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The premise of this film is factually based on Task Force Faith in the
Korean War:In late November 1950, the Chinese struck, along the
Chongchon River, and overran several ROK divisions and landed an
extremely heavy blow into the flank of the remaining UN forces. The
resulting withdrawal of the United States Eighth Army was the longest
retreat of an American unit in national history. In the east, at the
Battle of Chosin Reservoir (November 26December 13) a 3,000 man unit
from the US 7th Infantry Division, Task Force Faith, was virtually
wiped out, with numerous hand to hand fighting. The Marines fared
better; though surrounded and forced to retreat, they inflicted heavy
casualties on the Chinese who committed 6 divisions while trying to
destroy the Marines.
Of the Task Force Faith and the 2,500 troops trapped by the Chinese, about 1,500 eventually made it back to American lines, the majority of them wounded or badly frostbitten. Roughly 300 able-bodied survivors were formed into a provisional battalion which was attached to the Marines and fought with them in the breakout of the 1st Marine Division during the remainder of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. Over 1,000 soldiers of Task Force Faith were killed or died in Chinese captivity.
This film is a very accurate, no frills look at the emotions that come with perceived lost causes during war.
Made while Korea was still an active conflict, this movie is
interesting in its disregard for ideology. Most war movies made during
a conflict (and especially those made during and about WWII, which had
just ended six years before) make a point of talking about what they're
This movie isn't interested in that. It's a soldier picture, conflict between enemies and between friends. It's easy to relate to the cross-section of guys; some are goof-offs, some are noble, some are incompetent. The enemy is cunning and relentless and the weather seems to be trying to kill you all on its own.
Good movie. Movies about the Korean War are interesting because they're so rarely about ideology. They're just about what war really is - ordinary people engaged in a killing contest.
Another Sam Fuller nitty gritty, down-to-earth where the rubber meets
the road movie. There is nothing extra in this movie. Every word every
action is meaningful. I wish more directors today would study Sam
Fuller. It seems that only Quentin Tarantino ever heard of Sam.
The premise of this film is a little unlikely- Korea early in the war and one infantry platoon is assigned to hold off three Chinese and North Korean Divisions while the rest of the U.S. Division regroups. While it is more likely that a larger US force would have had such an assignment the small number of men comprising a single platoon makes for some real character development. There are some great characters here. Fuller wrote some real life into them. I believe Fuller was a combat vet from WWII so he knows what he writes- the fear, the rage, the fear again. There are lots of nice little bits here- the frozen foot while holding up in a cave. No one is sure whose foot it is that is being revived as all their feet are frozen. I had to throw another log in the woodstove after that scene.
If you are interested in war movies without flag waving and corny dialog this movie is for you.
Fixed Bayonets completes director Samuel Fuller's one-two of 1951
movies about the Korean War, the other being the equally (maybe even
slightly better) gritty and gripping The Steel Helmet. For those
unfamiliar with Fuller's style, let's just say it is as far removed as
possible from what Hollywood passes for war movies the past 20 years.
No sentimentality and schmaltz here, just a straight-forward and
fine-tuned soldier movie, from the boys, for the boys.
Fuller, a war veteran himself, takes a no-frills, realistic approach. With a tight script that weaves themes of courage and confronting one's fears into superb suspense and action scenes that have stood the test of time admirably, Fixed Bayonets does exactly what it says on the cover. The miniature work is decent enough and the studio backlot that passes for the Korean mountains completes the illusion without distractions. It's still a low-budget b-movie but it's holding well at the seams. The acting is all-around solid with Gene Evans once again stealing the show as the gruffy, no-nonsense Sgt. Rock.
Having worked as a journalist for New York newspapers in his younger years, Fuller understands the importance of story above all. Sure, he's not exactly the epitome of subtle - the inner monologues for example should have been avoided altogether. But I'm willing to ignore that because his movies have a sense of urgency and conviction that is hard to find: he's a man with a story to tell, he grabs you by the shoulder and says "this is how it happened, now watch this". And "this" is not about the politics or dramatization of war but war itself, men killing other men in some snowy hills in the middle of nowhere.
I saw this movie on the AMC movie channel, (cable). Had to be in 1997
or 98, I'm not that sure but I do know it was just before Saving Pvt.
Ryan came out and AMC was playing all these war movies on Memorial day.
I never saw this movie before so I started watching and from the first scene of the General jamming a big hunk of chew in his mouth I knew this would be a good movie.
Well need-less to say it just got better. I only wish film makers today, or should I say movie exec's had the stones to make these kind of movies. No message, just a good story about men in combat doing the task that that job requires.
