May 9th, 2015


The Big Red One

Sam Fuller isn't subtle. When he enagages with a subject he takes it by the lapels and blows smoke in its face. The Big Red One 1980) follows a company of GIs from North Africa through to VE Day. It's crude, brutal, clunky, badly written, variably acted, gruelling and unforgettable. The characters- including Lee Marvin as the universal soldier (did anyone this old actually see active service?)- are ciphers but the battle sequences are pretty damn good- and all achieved with two eternally recurring tanks and about thirty extras. War is a job, says Fuller, and the point of it is to kill the enemy and stay alive yourself. The dead are losers and lets forget about them. Roger Ebert included it in his list of 100 Greatest Movies and I can sort of see why.

I watched the Reconstructed Version, which restores over three quarters of an hours worth of materlal that was cut on first release. Many of the cuts were justified- some dreadful stuff made it back in- but I wouldn't want to lose the spahis cutting off ears in the Roman ampthitheatre.