Adrian (Jan-Michael Vincent) is a free-spirited hippie who has just been drafted into the Marine Corps. As soon as he arrives at the boot camp, his long hair get shaved off and he immediately starts to get under the skin of Sgt. DePayster (Earl Holliman). While Adrian scored higher than anyone else in the platoon on his aptitude tests, he is also a pacifist who refuses to shoot a gun and teaches all of the other draftees how to meditate. DePayster wants to put Adrian in the Motivational Platoon, a disciplinary unit where Adrian probably would not survive. Trying to protect Adrian while also trying to turn him into a killing machine is his drill instructor, Sgt. Drake (Darren McGavin).
Tribes has never been released on DVD/Blu-ray but it can be watched on YouTube. Not surprisingly, for a movie that was made for television in 1970, there are some parts of the film that have not aged well. I doubt a real drill instructor, even one who secretly draws pictures and admires Adrian’s rebellious spirit, would have put up with Private Adrian for as long as Drake does in this movie. Again because of its television origins, the language has been cleaned up. You won’t mistake this one for Full Metal Jacket. On the plus side, Earl Holliman gives a good performances as the hardass sergeant and Jan-Michael Vincent shows why he was expected to be such a big star before he ended up becoming one of Hollywood’s greatest cautionary tales. Best of all is Darren McGavin, who is even better as the tough but fair Sgt. Drake than he was in his two best known roles, the father in A Christmas Story and reporter Carl Kolchak.
Tribes was a huge rating success when it aired, leading to it getting a limited theatrical release. In Europe, it was retitled The Soldier Who Declared Peace.