The Boys In Company C was the late R. Lee Ermey's first movie, where he played a drill instructor role very similar to his iconic part in Full Metal Jacket. The late 1970s saw a number of movies explore the painful topic of the Vietnam War, including The Deer Hunter, Go Tell The Spartans and Apocalypse Now. The latter project was a famously hellish production for director Francis Ford Coppola and the cast and crew, and it also technically marked the first movie of former marine R. Lee Ermey in an uncredited role as a helicopter pilot.
R. Lee Ermey is best remembered for his fierce performance as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's (The Shining) anti-war drama Full Metal Jacket. This 1987 film is divided into two parts, with the first following the training of a bunch of boot camp recruits. Ermey was originally brought on as a technical advisor and Kubrick believed the actor was far too nice to play Hartman; he changed his mind after Ermey put himself on tape performing a brutal verbal tirade against some recruits, drawing from his own experiences in the marines. Ermey's performance is unforgettable and he was so good that Kubrick - who was infamous for demanding countless takes of performers - typically only needed a few takes of him per scene.
R. Lee Ermey's first major role in The Boys In Company C also made use of his experience and feels like something of a precursor to Full Metal Jacket itself. This Sidney J. Furie directed movie follows five young marine recruits as they go through training before taking a tour in Vietnam. None of them want to be there, including drug dealer Tyrone (Stan Shaw, Rocky) and writer Alvin Foster (James Canning), who keeps a journal of his thoughts throughout - just like Matthew Modine's character from Full Metal Jacket. The recruits suffer under the wilting barbs from Ermey's Sergeant Loyce, but unlike Hartman, Loyce occasionally shows signs of a softer side. During a heated argument with Tyrone he admits he knows most of the men he's training will either die or come back maimed, so all he can do is prepare them for the worst.
The Boys From Company C then follows the five men during their tour, and the film doesn't shy away from the bleakness of the conflict. They have to deal with incompetent or lazy officers and death can strike at any moment. While it's one of the lesser-known entries in movies about the Vietnam War, its a powerful piece of work and ends on a tragic note.
The Boys In Company C also established the natural screen presence of R. Lee Ermey and following his breakout appearance in Full Metal Jacket, he spent much of his acting career playing stern authority roles or villains. This includes Seven and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. He also parodied his Full Metal Jacket character in several movies, including Toy Story, The Frighteners, and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.