Just as there is a long list of films that I can watch over and over again, there are also those that I will never again submit to. Near the top of this list is Michael Cimino‘s The Deer Hunter.

I’m not talking about a film I don’t care for. I’m talking about a film that I wouldn’t watch again if someone shoved a snub-nosed .38 into my ribs, or offered me a sizable cash bribe. Would you sit through Star Wars: The Phantom Menace for $20 bills? Would you watch A.I. or Always again? The Cannonball Run II? Sylvester Stallone‘s Cobra?

I’ve stayed away from this simultaneously audacious and godawful film for the last 45 years, and I’m not about to break my streak.

Memories of my first and only viewing in a Manhattan screening room (late November ’78) are branded on my brain tissue. That idiotic Russian Roulette device. Those working-class townspeople singing a wedding song like practiced professionals in a Russian opera. The relentlessly cloying and obnoxious (i.e., overly performed) working-class camaraderie. Those absurdly majestic Northwestern mountain peaks that happen to be in rural Pennsylvania.

And especially Christopher Walken‘s idiotic Russian roulette death…no lead character in a serious film has ever died for a dumber reason than Walken did in The Deer Hunter.

Politically and culturally The Deer Hunter is one of the most full-of-shit films about the American proletariat ever made. The way it simultaneously used and ignored the Vietnam War was sickening.

Posted by Peter Biskind soon after Cimino’s 7.2.16 death: “The politics are execrable, and were widely denounced at the time for turning the war inside out. Clearly, filmmakers who make features ‘based on’ reality take liberties with their material, and the truth vs. art debate is one that will probably go on forever, encompassing films like Triumph of the Will, On the Waterfront, Birth of a Nation, etc., etc. But I think we can make some distinctions.

“First, ironically, although The Deer Hunter is certainly not a documentary, Cimino took great pains to replicate documentary footage his researchers had uncovered. Even the Russian roulette sequences were mean to evoke the famous still photograph of the Saigon police chief shooting a prisoner at point blank range with a pistol to his head.

“But more to the point, there are so many perversions of the truth in The Deer Hunter, all seemingly intended to make the same ideological point — i.e., the Vietcong were evil Orientals — while the Americans were no more than naive victims. There’s a lot more going on here than mere creative license.

“And finally, if I may be indulged, the film is centrally about male bonding and friendship among Americans, with the war as a backdrop and the Vietnamese reduced to stick figures with guns. In my opinion it’s really disgraceful!”