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TV Reviews : HBO Continues Gallant Look at Vietnam War

July 20, 1988|HOWARD ROSENBERG

Home Box Office has taken the TV lead in rooting out the effects of the Vietnam conflict on an intimate level.

Its caring, deeply involving "Dear America: Letters From Vietnam" was a uniquely memorable documentary achievement that humanized warriors, if not war. And now come six more episodes of HBO's luminous "Vietnam War Story" series, half-hour dramas that resound with truth.

These episodes--they are really short stories opened up for TV--airs at 10 p.m. on Wednesdays, starting with tonight's "An Old Ghost Walks the Earth." Written by Adam Rodman and directed by Michael Toshiyuki Uno, it uses two American soldiers (Wesley Snipes and Tim Guinee) to acutely reflect the baffling ironies of Vietnam, where fleeting moments of gentleness could be immediately erased by bloody violence.

Arriving next Wednesday is an even better "Vietnam War Story." Director Burton Morris' slow and easy camera perfectly captures battlefields of the mind and the gray moods and minor tones of a story by Cindy Lou Johnson and Patrick S. Duncan. In it, a marriage becomes a temporary casualty when a young soldier (Tate Donovan) cannot leave Vietnam behind during an R & R in Honolulu with his wife (Cynthia Bain).

And on Aug. 3, a traumatized captain reveals another side of himself in letters he writes to families of his men killed in battle as a result of his own incompetence. Jack Sholder directs the Duncan script.

What gallant, intriguing, lingering TV from HBO.

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