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Film / Inchon

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Inchon is a 1981 film directed by Terence Young about The Korean War, taking place in the titular Battle of Inchon in 1950 between the Americans, led by General Douglas MacArthur, and the North Koreans. However, this film's main purpose was not to represent history as it was, but it was rather a propaganda vehicle for the Unification Church, being funded directly by the church's leader Sun Myung Moon.

The plot stars USMC Major Frank Hallsworth (Ben Gazzara), an American soldier stationed in South Korea, who, along with a Sergeant under his command, Augustus Henderson (Richard Roundtree), gets drawn into the conflict when the North Korean forces invade. Meanwhile, Frank's estranged wife, Barbara (Jacqueline Bisset), is trapped in the combat zone and tries to get to safety, and General MacArthur (Laurence Olivier) settles into his new role as the lead General of the upcoming military operation, while struggling with fears of being too old to handle such an undertaking.

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It is a mixture of action, romance and drama. It only grossed $5.2 million at the box office on a $46 million budget, resulting in one of the worst Box Office Bombs in history. It was then showcased at the 35th Cannes film festival, with a $250.000 advertising campaign that failed to get enough buyers interested.

In 1982, the film earned four Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Film, Worst Screenplay, Worst Director and Worst Leading Actor. Lawrence Olivier in an interview declared that the only reason he took part of this picture is "Money, Dear Boy", which became a Trope Namer for this wiki.


