travesty of justice.

ACTORS :  James Coburn, Bill Hunter, Reb Brown

YEAR OF RELEASE :  1986

POSTAGE : Free postage within Australia

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Death of a Soldier  Based on a true story, James Coburn portrays a military lawyer assigned to defend a confessed psychotic killer. Set in the context of WWII and the uneasy US-Australian military alliance. The accused killer claims to have killed 3 women in order to possess their voices. Despite the defense lawyer’s concerns that the killer is not fit to stand trial, the US military presses forward with the case and its desire to have the killer executed in order to strengthen the shaky alliance. The real person who did this was Eddie Leonski.

The Legendary Train Battle has almost the weight of Truth.

Death of a Soldier  I agree with all the points made in the positive reviews of this film. I recently saw it for the first time on Briz31, a community TV channel which can only pay peanuts (if that) for its movies. I missed it at the cinema when it got reasonably good publicity but it quickly dropped out of sight. It deserved far better. I can only say that there is in Australia a tendency by organizations of any size to self-censor a lot of things that show the USA and particularly Australia’s relationship with the USA in a bad light.

I would add something to Graf Spee’s comment that the shootout between Australian troops and American troops was fictional. This incident was very widely believed to have really happened, by Australians in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Books and features have been written investigating it but no concrete evidence exists that it happened. Nevertheless, people believed it had, and I recall quite a few wartime generation people of both sexes telling me in all earnestness that it had, and that it was just typical that “The Government” would cover it up. So whether true or not, the existence of the legend is an indicator of the underlying tension between Americans and Australians at the time. The Battle of Brisbane was factual, but it was a riot during which some shots were fired and people were killed. The Train Battle, legend has it, occurred when a unit of Australians, on their way to the war zone, were insulted by Americans and a full scale fire fight broke out.

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