The Big Red One (1980) Poster

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Perhaps the last great movie of Lee Marvin...
keihan29 February 2000
Some movies are like buried treasure; someone manages to slip them into the theater, practically under every critic's nose, where they either thrive or famish and then vanish into the nearest video catalog. "The Big Red One" is one of those films. For all the hoopla created by "Saving Private Ryan" (another excellent film, which, in my opinion, had a better understanding of it's subject than a lot of it's critics gave it credit for), it owed a great deal to what Sam Fuller did a decade and a half before.

Lee Marvin, an actual WWII veteran himself, holds the film together as the tough but exhausted seargent. When he tells Mark Hamill (yes, Luke Skywalker, folks) that you don't murder animals, you kill them, the look on his face after that seems to say that he wished it could be some other way. It's hard to grab defining moments in this film as stand-out, but the two sequences that stick the most to my mind are the taking of the insane asylum and the horrors of the concentration camp. While other movies have focused on specific campaigns, "The Big Red One" deserves high marks for painting the broad canvass of the Second World War from the perspective of the guys who actually had to do the work.
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A squad experiences every possible emotion fighting its way through WWII
Riharden2 February 2003
This is an under-appreciated war film. You never see it on TV, I know of no widescreen version available on video, and no one talks about it in books, newspapers or on television, but it is worth renting. Made up of a number of short vignettes, the main characters experience everything from delivering a baby (in a tank!) to D-Day on Omaha Beach to liberating a death camp as they fight their way through Africa, Sicily, and Western Europe. I understand that it is semi-autobiographical, and boy, does it pack a wallop. From the opening scene to history repeating (almost) itself at the end, it is well-crafted, says a lot and leaves the viewer changed. When the voice-over at the end says that the only glory in war is surviving, you KNOW why. Watch in particular for how Lee Marvin leads his squad, in particular when he gives an extra clip of M-1 ammunition to one of his soldiers at the Death Camp to help the soldier process, in a unique way, the horror of what they have discovered. It is unforgettable.
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Good personal story from Sam Fuller
JAM-3118 April 2000
This film is really about the experiences that Sam Fuller had during WWII. It is a bit dated, and the low budget really shows, but SF clearly did the best with what he had, and it stands as a great monument on war from a director who was really there.

All of the characters are very likeable, and well acted by Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, and company. The movie is fiction but influenced by real events. Many of the scenes, especially one involving a group of older sicilian women who cook a big meal for the squad, ring very true, since a fiction writer would obviously try and spice them up--the film is very honest, and it is good that Fuller left this story for us. I also like how it ends on a positive, optimistic note.

"The real glory of war is surviving."
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Groundbreaking war film, as misunderstood as the title.
D_Psypher27 September 2003
Less than 5 years after the Vietnam War officially ended, Director and acclaimed (but aged) film writer Sam Fuller attempted to recount the experiences he encountered while serving as an infantry soldier in the European Theatre of WW2. He had written many war scripts in his day, but fully realized that the world would not be ready for the true story of WW2, (He is quoted infamously as saying that a truly realistic war picture would involve live grenades and machine guns in the theatre). As his career ended and the world changed, he decided to make a go of his life long pet project... to make a film about the REAL story of WW2, about his own experiences in the Big Red One, or The First Infantry Division.

Too ahead of it's time to be appreciated during it's birth, and too dated to be appreciated in hindsight.

Some of the other user comments suggest this film is inferior to modern war films. Of course this film is not at the caliber of Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers in it's war scenes. How could it? When it is of a time closer to The Green Berets (John Wayne wins The Vietnam War) then to anything that came after it. Infact I would go as far as to say that this film broke the first ground, and made films like Platoon, Hamburger Hill, and Full Metal Jacket socially acceptable, and paved the way for films like Saving Private Ryan. Sure, Apocalypse Now has better War scenes, but is so fictional in it's scripting and "epic" war moments that it missed the point of the soldier on the front (and is widely regarded as being unrealistic by Vietnam Vets). The Big Red One tells the story from a WW2 Vet's point of view, Sam Fuller, and is wonderfully acted by a WW2 vet, Lee Marvin. Perhaps the last film to have such credits.

