It was probably either late 1998, or early 1999 when I saw The Deer Hunter for my first time. It was in the middle of my Robert DeNiro can do no wrong phase, which coincidentally is right around where he started doing plenty wrong. Ronin for instance. I was sitting on my sectioned couch and I threw in cassette one of the classic VHS double cassette. If you think a three hour DVD is intimidating, back in the VHS days, there was nothing more deterrent to watch a movie that came in that big double cassette pack. You knew you were in for a long boring time.
The Deer Hunter either didn't or did disappoint depending on how you look at it. Is it a great movie? Probably. Was the first hour or so so slow you can do nothing but snort ritalin to stay awake? Probably. After making it through steel mining, a long wedding, and some deer hunting, you are finally treated to Vietnam. This is before the slew of Vietnam movies came out, so maybe everyone knew there was going to be a Vietnam scene, and the anticipation could carry you through the beginning back in 1978, but this was the late 90s for me so that no longer applied.
The Vietnam scene starts off kind of awkward. You're kind of not sure who is who, until DeNiro starts blowtorching everything in sight, and then before you know it, the three friends are trapped in some rogue Vietcong prison. So, you've been sitting through this long boring movie, and now everyone's trapped in rat infested waters while other prisoners are forced into playing Russian Roulette above them. Happy times Vietnam. I don't know if it's the hatred you feel from sitting through a dullard of a movie, or the hatred you feel for the Vietcong, but you start to boil during this scene. They're screwed really. The only thing I was hoping for was that thee good ol' US of A army gets in there before any of the 3 friends die. Nope.
Though it may be a little far fetched, DeNiro and Christopher Walken getting more bullets in the gun then shooting all the Vietcong guards actually made me jump off my couch. In the history I've home movie watching, I never jumped off my couch. That was special. It turned my boring night into a night of, "Holy shit, I can't believe I just saw that! Why did I wait so long to see this movie!" From there, the movie is grand too. What was sad about seeing it this time around though is you realize how cool Robert DeNiro used to be. The movie starts to become tragic for reasons it never expected. Everything really ages differently.