The "Hellfighters"

#1
Tony comes home to find a depressed AJ flipping through TV channels, watching nothing in particular. When AJ stumbles onto a movie, Tony tells him it is a great movie and to leave it on. The movie is The Hellfighters, starring John Wayne.

For those who have never seen it, the Hellfighters is the story of international trouble shooters who travel around the world to put out oil-well fires. It is based on the real life of Paul “Red “ Adair and his company.

Some thoughts about its use and placement in the Sopranos. First, the title itself, “The Hellfighters” is an apt description of what is going on in both of Tony’s families. He is fighting the hell of mob-life disloyalty, under-performing crew members, potential war with NY, FBI investigation and pressure and inter-capo frictions. At home he is fighting the hell of friction with Carmella over money and his “gift” to his son: AJ’s depression. The pressures have him, like an oil-well, ready to erupt and it won’t take more than the smallest spark to ignite a conflagration.

Second, the method of putting out an oil-well fire, as perfected by Red Adair, is to let it keep spouting and burning, then to move in close to the flame to extinguish the fire, then cap the well to stop the eruption. Poor Melfi - I hope she has her asbestos undies and protective gear with her when she has to become the Hellfighter to extinguish Tony’s fiery eruption!

Third, the movie depicts how stressful the dangerous oil-well fire fighting profession is and details how it has taken a toll on the marriage between John Wayne’s character and his wife, who leaves when she can no longer endure the stress of saying goodbye and fearing she will never see him again. A hint of Carmella’s possible future actions?

Fourth, one of John Wayne’s assistants in the movie eventually falls for Wayne’s daughter, who shares her mother's concern over the dangers the men endure. Was Meadow’s “mystery date” one of Tony’s “assistants”?

Once again, Bravo David Chase, for the deft background use of the titles, themes and symbolism of classic films to highlight and punctuate the ongoing Sopranos’ story.

Re: The "Hellfighters"

#2
I'm intrigued by the sound-up chosen by Chase.

Reporter: "Mr. Larkin, just how soon 'til they attempt to blow this fire out."

Man: "They won't try to kill it until they cap the well."

This makes me think, "How long 'til they kill the boss?"
"They won't kill him until they have ensured no backlash." IOW "kill the capos first".

Maybe I'm reading too deep.

Re: The "Hellfighters"

#3
billymac, I think you've seen every movie known to man.:icon_biggrin: Seriously, I can always count on you to illuminate the incidental/subtextual use of movies on this show, as this post once again illustrates. Thanks for the info.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: The "Hellfighters"

#4
billyp wrote:I'm intrigued by the sound-up chosen by Chase.

Reporter: "Mr. Larkin, just how soon 'til they attempt to blow this fire out."

Man: "They won't try to kill it until they cap the well."

This makes me think, "How long 'til they kill the boss?"
"They won't kill him until they have ensured no backlash." IOW "kill the capos first".

Maybe I'm reading too deep.


That's very interesting, billyp. Definitely something to watch for as it appears even more trouble is on the way with Phil and NY.
Tony, his spirits crushed after b-lining to the fridge first thing in the morning: "Who ate the last piece of cake?"

Re: The "Hellfighters"

#5
Does "The Hellfighters" clip count as yet another reference to the Middle East this season? Because "Red" was instrumental in capping the oil wells left on fire by the escaping Iraqi army on the first Gulf War back in 1991. You know, the war that Bush Sr. (i.e. father) knew how to handle and was in control of but that Bush Jr. (i.e. son) was/is clearly bungling at the moment? BTW, were there a father/son watching this movie on last night's episode? LOL! :cool:

Between last week's clip of Bush holding the Arab Prince's hand, the previous weeks' Haliburton/Cheney jokes from Corrado and even this same episode's shots of Carm reading 'Rebel in Chief' (Fred Barnes' glowing overview of George W. Bush) the Middle East/oil/Bush references are standing a little too much for my liking. I like my "Sopranos" humor subtle and not so much in-your-face.

Re: The "Hellfighters"

#6
billyp wrote:I'm intrigued by the sound-up chosen by Chase.

Reporter: "Mr. Larkin, just how soon 'til they attempt to blow this fire out."

Man: "They won't try to kill it until they cap the well."

This makes me think, "How long 'til they kill the boss?"
"They won't kill him until they have ensured no backlash." IOW "kill the capos first".

Maybe I'm reading too deep.


I don't think you are reading too deep. The Sopranos has richly developed history, characters, story-lines and symbolism. It provides David Chase and company ample opportunity to use movies, music, current events and pop-culture references as additional texture to the total project. References to movies like the Hellfighters can have many meanings and connections. I like your thoughts about the potential meaning as much as I like the idea of the movie foreshadowing Melfi's upcoming job of extinguishing Tony's fiery psychological eruption and eventually capping the well of his inner demons. I hope others will weigh in with their thoughts about other possible connections and meanings that we haven't thought about yet.

Re: The "Hellfighters"

#7
FlyOnMelfisWall wrote:billymac, I think you've seen every movie known to man.:icon_biggrin: Seriously, I can always count on you to illuminate the incidental/subtextual use of movies on this show, as this post once again illustrates. Thanks for the info.


Thanks for the kind words Fly. You must realize by now that when we finally get David Chase to the "Final Meeting" that I will be asking him a few questions about his choices for the movies that are included in the various episodes. :icon_razz:

Re: The "Hellfighters"

#8
The verbal exchange in the movie did confuse me. Red Adair's method of extinguishing oil rig fires is to douse explosives (Nitro glycerin) with water, place them right at the source of the fire and then explode them. The explosion uses up all the oxygen and the fire goes out. Then they can cap the well. The idea that they have to cap the well before the fire goes out is incorrect. In fact it's the exact opposite. They can't cap the well while it's on fire, so they have to explode first in order put out the fire and cap the well. They have to be ready to cap the well just after the explosion or risk another fire.

Red Adair was the "Gary Cooper type" played by John Wayne. Here is a link to a documentary which shows Red's first shining moment which was the basis for The Hellfighters. Red Adair later became even more famous for putting out numerous fires in Kuwait after the first Gulf War - hence an additional middle east tie in.

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/231727/the_devils_cigarette_lighter/

Re: The "Hellfighters"

#9
billymac I think your interpretation is excellent. I took a different approach to the references to "hell" which I now see as an underlying theme and amended my review accordingly. Putting aside Christopher's visions of hell in "From Where to Eternity" (ep. 2-9) there have been several other references throughout the series.

Tony pulled Christopher deeper into “the life” by fingering the cop who supposedly murdered Chris’ father when he was only a baby. Christopher’s reaction to the news was to wait for the newly-retired policeman at his home, and shoot him twice in the head. (ep. 4-1 “For All Debts Public and Private”) . After that bit of bonding, Christopher wore his fate as badge of honor, telling Adrianna, “"I would follow that man into hell." (ep. 4-5 “Pie-O-My”)

Christopher may have agonized over that distinction and the choice he made when he told Adrianna, “that's the guy, Adriana. My uncle Tony: the guy I'm going to hell for,” but he didn’t take the way out offered to him by Adrianna. It was only when he offered up Adrianna as a sacrifice to Tony and “the life” did he fully learn what the implication of living in hell means (ep. 5-12 “Long Term Parking”).
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