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The Steel Helmet (1951)

 -  Action | Drama | War  -  2 February 1951 (USA)
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A ragtag group of American stragglers battles against superior Communist troops in an abandoned Buddhist temple during the Korean War.



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Title: The Steel Helmet (1951)

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Complete credited cast:
Gene Evans ...
Robert Hutton ...
Pvt. Bronte
Steve Brodie ...
Lt. Driscoll
James Edwards ...
Cpl. Thompson
Richard Loo ...
Sgt. Tanaka
Richard Monahan ...
Pvt. Baldy
William Chun ...
Short Round
Harold Fong ...
The Red
Neyle Morrow ...
First GI
Lynn Stalmaster ...
Second Lieutenant


During the Korean War, strong but worn and cantankerous Sergeant Zack is aided by a young, orphaned Korean boy. Together they encounter and join a small group of American soldiers. The group stumbles upon a Buddhist temple where they decide to hold up, believing it to be empty... Written by Karl Engel <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


It's the REAL Korean Story! See more »


Action | Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

2 February 1951 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

38ste breedtegraad  »

Box Office


$103,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Filmed in 10 days only six months into the war, "The Steel Helmet" became the first Korean War movie. See more »


The stock footage used in the artillery barrage of the North Korean attack includes WWII-era footage of German artillery on the Atlantic Wall. See more »


Sgt. Tanaka: When I get out of this, I'm gonna join the Air Force. No more beetle-crushing for me!
Sgt. Zack: Aw, be smart. There's nothing like the infantry. If you're in a plane and get hit, what happens? You still gotta fall. There's two strikes against you. If you're on a ship and get hit, you can drown. In a tank, you can fry like an egg. But in the infantry, you get hit and that's it. One or the other, you're dead or alive. But you're on the ground. Get wise, there's nothing like the infantry.
Sgt. Tanaka: Is he kidding?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Instead of the traditional "The End", the closing title reads, "There is no end to this story". See more »


Referenced in The Last Picture Show (1971) See more »

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User Reviews

If Ya Die I'll Kill Ya!
14 August 2006 | by (brooklyn NY) – See all my reviews

****SPOILERS**** Almost forgotten Samuel Fuller war classic about a group of GI's together with a 12 year-old South Korean boy trapped behind enemy lines in the Korean War. Relased at the time, early 1951, when the US and UN forces were suffering a string of catastrophic losses at the hands of the invading Communist Chinese forces, together with their North Korean allies,the movie doesn't at all tap into the audiences patriotism with flag waving heroic by the GI's but shows them only as just wanting to survive the hell that they find themselves in.

Sgt. Zack, Gene Evens, with his hands tied behind his back and a commie bullet through his steel helmet is rescued by this young Korean boy, Willian Shon, whom he nicknames "Short Round". Zack had been captured by the Communist North Koreans and together with his fellow GI's summarily shot in the head but his helmet luckily deflected the bullet where he played dead until his failed executioners left the scene. A loner who's not interested in any human companionship Zack at first tries to go out on his own in the Korean hills and under brush but "Short Round" is so insistent, as well has having lost his parents in he war,that the tough old battle-hardened GI gives in and lets "Short Round " tag along with him.

In the course of the film Sgt. Zack and "Short Round" meet up with a number of GI's who were also separated from their units in the brutal and vicious fighting with the Korean Commies. The lost infantry squad makes it's way through the woods to this deserted Buddhist Temple and sets up an observation post, obviously against the Geneva War Accords, to direct artillery fire on the North Korean units in the area.

Director Fuller, this at a time when his country was at war, not only keeps any patriotic themes out of the movie about the great and wonderful ideals, like freedom and democracy, that the GI's in the film are supposed to be fighting for and how evil their enemy, the North Koreans and Comunist Chinese, are but actually brings out how Black and Oriental Americans are discriminated against by the very country that there now fighting and, in many cases, giving up their lives and limbs for the United States of America and does it with this sneaky and back-stabbing North Korean POW Major Harold Fung!

Fung tries to get black corpsman or medic Cpl.Thompson, James Ewdwards, and Japanese-American Sgt. Tanaka, Richard Loo,to turn against their country and fellow GI's by bringing out how their treated back home only to almost have, as Sgt. Tanaka told the Commie creep, his rabbit teeth smacked out of his mouth one at a time; it wasn't that what Fung was saying was wrong but that the two GI's that it was directed to, Thompson & Tanaka, saw through his so-called concerned for them and knew enough that no matter how bad things was for them and their fellow Black and Japanese-Americans back home the cause that Fung was fighting for would only make their lives even worse not better.

The North Koreans getting a bead on just where the US observation post, that's directing murderous artillery fire on them, is and start to move in on it with a series of wild and furious Banzai-like suicidal assaults on the Buddish Temple which by the time the movie is over results in the deaths of almost all of it's defenders including "Short Round".

Breaking through the inner perimeter of the Temple the Commies are then stopped cold by the last two persons who you would have expected in the movie to be gong-ho combat hero's, of the group of GI's trapped in it, US Army Medic Thompson and conscientious objector or Chaplin's assistant Pvt. Bronet, Robert Hutton. Sgt. Zack caught up with the horrific fighting and for once having heart-felt emotions for those fighting and dying in the temple along with him with his little friend "Short Round", whom he developed a genuine father and son relationship with, getting killed momentarily loses it thinking that he's back at Omaha Beach in 1944 instead of in Korean in 1951 with him mindlessly mumbling to himself "The only ones on this beach are either dead or about to die".

Sgt. Zack's commanding officer Lt. Driscoll, Steve Brodie, whom he never showed any love for takes over behind the machine gun nest from Pvt. Bronte, who was mowing down the attacking North Koreans, after he was hit and killed by a commie bullet and is soon also shot dead but only after he, and later Cpl. Thompson, courageously held off the surging commie hoards long enough for a US Army infantry squad to break through, the Communist North Korean encirclement, and rescue the remaining GI's.

Stumbling out of the battered Buddhist Temple and into formation together with Cpl. Thompson Pvt. Baldy( Richard Mohanan) & Sgt.Tanaka, the only survivors of this holocaust, Sgt. Zack tearfully replaces his bullet riddled steel helmet with that of Lt. Driscoll's on the graveside marker where he was buried; an act that he felt he owed him since he refused to trade helmets with Lt. Driscoll when he was still alive.

Powerful war movie that you never get tired of watching not just because of the many great battle action scenes in it but the message that it brings out to it's audience, like in the timeless anti-war classic "All Quite on the Western Front", that war isn't to be looked forward to or celebrated but to be avoided at almost all costs and only to be fought when it's absolutely necessary for the survival of the people nation and freedoms of those who have ,or volunteer, to fight it.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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