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The Big Red One (Widescreen/Full Screen)
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The Big Red One
In Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg depicts the D-day landings with a realism lauded by veterans. The Big Red One depicts the D-day landings, too, and it was made by a veteran. Writer-director Samuel Fuller, who served in the First Infantry Division from North Africa to Czechoslovakia (including the Normandy landings), made a career out of swift, punchy B movies, such as Pickup on South Street and The Naked Kiss. The Big Red One became Fuller's nod to A-movie filmmaking, yet it has the solid, matter-of-fact perspective of the ground-level infantryman. The episodic action ranges all over the European theater, as a tough squad of American GIs (including Mark Hamill and Robert Carradine) follow their hard-bitten sergeant (Lee Marvin, at his best) and try to stay alive. Filmed mostly in Israel, the film delivers on the requisite war-movie conventions and tough-guy humor but also introduces notes of poetry. Fuller's D-day doesn't match the pyrotechnics of Spielberg's version, but it creates power from the simple image of a dead soldier's watch, ticking away in blood-soaked surf. A fine and memorable picture, The Big Red One might have been even greater had it been released in Fuller's full-length cut--someday perhaps a restoration will allow the director's vision to be seen for the first time. --Robert Horton
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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?Read more ›
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
disappointed in the updated version; changes made that removed some key points prefer the originalPublished 2 months ago by Genny Walker
that movie was unknow to me...took a chance but pleasently surprise.Published 14 months ago by Jean Francois Barrette
this movie sucks...i'm glad i did NOT buy it...don't even bother with it...waste of time.Published on Dec 23 2009 by pinoymetal
One of my all time favourite war movies. Unfortunately, the re-edit seems a little choppy with scenes that were cut out of the original for a reason (they took away from the pace... Read morePublished on June 5 2005
This film is a disgrace, the combat is unrealistic and i'm sure the tanks in it are all the same for americans and germans alike. Read morePublished on April 20 2004 by Chris