Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Big Red One

Directors always have a passion project. Most times they get realized. Other times they don't get realized at all. (This was the case with Stanley Kubrick and Napoleon.) Either way the studios know of them whether they get made or not.

One such director was Samuel Fuller. Most famous for B-movies like Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss, he wanted to make The Big Red One since the 1950s. (Plans to make it around that time were dropped after Fuller and Warner Bros. disagreed with cuts for another project of Fuller's.) He finally made it in 1980, but even then there were major cuts. Fast forward to 2004, twenty-four years after the original release (and seven years after Fuller's death), and a restoration was presented.

Long before Steven Spielberg made Saving Private Ryan, Fuller shows that there's no heroic bullshit in a good war film. He wants grit in his film, nothing else that's commonly found in the standard Hollywood war film. (What else from the man who made Pickup on South Street?) Although Fuller also shows brief moments of peace for the soldiers, which provides a nice balance.

Who else to lead a Samuel Fuller-directed war film other than Lee Marvin? He's the kind of man who doesn't take shit from anyone, so naturally he's perfect here. There's also some very good supporting work from Mark Hamill as one of the soldiers in Marvin's infantry. Had most of his scenes not been cut from the original release (and had The Empire Strikes Back not been released that same year), I think he would've been a legit actor.

To sum things up, The Big Red One is fantastic. It's definitely one of the best war films ever made, and Fuller's personal touches to it adds to its greatness. Seriously, go watch this. (And make sure it's the restored version.)

My Rating: *****

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