Movies Briefly, Stripes (1981)



Few movies deserve an “Extended Cut” but I can think of few that deserve one less than Stripes, which was already twenty minutes longer than necessary in its original theatrical edition. Rather than expanding the film to a bloated 126 minutes, Sony should have created the first “Abridged Cut”: 80 tightened minutes of the best basic training high jinks and Bill Murray improvisations.

Thankfully, the DVD does also provide the theatrical cut, which limits the damage caused by Stripes‘ regrettable fourth act behind enemy lines in Czechoslovakia. Made with the inexplicable logistical support of the U.S. Army, the film up to that point follows two thirtyish goofballs, Murray and Harold Ramis, who join the Army to get their lives in order. The movie wouldn’t work at all without Murray as jocose enlistee John Winger, and all of Stripes’ best moments belong to him: an unorthodox seduction scene (he promises a woman “the Aunt Jemima treatment” then prods her with a spatula), a droll-but-impassioned piece of patriotism (“We’re American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years! We’re 10 and 1!”) and the famous razzle-dazzle drill routine. But the movie should have ended right there. Don’t give us a show-stopping musical number and then refuse to stop the show.

Matt Singer covers the world of film for the Independent Film Channel. He's also a regular contributor to their website, His personal blog is Termite Art. More from this author →