Actor Harold Ramis, who died Monday at the age of 69, leaves behind a lengthy film repertoire including “Stripes,” the 1981 movie about the hollow Army years between the end of Vietnam and before the Reagan military buildup.
Ramis co-starred with Bill Murray in the film about two screw-ups who join the Army looking for some type of direction. SPOILER ALERT: The two end up invading Czechoslovakia in an experimental Army recreational vehicle to rescue their unit.
While “Stripes” is no “Citizen Kane,” it’s a classic comedy that captures how America felt about its military at the time. Most of the recruits shown at Basic Training are a level below Cat IV. One of them, Francis, is nicknamed “Psycho,” because he is anxious to kill someone – on the rifle range, he shoots at birds with his M-16. Another recruit said he joined the Army to avoid getting drafted, not knowing the draft had ended years earlier.
This was before movies like “Lone Survivor” and “Saving Private Ryan,” which portray service members as America’s best, who make up an elite fighting force. The U.S. was still in the throes of a general malaise. It had lost interest in the military and assumed those who served couldn’t get a real job.
It’s exactly the type of hollow force that senior civilian and military leaders hope to avoid returning to as the Defense Department looks for ways to cut spending. However, Mark Twain noted that history may not repeat itself, but it rhymes.
Bill Murray could not be reached for comment by deadline.