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The Big Red One
Drama, Action, War
IMDB rating:
Samuel Fuller
Mark Hamill as Pvt. Griff, 1st Squad
Colin Gilbert as Dog Face POW
Ken Campbell as Pvt. Lemchek (#2 on Bangalore torpedo)
Doug Werner as Switolski
Joseph Clark as Pvt. Shep (soldier on troop transport)
Maurice Marsac as Vichy colonel
Siegfried Rauch as Schroeder (German sergeant)
Serge Marquand as Rensonnet
Lee Marvin as The Sergeant
Bobby Di Cicco as Pvt. Vinci, 1st Squad
Kelly Ward as Pvt. Johnson, 1st Squad
Alain Doutey as Broban (Vichy sergeant)
Stéphane Audran as Underground Walloon fighter at asylum (as Stephane Audran)
Robert Carradine as Pvt. Zab, 1st Squad
Storyline: Grim story of a WWII squad consisting of an anonymous sergeant and four long-time survivors who ignore the faceless replacements who continually arrive and die.
Type Resolution File Size Codec Bitrate Format
DVD-rip 704x384 px 1440 Mb mpeg4 1237 Kbps avi Download
Better than 'Saving Private Ryan'
This film is both moving and action-packed, never succumbing the "no questions only orders"/wave the flag mentality of 'Ryan'. Lee Marvin shows us that nothing was learned from the Great War as he fights the same terrain again over 30 years later. Story narrated by character representing director/writer Sam Fuller, who was there and knows how to make us feel as if we were as well.
Pretty good realism but not a good story
The Big Red One strikes me as a realistic view of the war, but what it lacks is a coherent goal. It seems just like a slice of life of the soldiers who travel from place to place, enduring conflict and battle. I will say that it is a success for its depiction for war, but it isn't a success in any other way. Touching and emotional are some of the scenes - like the break in the battle when they visit the civilians and when, at the end, the Jewish boy is finally given some food and dies in the soldier's arm at the end of the war. Unless you are really interested in World War 2 and war movies in general, I would not recommend this film.
Among the greatest WWII epics
A lot of people hate The Big Red One. They call it farcical, uneven, clichéd. They find it farcical, I believe, because the film revels in the absurdity of war rather than gloss over it. They would rather watch a film, like Saving Private Ryan, which ignores absurdity in favor of violence. These people find it uneven because the "important scenes" (like the D-Day and North African invasion) take only a minute or two to conclude, while other scenes, less typical of a war movie, spread out before us. They call it clichéd because the movie is unsubtle in its treatment of character development and plot.

I cannot agree with these beliefs. The Big Red One is not only one of the greatest WWII films, it is also one of the greatest war movies.

Sam Fuller's film, which was butchered by the studio, is the picaresque tale of 5 members of the First Infantry, known, because of their shoulder patch, as the Big Red One. The film moves from one story to the next without spending too much time on any particular tale.

The individual vignettes, as they must, vary in quality, but on the whole are excellent. The Big Red One stirs within you a desire to run right out and tell your friends about this amazing scene or that.

There's the soldier who loses his testicle, the birthing scene in the belly of a tank, Lee Marvin, in Middle Eastern garb, traipsing across a beach, soldiers dug into holes over which a Panzer tank division travels, the entire Mad House segment... The list goes on.

Some people dislike the absurdest nature of several of this film's stories, but, for me, those surreal touches make this film great.

Without them (and there are a lot), you would be left with a very normal and very boring film. Using bandoleers as stirrups is genius, as is the woman faking crazy as she whirls through a monastery, slicing German throats.

The performances are solid, for this type of film, but if you are looking for subtlety, go elsewhere. Each character is drawn in broad strokes; you never learn too much about them, but you learn enough to understand who they are and why. Lee Marvin, as usual, is amazing. He is one of the great, gruff actors of our time, bringing a special, intangible quality to every film in which I've seen him. He makes every movie he's in better just by showing up. There are too few actors about whom you can say that.

Like the acting, the direction is masculine, but, for a war movie, that's a compliment. In some ways, Fuller's direction here and in his other films reminds me of Hemmingway's writing - terse and effective. Both men believe in an economy of shots or words, depending on their medium, but, through that economy, they attain a muscular sort of poetry akin to the beauty of a horse's rippling muscles as it races on a plain. Fuller's direction here, though not his best when compared to Underworld USA or Shock Corridor, is still better than most, especially considering that this was his first film in several years.

All in all, I find the Big Red One to be an exemplary war movie, even in its emasculated format (I cannot wait to see the restored, 140 minute print, which should improve upon scenes that feel to brief in this version). It's certainly no Apocalypse Now, but it puts to shame most World War II epics before or since.
An Insult To History and War Movies
Probably ranks as one of the poorest war movies made. Not Lee Marvin at his best either. It presents a string of unconnected scenes with little more theme or story then the senselessness of war. Poor dialog, poor action scenes, poor history.

Technically, there are just too many silly shortcuts with historical equipment and battle scenes. See other posts regarding tanks etc. Many posts give this movie a pass about this due to its date of production 1980, stating that it should not be compared to the likes of Saving Private Ryan, but when you consider A Bridge Too Far was made in 1977 there is no excuse.

Now for some sarcasm. I really loved the scene were they threw grenades right into each others hand, in the dark from yards away. Really that happened? And Lee Marvin shooting at Mark Hamill to get him up to the Bangalore. What inspiration. We know that German squads had every man equipped with a radio. Well, there are too many of these things to mention.

This squad seemed to fight everywhere alone. Even on Omaha Beach this squad was alone. And of course they singlehandedly opened up the beach and saved the invasion.

