By Ray O’Hanlon
Faster than a speeding musket ball, "One Man’s Hero," the now controversial movie dealing with the story of the San Patricio Brigade during the Mexican-American war of the 1840s, has reached the video stores. "IF" came across a promo piece for the Tom Berenger film on a video featuring the Pierce Brosnan remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair." The blurb features a number of action shots and stresses the personal struggle and romantic adventures of Sergeant John Riley, played by Berenger in the MGM-released tale of a war that saw Irishmen fight on both sides.
Readers will recall that there was quite a brouhaha surrounding the screen release of "One Man’s Hero" last fall. MGM placed the film in only a handful of theaters in California, the Southwest and Texas amid reports that a top executive in the company wanted it to die on the vine because it was "anti-American." The climactic scene in the movie depicts the hanging of a number of Irish San Patricio soldiers on the grounds that they had deserted the U.S. Army. The men are made face the Stars and Stripes as they swing.
The movie’s director, Lance Hool, complained to the Echo in November that the movie worked but that there had been "absolutely no publicity" from MGM to back it up at the box office. "The movie was promoted in Spanish and went out only in English. It was set up to bomb," Hool said at the time.
The question now, of course, is whether it has been set up to bomb in the video stores. How many copies have been released and to how many stores? Will MGM make a marketing push to coincide San Patricio’s Day?
The three . . . ?
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OK, we had the Four Horseman — Kennedy, O’Neill, Moynihan and Carey — and we now have a Mark Two version in Ad Hoc Committee chairs Gilman, Neal, King and Crowley. But what do we call the threesome in this photo? They are, from left, Democratic rep. Joe Crowley, former New York Assemblyman John Dearie, also a Democrat, and GOP Rep. Peter King. The three are combining their time, energy and party connections to put together this election year’s Irish American Presidential Forum on March 5 at John Jay College in Manhattan.
Dearie organized the first three gatherings, in 1984, ’88 and ’92, and since ’96 he has had bipartisan support from King. This year, Crowley is providing the incumbent Democratic connection. So what to call them. "The Three Jockeys? The Three Amigos? Curly, Larry and . . . well, maybe not.
Either way, the bipartisan nature of the forum is certainly a good idea and might well encourage a GOP presidential candidate to show up at this year’s event for the first time ever, thus giving it, somewhat ironically, a bit more of a partisan edge. We can only wait and see.
Who de eejits den?
The Economist magazine recently cast its cold eye back over the last thousand years, pausing along the way to comment on a few specific times and places.
For the Year of our Lord 1394, it chose the then not quite so auld sod. Suffice it to say, Bord Fáilte should be grateful that it didn’t have to flog the ancient birthplace of good times to foreigners at the close of the 14th century. Then again, the foreigners were arriving in droves anyway despite the distinct lack at the time of BF approved B&Bs.
"Those unknightly Irish," was the heading over the piece. It began: "As few Britons have ever been told, and not even all the Irish remember, Britain’s wretched imbroglio in Ireland goes back far earlier than the atrocities of Oliver Cromwell. Witness Jean Froissart, a Franco-English knight and chronicler on Richard II’s expeditionary force of 1394-95."
Knightly John wasn’t very impressed with Ireland or its inhabitants. Here’s what he wrote, translated into contemporary vernacular, of course: "Ireland is a land of wild terrain — tall forests, stretches of water, peat bogs, uninhabitable areas. You can’t tell how to make war on the Irish, because there are no towns, nobody even to challenge, if that’s what they want. They gather in the woods and forests, where they live in trenches dug under the trees, or among the bushes, like wild animals. When they hear that you have come to attack them, they gather in several places by different paths, so that you can’t get at them. But when they see their chance, they have the advantage in attacking you, because they know the country and they are very skilled. No mounted soldier, however good his horse, can ride fast enough to stop them catching him. They spring from the ground on to the horse, put their arms round the rider from behind and pull him down. Or they stay up on the horse and grip him so tight that they can’t defend himself. They use sharp knives, with a broad, double-edged blade, like a spearhead, and they never reckon a man dead until they have cut his throat like a sheep, slit his belly and taken his heart out — to eat as a delicacy, say some people who know them. They never take prisoners for ransom, and when they see they are coming off worst, they scatter into the woods, or into holes in the ground, so you can’t tell where they’ve gone."
Froissart concluded that the Irish were very dour, rough and proud. "They set no store by the graces of life, nor by any gentleman. Though their country is ruled by umpteen kings, they don’t want to know about civilized behavior. They’d sooner stick to the rough habits they’re brought up with."
The Economist, cheeky as it can often be, asks its own question at the end of the Froissart description "Now why ever could that be?" Underneath is a photo of some kid in a wee North street riot raising his arms in triumph as a vehicle goes up in flames. Is this a suggestion that Ireland is as wild a place now as it was in 1394, inhabited by equally thick mucksavages? Maybe it is. But "IF" came out of its hole in the ground for a minute and got to thinking. Sure, wouldn’t you want to be an even thicker mucksavage to invade a place like the auld sod in 1394 — and still be hanging about the place in 1994.