Don’t Cry, It’s Only Thunder (1982)


“Don’t Cry, It’s Only Thunder” is a minor Vietnam War movie. It was directed by Peter Werner. He directed mostly TV movies and had about the same budget for this feature film. The screenwriter was Paul Hensler. He was a veteran who wanted to focus on the issues like humanitarian efforts by American soldiers and military corruption. The Pentagon found the script satisfactory because the main characters makes a transformation to become a good American. The production was done in the Philippines. It was a box office flop.

The movie opens with the movie was “suggested by a true story”. I don’t know if I have ever seen that claim. I didn’t think there was anything lower than “inspired”. Brian Anderson (Dennis Christopher) is an Army nurse. He gets acquainted with a girl named Anh (Mai Thi Lien in her only movie). Anderson takes her to an orphanage run by nuns. The orphanage is in trouble, but he is not empathetic. He’s a cynic based on what he has experienced as a nurse. He deals on the black market and he is often in trouble. He uses drugs. Although it has some allusions to the Tet Offensive, Anderson is more of a post-Tet character. He is friends with Doctor Katherine Cross (Susan Saint James) and she forces him to accompany her to the orphanage. It’s no surprise that his mood changes. Cinematic nuns plus orphans is gold

This is a strange movie. After the first scene, you will think you can predict the basics of the plot. Cynical soldier is humanized by his interaction with an orphanage. Actually, that does happen, but the journey is off the beaten path. It comes off as a heavy-handed redemption story. Unfortunately, it does not have the cast to pull it off effectively. Nobody has ever been upset to see Susan Saint James. She had finished “MacMillan and Wife” six years earlier. She was a multiple nominee for Outstanding Actress Emmys. Christopher was three years after his best acting performance in “Breaking Away”. The rest of his career was appearances in TV episodes. He gives a wooden performance in “Don’t Cry, It’s Only Thunder”.

I don’t think anyone was surprised that the movie was a bomb. It is simply not a good movie. However, I have to give it credit for bringing attention to the plight of war orphans. The MASH TV series will do a good job on this. It also deserves props for focusing on a REMF (rear echelon mother f’er). After seeing almost all of the Vietnam War movies, I would best describe the movie as a trifle that should be seen only by nut cases who are determined to review every Vietnam War movie. Wait, what?