I could never feel connected or inspired by any of the action or touching moments. The zealous Nazi reappearing to face this rifle squad seems to just be an insult to the audience.

If crude silly sex references offend you, then stay away. Almost every non-combat scene contains some sexual innuendo, comedic and otherwise, most seem very juvenile. If you are over 14 you will not be amused.

Only rent it if you are a war movie junkie and just have to see every war movie made. Please do not regard this as history.
read the comments
to start, i am a navy brat, army niece (all of who served during ww2, 1 uncle died) and now a seabee (navy construction) wife. i wrote in user comments earlier what i thought of this movie. all i want to write now is, to all the detractors, READ the book! the 4 horsemen are composites of those who survived, who fought, altho they didn't get the bigger picture (just like real life) they served because they were called, no politics invoved. that WAS the way it was.
An Awful War Film
Ok, saw this the other day, comments:

Lee Marvin is a Sgt. in ww1, then he's a Sgt. in ww2, what a progression in those 20 odd years. The 'german' tanks are american late war ones painted differently. Some things are just stupid: The over-use of knives (Knives were a very ww1 thing by then), crummy death sequences, a guys friend just blowing him away over a disagreement, the overblown 'bangalore relay' sequence, which is totally inaccurate and stupid, more knives, the annoying characters, Griff's first kill in the oven (Wow, it's almost interesting, no, wait, it isnt), the Sgt. taking pot shots at Griff to get him to move, knives galore. Lee Marvin always looks about 80 years old as well, way too old to be a typical Sgt.

This is worse than 'Battle of the Bulge'. It's a complete waste of time and money.

Watch 'Saving Private Ryan' or 'Full Metal Jacket' instead to learn about surviving (ie: dont get shot).

ZERO stars out of TEN
Superb! So where's the uncut version?
What a marvelous film! Every time it comes on TV, I find myself captivated once again by its sequences. One of those few movies you can watch over and over without tiring.

My big complaint is that no one has stepped up to the plate and released the 4 hour original. What gives here? All of Sam Fuller's fans in H'wood can't throw a little cash into the hopper and release this masterpiece as it should have been shown in the first place?

So where's Tim Robbins now? He professed undying admiration of Fuller in that IFC bio-documentary a year or so ago. C'mon, you powers that be, get this masterwork out of the can and onto screens, video, and DVD! Get your butts in gear and release this work of genius.
Great Lee Marvin performance ..... Tarantino stole from this film .....
Dear Samuel Fuller,

this guy called Quentin Tarantino ripped off the beginning of your film with the visuals of the statue of Jesus on the cross. He might also have been inspired (for another film of his) by the scene where a Belgian maid identifies a German officer posing as an American by the way he eats a steak.

I liked the story - a tightly knit unit of soldiers lead by a sergeant (Lee Marvin) who is both ruthless and humane take part in some of the important battles of World War 2. Your film can be looked at as series of dramatic and action set pieces separated by scenes of the soldiers interacting with each other and cracking jokes. The soldiers helping a German woman deliver a baby, eating lunch with a bunch of Italian mamas, partying with Belgian women and attacking a mental asylum stood out for me. But the action scenes were the film's weak point. Sometimes, they went on and on. They were quite boring. I guess you were aiming for realism. I liked the extensive use of close ups and the quick cuts in the battle scenes. The images of the bloodied waves and food stood out for me.

Rober Carradine who plays the Italian narrator looked like a young John Cassavetes. Lee Marvin was effortlessly bad ass and melancholic as the leader of the squadron. The catharsis for Marvin's character (who has fought in both the World War's) at the film's end was very imaginative and touching.

Best Regards, Pimpin.

IMHO, the best war movie ever
I fell asleep watching something on TV late one night and awakened to this. It shocked my fully awake and it has been on my mind ever since. To me it's outstanding qualities were a shocking realism and a sense of skewed-ness, of reality and atrocity bordering on the absurd.

I have never seen Lee Marvin like this and I have been a fan of his. It took me a while to recognize Hamill and Carradine, their fresh faced hilarity in one of the scenes of their survival still shocks me.

This movie far surpasses any other WWII movie in it's ability to render you speechless, (even with commercials on TV). I don't think I could make it thru a screening but I do intend to rent this DVD if it is available in the Sam Fuller version. To me it was Catch-22, Platoon, Saving Private Ryan and Full Metal Jacket all in one. Simply stunning.
Uninspiring extant version leaves questions into what the original would have been like
"The Big Red One" could easily be considered the consummate war movie in that it juggles issues of pro-war and anti-war themes while remaining at heart entertaining and spectacular, allowing it's characters to struggle with what they're doing while allowing the action to titillate. It embraces such dialog as, "We don't murder, we kill--you do not murder meat you eat," and "Killing insane people is poor for public relations... killing sane people is okay." Also, if it's any worth to you, Samuel Fuller is a WWII veteran and this movie comes out of some of his personal experience.

However, one regrettable thing about this film, an aspect that is admittedly entirely out of its control, is the fact that it sags under the weight of so many other war films out there. I cannot speak of the unseen movie that Fuller intended--perhaps that version would stand out more. What I can say is that it's extant version basically fits so smoothly into its history its almost invisible: everything it does has been done both before and since. There is really nothing in this movie that stands out. Even the scenes in the insane asylum match similar scenes in an earlier film called "King of Hearts", and the whole thing on Normandy beach involving the watch was subsequently taken by Spielberg in "Saving Private Ryan."

The biggest reason for this is straight-forward: studio control turned it from a personal essay of a person's experiences of war into a salable genre creation. It is no longer "Samuel Fuller's film," it is "a WWII film." Until (and if) Fuller's original intention comes out, The Big Red One basically exists as "that other movie with Mark Hamill in it." --PolarisDiB
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