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The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (Two-Disc Special Edition)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco, Kelly Ward
  • Directors: Samuel Fuller
  • Writers: Samuel Fuller
  • Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD-Video, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English, French, German, Italian
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: French
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Studio: Warner Bros. Home Video
  • Release Date: May 3 2005
  • Run Time: 113 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007TKNLA
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #42,961 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Product Description

Sam Fuller's The Big Red One was already one of the best films of 1980, despite the fact that the version released to theaters ran barely half as long as the director's cut. Fuller had been America's ballsiest B-movie auteur, an ex-newspaper reporter of the hardnosed breed who made fiercely personal, radically stylized, and politically outspoken films between the early '50s (The Steel Helmet, Pickup on South Street) and the early '60s (Shock Corridor). The Big Red One was his long-dreamt-of account of World War II as experienced by his own squad of the 1st Infantry Division, USA, from the first shot fired (by a dead man, on the coast of North Africa) to the last (in a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia).

Even in the studio-truncated version, there was no shortage of astonishing moments and sequences: the squad choking on dust in a bat-filled cave in North Africa as German tanks clatter past the entrance; Fuller's cold-blooded distillation of the D-Day slaughter on Omaha Beach, with a wrist watch on a dead arm in the surf marking time as the water slopping over it grows redder; the rifle squad delivering a Frenchwoman's baby in a German tank on a battlefield full of corpses; a commando-like raid on Nazi troops bivouacked in a Belgian insane asylum. A quarter-century later, film critic Richard Schickel and Warner Bros. executive Brian Jamieson succeeded in restoring 15 never-seen sequences and fleshing out 23 others to create The Big Red One: The Reconstruction, a "new" film nearly an hour longer.

Above all, BR1: The Reconstruction has a rhythm the 1980 cut lacked. The arc of years, battles, and battlegrounds is so much more satisfying. Greater play is given to Fuller's feeling for children caught up in the sidewash of history and atrocity. And the 2004 cut puts sex back into the movie, not orgiastically but as a fact of life and a rarely forgotten driving force. We can see now that Fuller touched, bluntly and shockingly, on the phenomenon of infiltrators--English-speaking German warriors who donned GI khaki and moved among their enemies waiting for a chance to strike.

It's also apparent, as it was not in 1980, that Lee Marvin as the eternal Sergeant leading the young squad is magnificent. This was Marvin's greatest role, rivaled only by his walking dead man in John Boorman's Point Blank. Just beneath the masterly implacability, we glimpse the tenderness, rage, dark humor, experience, and wisdom beyond guilt that have enabled him to survive, to preserve others and to soldier on. His performance, like Fuller's film, is a masterpiece. --Richard T. Jameson

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

Format: DVD
Two or three times during this movie Lee Marvin makes subtle faces and body movements which are superb. You have to hang a star on him.
The rest of this movie is best described as "five or six scripts rejected as unworkable from the old TV show 'Combat', loosely threaded together, with little or no underlying theme or plot to the movie.
Every war movie cliche is present, the bravado lines are obviously and painfully conjured up by Hollywood writers, and from this point it gets worse.
The movie doesn't, at any point, make any military sense. A GI decides to hide by running out of the hills and into the open, (?) where he digs a hole(??) with enought time to dig a four or five foot deep hole (??) but gets squished by getting run over by a tank (Uh... the pounds/sq inch under a tank tread is pretty low actually, the hole would not collapse).
Sicily: hiding in a cave and ambushing Germans one by one. Without any context to this event in the big picture of Sicilian ops, this scene was just plain painfully unrealistic to watch. I found myself offended that anybody would believe an audience would believe this scene. Why couldn't they film a REALISTIC scene to make whatever point they were trying to make?
D-Day: Since you never see more than sixteen people at any one time there is absolutely no sense of the sweeping scale of the invasion. There is almost no sense of terror, little sense of carnage, little sense of loss when American soldiers were getting killed. This is where the total lack of military tactics really starts shutting down the movie. Why did they send one man at a time out with the bangor (sp?) mines? Was it to add suspense at the cost of total unrealism? It seems so.
And what was up with the snipers?
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Format: DVD
Sarge (Lee Marvin), first saw combat near the end of WWI. Now, years later, in North Africa in WWII he is a grizzled, war weary, seen it all veteran. Nevertheless, he's still resolute in his duty and a proud wearer of the Red #1 arm patch insignia of the US 1st Infantry Division. He is leader, father, mother, coach and whatever else he needs to be to get his rifle squad through the war. The four principal characters of interest are Griff (Mark Hamill), an expert riflemen but one who can't shoot the enemy if he sees his eyes; he calls it murder, Sarge says otherwise. There is Zab (Robert Carradine) who's main purpose is narrator, his musings provide background and setting; the other two are Johnson and Vinci. We follow this group throughout the movie and the war from North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, Belgium and finally to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia for a series of emotionally powerful concluding scenes.
There is no glorification of war here; indeed the message is very clear - the only glory in war is surviving. The movie is very creative in introducing characters whose sole purpose, with their demise, is to underline this message. The short careers of both Lemchek and Kaiser are cases in point. The battle scenes are weak and unrealistic but that's not the emphasis. The action scenes that are memorable are the ones with a subtle message; the camera focusing in on the dead soldiers wristwatch in the surf of Normandy, the water turning red with the passing of time; the scene at the asylum in France and the concentration camp scene where Griff overcomes his compunction about shooting while seeing the whites of his enemies eyes.
It's a well crafted movie, with some strong acting from Lee Marvin and Mark Hamill and a movie which delivers it's message in a well thought out and strong ending.
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Format: DVD
Sam Fuller waited for years to make this film based on his experiences as a dogface with the famed First Division and he has left us with a minor masterpiece of film story-telling. Fuller did not have the budget of a Spielberg (in fact he had a rather limited budget) so the invasion of Normandy and other scenes are not sweepingly epic. (Just imagine if he had.) But that is not the point. It is a tale of rememberance & by nature episodic & anecdotal.
The original cut was over 4 hours, Fuller eventually cut it to about 2 1/2 then the studio cut it to 113 minutes--one can only imagine what is missing. Even so the film builds an incredible power, not cathartic but a weary experience of survival, which as the film states is the only glory in war.
Lee Marvin gives an amazingly nuanced performance as the "Sergeant", Robert Carridine does an amusing turn as Zap, Fuller's alter-ego and Mark Hamill is effective as conscious stricken Griff.
If you have not seen Fuller's other war films ("The Steel Helmet", which looks like it was made for 1.98, but is quite amazing; "Fixed Bayonets" & "Merrill's Marauders") they are well worth seeking out, as are his other non-war films.
Sam Fuller said that the only way for a movie audience to truly experience war was to have someone come out in front of the screen & start spraying the audience with gunfire and have the person sitting next to you shot to pieces. I think that I will stick with his films.
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