A warriors story about warriors - Great job Sam.
I was able to tape it too, so I have it to view anytime - what a treat.
This Korean war(1951-1953) drama is the fare of American GIs in Korea
early 1951 and stands as one of the best warlike film . A band of
Chinese troops follows a soldiers group posing as a regiment. Then,
they take refuge into a cave stronghold but the group is besieged. They
simply do their best to survive a terrifying situation. But the
superiors are murdered and the corporal Demmo takes command.
The film is dedicated to the queen of battles-the United States Infantry. The producers give grateful thanks to the Department of the Army for its encouragement , advice and active cooperation in the preparation and production of this picture. The film is based on true events, a Chinese communist offensive formed by 350.000 soldiers who vanquished 8º Army commanded by Ridgway and withdraw across southern. Posteriorly, American Army and UN multi-national troops undergo a contra-offensive and retrieve lost territory until 38 parallel.
This is a conventional story bolstered considerably by director Fuller's flair for warlike drama and action. Dark and thoughtful and hurriedly made, the movie gains strength as it goes on, and shows a tremendous grasp of the tale as an unit. Excellent performance by male leads, boasting and most restrained acting by Richard Basehart as the corporal taking the command responsibility. Top-notch Gene Evans as brave sergeant and excellent secondaries, Craig Hill, Skip Homeier, Michael O'Shea and appearance an uncredited James Dean. Samuel Fuller's most fluid and strongest film-making lies in his war pictures from ¨Steel helmet,Fixed bayonets, Merril's marauders, Hell and high water, and specially : Big red one¨ all are tremendously exciting and stirring. Rating : Better than average. Well worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sam Fuller, the director, could sometimes give interviews that were as
interesting as his movies. No baloney, and his cynicism was up front
and cheerful. He'd been a Chicago newspaperman, straight out of "The
Front Page", and there is a photo of him leaning back in his chair,
feet propped on the desk, a cigar in his mouth, his fedora tilted back
with a "press" card in its band. A kind of caricature of a hard-boiled
reporter, almost a cartoon.
That, for some reason, is how many of his war films strike us today -- as cartoons rather than reality -- and "Fixed Bayonets" isn't an exception. I know the story is from a novel but it might as well have been a comic book with stereotyped soldiers uttering sentences short enough to fit into dialog balloons above their heads. Don't know why. Fuller was in the First Infantry Division during the war, the Big Red One, already in his mid-30s, and he never got over it. Years later, when the war was all over, when Fuller was safely back home, he could tell interviewers that he couldn't even listen to a noise like this (and here, he'd rap his knuckles lightly against a wooden surface) without leaping to his feet. The guy had been through hell. One of his fellow sufferers was nicknamed Griff, and there is a character named "Griff", sometimes unseen, in most of his movies.
"Fixed Bayonets" is the story of a platoon picked to provide a rear guard while the rest of the regiment retreats. Their mission is to engage any communists in pursuit and try to convince them that the entire regiment is present at this last ditch stand.
The central figure is a lowly corporal (Richard Basehart) who is both brave and intelligent but who cannot bring himself to kill another man or to order someone else to do it. Three men are above him in the chain of command. You can guess what happens to them.
There's nothing much to be said about the performances. The lines being so rudimentary, there is hardly any performance to be given. "I'll get you back alive, Sarge." "Hey! Watch it. That's an open wound!" Richard Basehart is at least believable as the unfortunate corporal. He's never been a bravura actor and that slight, stiff reticence is precisely what the part calls for. He seems to be thinking, and thinking doubtful thoughts, while he performs the requisite tasks.
I don't mean to suggest that the film stinks in any way. Fuller may use stereotypes but he uses different stereotypes from the ones we expect. It's an in-your-face report of a handful of men doing a dangerous job requiring skill. No prattling on about why they're fighting. (The enemy are simply "gooks".) And nobody dreamily describes the main street in Basset, Nebraska. Nor does some illiterate from Brooklyn tell the story of the goil me met on the Steeplechase at Cony Island. They're all too busy and too scared for that.
There are a lot of close ups too, of sweaty, smudged, bearded, determined faces. In a way, it's primitive movie-making, in the way that Grandma Moses is a primitive painter.
The most memorable feature of the movie is its set-bound, snow-bound pseudo-location. There is no wind to speak of, and although everyone's feet are in danger of frostbite, nobody's breath steams in the supercold air. And yet the rugged, snowy set is claustrophobic and as effective in invoking an atmosphere as anything short of a "Lawrence of Arabia" epic. On a low budget, this is about the best you can do, and it's pretty good.
