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By Christopher Curry | March 5, 2005

“Combat Shock” is primarily about Frankie Dunlan and his return home from the Vietnam war. Frankie was a hero, and for a long period of time, a P.O.W. who was tortured and interrogated without mercy. He was the kind of soldier who should have returned to an accolade and ticker tape parade, but that was not to be. Instead, Frankie found himself in a place possibly more distressing and frightening than the one he’d just left behind. Frankie was in the United States of America.

Frankie Dunlan’s apartment is abysmal in every way imaginable; the kitchen sink leaks brown sludge, the toilet backs up, the ceilings, walls and floors are unbelievably filthy and there’s no food. In the living room his wife watches a small t.v. that emits sound but no picture. In the bedroom a horrendously deformed infant cries hour upon hour. The child was the result of Frankie’s exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical that was widely used but barely tested.

Frankie’s friends are junkies. His enemies are bureaucrats, law makers, pencil pushers and landlords. He’s not particularly fond of the pimps, thugs and loan sharks in his area, either. Nor is he fond of the fact that he has been unemployed for months with no hope of work in sight. The “American Dream” has alluded him. Frankie contemplates jail as being preferable to his miserable excuse for an existence but in the end, death becomes his only outlet. After finding a gun and playing street trash vigilante (ala “Taxi Driver”) Frankie turns the gun on his family and then himself.

“Combat Shock” is the antitheses of movies like “Platoon,” “Apocalypse Now” and “Full Metal Jacket.” Rather than lionizing the heroism of the Vietnam vet it asks the viewer to empathize with not just the physically wounded but the mentally wounded as well. The mentally wounded soldier that has had his common sensibilities dismantled by a power-mad governmental body. The very government that sees the destruction of an enemy as a courageous act but then has little or no use for the “hero” once he’s returned home broken and disillusioned.

It is astoundingly embarrassing to know that a country as wealthy as the U.S. could allow such atrocities to happen right here on the home front. “Combat Shock” is dismal and depressing, and in its nerve-wracking realism it makes zero excuses for the establishment and its indifference.

This Troma DVD comes with the usual barrage of extras including: trailers, a trivia quiz and audio commentary by the film’s director.

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