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Inchon provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Name Change: Ben Gazzara's character, Frank Hallsworth, is vaguely based on a real-life American serviceman who was part of the lighthouse raid, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Eugene F. Clark; because the film version of the character is depicted as having an affair, Clark wouldn't sign a release to allow the film to use him in the story.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: In the scene depicting the Hangang bridge bombing, the North Korean troops are firing at the bridge with tanks to kill civilians; in real life, the North Korean forces hadn't even gotten to the bridge when it was blown up. If they are intent on actually seizing control of the bridge for their own use, why are they hitting it with tank shots?
  • America Saves the Day: Even though the movie shows soldiers of other nationalities being part of the effort against North Korea (and the film proudly notes that over 20 countries were involved in the war), the Americans, MacArthur in particular, are firmly placed in the foreground and do pretty much everything of actual consequence.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • At the time of the war, Kim Il-Sung was about 40 and definitively more younger-looking than the official portraits in the film.
    • One scene features a shot of a digital watch, which wasn't even invented until 25 years after the film takes place.
    • Take a shot everytime you see someone dressing in more modern outfits, despite the film taking place in 1950. Justified for the North Koreans, who still dress like that even after this film was made!
  • Artistic License – History: Admitted in the opening disclaimer:
    THIS IS NOT A DOCUMENTARY OF THE WAR IN KOREA BUT A DRAMATIZED STORY OF THE EFFECT OF WAR ON A GROUP OF PEOPLE. WHERE DRAMATIC LICENSE HAS BEEN DEEMED NECESSARY, THE AUTHORS HAVE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF THIS LICENSE TO DRAMATIZE THE SUBJECT.
    • For one thing, there was indeed a lighthouse raid performed during the real operation, but it wasn't as vital to its success as the film portrays it.
    • Also, the film's depiction of the Hangang Bridge bombing. In real life, the hundreds of civilian casualties were the result of the South Korean military demolishing the bridge to stop the North Koreans from taking it without evacuating the bridge first, killing somewhere between 500 and 1000 civilians and accidentally cutting off the retreat path for one of their own divisions. In the movie, the bridge is being overrun by North Korean troops when the explosives are detonated, portraying the decision to blow it up as a painful, but necessary sacrifice, even though, during the real life bombing, the North Koreans hadn't even gotten to the bridge yet.
  • Author Tract: This film is a thinly disguised propaganda vehicle for Rev. Moon's ideology.
  • Bus Full of Innocents: While fleeing away from the combat, Barbara gets roped into transporting a group of orphaned Korean children by their grandfather.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: A rather glaring one early in the film, when Hallsworth and Henderson have a rather leisurely stroll to their truck while a battle between the North Korean forces and the ROK rages in the background.
  • Conscription: The North Koreans are shown forcing some South Korean prisoners, including the groom in the couple to be wed, to "volunteer" for the Red Army.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: MacArthur's justification for why the invasion of the Inchon harbor will work: because it's such a difficult operation that nobody will expect it.
  • Cult Soundtrack: Despite the actual film being a notorious flop, Jerry Goldsmith's score was popular enough to have been continuously in print for years.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Frank's mistress, Lim, is killed while assisting in the raid on the lighthouse.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The bridegroom. After having been forcibly drafted into the North Korean forces, he seizes an opportunity when his unit is ambushed by a South Korean guerrilla to kill the commissar who forced him to join when he is injured and unable to move.
  • First-Name Basis: MacArthur tends to address people working under him by their first names, including his current secretary, Lieutenant Haig, and Frank, who used to fill the same position for him.
  • Happily Married: MacArthur and his wife.
  • Kick the Dog: North Koreans are shown killing Southern civilians gratuitously and demolishing their homes.
  • Mr. Exposition: The team of journalists that appears throughout the movie is really just there to tell the backstory of General MacArthur.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Despite being rather hard-charging around other generals, MacArthur is quite pleasant to civilians and those serving under him, including Frank, whom he still addresses by his first name, and his assistant.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Olivier's attempt at an American accent sounds rather like a bad W.C. Fields impression. This is especially apparent in the final scene when the film segues into footage of the real Gen. MacArthur.
  • Parental Substitute: Barbara becomes a temporary mom to the Korean children she escorts away from the war.
  • Plot Armor: Barbara and the schoolgirls to a near-absurd extent. Despite being in a large heavy station wagon on Hangang Bridge when it was blown to smithereens, the car not only survives with not even a scratch but just so happened to be on what precious little was left of the bridge with not even a single crack in the windows, despite the fact that their proximity to the blast would've, at the very least, completely obliterated every single window in the vehicle. On top of all that, the wagon almost rolls backwards off the bridge and into the water but several South Korean soldiers are there to help pull the wagon and the girls to safety.
  • Pre-Climax Climax: Frank and Barbara, the night before Frank takes part in the lighthouse raid.
  • Red Scare: The North Koreans are made to be as evil and repressive as possible
  • Retired Badass: Lim's father, a veteran in World War II.
  • Saintly Church: The St. Mary's Mission that takes in Barbara, the Korean children and the bride and gives the group shelter and the children a school education.
  • So Much for Stealth: The nighttime raid turns into a full-on firefight when Frank and the others are exposed.
  • Storming the Beaches: The climax of the movie depicts the storming of Wolmido, a beach near Inchon.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: The North Korean tanks are obviously American M47snote  with Korean flags on top.
  • Token Minority: Sgt. Henderson (played by Richard Roundtree) is the only non-white American main character.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: The interactions between the American forces and the South Korean locals and military have undertones of this. In the beginning of the movie, they are portrayed as hopelessly inexperienced and underequipped. Later, Frank is seen leading a group of South Korean guerrilla forces as they attack a North Korean convoy.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Barbara throughout most of the first half of the film. Stands out particularly in a scene when she arrives at a UN military camp and stops to fix her makeup when a journalist tries to take a photo of her.
  • Uptown Girl: Barbara and Frank, in the past. She is said to have come from an upper-class family, Frank is a career Marine; he later blames this on the decay of their marriage.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The events portrayed in the film are only superficially adapted from history.
  • We Only Have One Chance: MacArthur argues for the expedient date of the invasion of Inchon because the only oppurtunity they have to enter the bay is a tide that lasts an hour.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Frank and Barbara's separation was caused by him falling in love with a Korean woman, with whom he's still together at the start of the story.
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