I have only recently seen some of Fuller's films after hearing about
him for years. I have been surprised and pleased by each one. "Fixed
Bayonets!" Is a great example of how Fuller made the Hollywood system
of the time work for him simply because he got films done on time and
on budget, (I think). What would have been either a "GungHo" movie or a
trite rehash of "Red Badge of Courage" becomes an involving and action
packed story of a man becoming a soldier and leader, something Fuller
had first hand experience of in WWII.
If you have heard the expression "dogface" applied to a soldier and wondered what it meant this picture will provide your answer. Fuller uses the closeup in just the right amount and just the right time here, and the closeups put the finishing touch on each of the characters, all of whom are distinct and varied. Instead of seeing soldiers similar to others films, these men come across somebody you might know as a regular guy.
Anyone interested in putting stories on the screen should see Sam Fuller's work.
This film is about a small group of soldiers who are given the
unenviable task of slowing down the oncoming Korean/Chinese army in
order to allow the rest of the army to bid a hasty retreat. It is
assumed that few, if any, of these brave men will survive and it's all
a matter of digging in and waiting for the inevitable.
Writer/Director Sam Fuller was the first to make a Korean War film when he made STEEL HELMET. This film was made with a minuscule budget, yet was a terrific war film due to his excellent touch--along with acting of wonderful roguish actors, such as Gene Evans. Well, only months after creating this film, Fuller is back with FIXED BAYONETS! and in many, many ways the film is highly reminiscent of the earlier film. Both featured a small group of brave American soldiers who have become separated from the rest of the army. As a result, they are forced to make a brave stand against the odds. And, like STEEL HELMET, you see little bits and pieces about each man--often just before they are killed. Of the two films, I definitely preferred STEEL HELMET because it managed to do so much with the tiniest budget and because it seemed more original. FIXED BAYONETS! was almost like a retooling of the original format.
FIXED BAYONETS! had a larger budget and cast than the previous film, though it still was a very economically made film--mostly due the use of character actors instead of big-name stars. Once again, the exceptional Evans was on hand to play, what else, a battle-hardened and wise non commissioned officer. Richard Basehart, a wonderful actor, played co-lead with Evans and that was a good thing, as he was as capable as any actor in Hollywood but was still relatively unknown (i.e., cheap). Look closely, and you might spot James Dean in a small role and there are many other exceptional actors that give the film lots of color and gritty realism. Because of all these factors, FIXED BAYONETS! is still a very good film and Fuller is really in his element with these war films--probably because he lived the life himself during WWII. No major surprises--just a realistic, simple and effective war film.
Sam Fuller's no nonsense approach to film-making seemed perfectly
suited to the war genre. Films like "Fixed Bayonets", "The Steel
Helmet" and "Big Red One" have a certain relentless quality. They're
fast, tough, blunt, feature urgent camera work and screenplays which
whittle away the fat and get right down to the point. There's no macho
heroism, no flag waving, no mourning the dead. Instead, Fuller cuts
through the crap and gets down to simple truths.
Indeed, Gene Evans, who plays Sgt Rock in "Fixed Bayonets!" and Sgt Zack in "The Steel Helmet", seems to himself embody Fuller's style. He's simple, bear-like, gruff, angry, world weary, cynical, yet wise and at times warm. He's the product of a post-Hemmingway era of pulp journalism and spring-action typewriters. Fuller's style itself relies more on punchy dialogue, the rhythm of words, the staccato patter of syllables and the energy of screenplays to create their power. Visuals were almost secondary.
Strange then that "Fixed Bayonets", plot wise at least, is so simple. It deals with a group of US soldiers who attempt to hold a mountain pass while the North Korean army advances. Their aim is to convince the enemy that their small 48 man squad is much larger than it really appears. If they succeed, they'd have provided enough of a distraction for a 15,000 man US regiment to pull out of the area, unharassed.
This notion of "pretending", of being "more of a man" than you really are, is Fuller's chief concern. And so throughout the film characters wrestle over, not duty, but responsibility. How can one little man step up and take on the responsibility for the lives of other men? The rest of the film plays like a tactical handbook on how to hold a secure location. Fuller shows us how to lay mines, sucker the enemy in, keep your feet safe from frostbite and take down a tank. There's an almost journalistic sort of attention to detail, which of course masks the films politics; its refusal to approach the broader ethical questions raised by US actions in Korea at the time.
7.9/10 - Plays like one of those pulpy combat comic books printed in the 40s and 50s.
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