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The story of a hardened army Sergeant and four of his men from their first fight at the Kasserine Pass after the invasion of North Africa through to the invasion of Sicily, D-Day, the Ardennes forest and the liberation of a concentration camp at the end of the war. As the five of them fight - and survive to fight yet again in the next battle - new recruits joining the squad are swatted down by the enemy on a regular basis. The four privates are naturally reluctant to get to know any of the new recruits joining the squad, who become just a series of nameless faces. Written by
According to a review in the 'Variety Movie Guide', this movie was "Based on [the] writer-director's [i.e. Samuel Fuller] own experiences as a GI, pic was announced as a John Wayne starrer in the late 1950s and came close to realization on many other occasions, but only came together when producer Gene Corman found means to make it almost entirely in Israel." See more »
During the combat in Africa at one point at least one German is seen wearing 'Flecktarn' pattern camouflage. Though spread through German units in Europe, particularly the SS, the pattern was never issued to members of the Afrika Korps. See more »
This review is on the "reconstructed" DVD, a version that came out several years ago, adding 49 minutes to the original 1980 movie. (The film runs 162 minutes, not 158 as stated on the IMDb title page.)
The "old" version was very good, and this newer version makes the film even better. Either way, you have a solid war movie.
For men - and that's who will primarily watch this movie because it's a guy's flick with no romance and no women leads - this keeps the action coming, but without overdoing it. You can different kinds of action scenes, too, not just people shooting at one another.
I also appreciated the photography. It's a good visual movie. The added footage looked sharper and clearer than the previously shown, but either way it was nicely filmed and directed. Of course, the director is the famous Sam Fuller, who did a number of tough film noirs, among other things.
Speaking of tough, the person who makes this movie a notch above average is Lee Marvin. He is just excellent as the tough-on-the-outside-but-soft-hearted underneath commanding officer, known only as "The Sergeant." With his deep voice and weathered face, Marvin makes for an effective leader of tough guys. The language was much milder in here than you find in more modern films, although it can be crude in a few spots. There are no f-words and about seven usages of the Lord's name in vain. However, there are a number of sexual references, some crude but, hey, that's "guy talk." All the young soldiers were good, too. It was especially interesting to see baby-faced Star Wars' star, Mark Hamill, playing one of the soldiers in the unit called "The Big Red One."
The story with narration by one of the soldiers, tells of Marvin and his handful of men who travel and do battle from North Africa to Sicily, then Italy, the beaches of Normandy on D- Day and into Germany in addition to a few other memorable stops such as "an insane asylum."
It's long, but I never found it boring and the men never stay too long in one spot.
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