Sure, The Big Red One is cheesy, and harkens to a time when war films were more about the characters, then the violence. Still, there is something charming about the scripting, and Lee Marvin holds the movie together, while being surrounded by actors who were trendy on the cheap for 1979. The film also has technical inaccuracy, as in the Sherman tanks used as Panzers. However, the real strength of the film is in the script, and not in the battles. It breaks ground in it's defiance of films like the Sands of Iwa Jima. The soldier is not a clean sterile fighter for the holiest do goodynest army of all time, he is a human being locked in a battle for survival, and most importantly, he hasn't lost his sense of humor, or his libido.

Regardless of it's dated, almost 70's TV movie feel, I must mention that this film was first to show D-Day in a light other than that cast by The Longest Day, and uses some very clever cinematography to illustrate the violence. Sam Fuller consciously decided to make the battles less violent, and choose to focus on the characters instead, depicted the main characters as cynical and the fallen as humorous tragically short lived figures. This film also was first to introduce words like "replacement", "non-Coms" and "Krouts" to the war movie dictionary. It has the entire bangalore scene from Saving Private Ryan (although merely a concept compared to SPR) and shows North Africa, Italy, France, Germany, and a concentration camp. Before this film, WW2 was only depicted in such an epic manor that Bible films are seemingly tame.

THE BOTTOM LINE: This film was one of the last war pictures to emerge from the dying studio system, and is comparable in the way of battles to The Green Berets, Longest Day, etc. However it shines in the script category. and was first to show soldiers as young clumsy men, and not heroes. It attempts almost too much and that is it's strongest limitation. Still, a must see for war movie fans who can appreciate the older films. 7/10.
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Either Version, You Have A Solid WWII Movie
ccthemovieman-120 February 2007
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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The emasculation of a potentially great film
morrowmmm16 July 2004
I have seen this film quite a few times and have always been somewhat puzzled about it. There was no doubt that it had some of the most emotive scenes of any war film but seemed fractured. At times there seemed to be far more realism in it's morality than other films which was understandable since Sam Fuller actually served with The Big Red One at this time so much of it is a first hand account of events and attitudes. I have now read some of the background to the making of the film,I think in the L.A. Times,which now makes sense of the flaws in the film. Apparently Sam Fuller's budget was cut to the minimum by the studios after a regime change and the original screenplay as shot was hacked to death by the same studio against Fuller's wishes. This was not the film he wanted to make but he made it. And it was not the film that he shot as is indicated by the very complete screenplay notes he made. I think it is Richard Schickel, the noted reviewer of Time magazine, who has laboured to find the missing outtakes and to put the film together in its complete form with over 40 minutes added to the length. Apparently this more complete cut significantly improves the film and adheres to Sam Fullers screenplay more accurately. This new cut is now playing to limited audiences and, hopefully, will be available on DVD. It must be emphasized that this is not the film that Fuller originally wanted to make as the budget was cut by 75%. Some of the comments made by other reviewers on these pages are valid as to authenticity specifically in battle scenes. But Fuller did not have the budget that both the Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan had. It will be interesting to see the new cut. Hopefully it will flesh out what could have been one of the greatest Second World War films.
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Disjointed And With Poor Production Values
Theo Robertson22 June 2003
When I first saw THE BIG RED ONE in the early 80s I was fairly impressed especially with the twist at the end tying in with the start though I wouldn`t have gone so far to have called it a classic . However I was about 15 when I saw it and many teenagers of my generation still enjoyed feature films about the second world war . Alas a lot has happened in the film world not to mention my life so when I saw it again at the weekend I was very much underwhelmed by the movie

First of all I found it rather disjointed and episodic . In many ways THE BIG RED ONE laid the foundations for BAND OF BROTHERS but whereas that acclaimed mini series dedicates the first episode to jump school training followed by nine one hour episodes from June 1944 to the Summer of 1945 , this movie has a running time of less than two hours featuring a timeframe that lasts from Spring 1942 to May 1945 which seems a bad idea with hindsight: Cut to Algeria 1942 , cut to Sicily 1943 , cut to Normandy 1944 etc . Also THE BIG RED ONE lacks a budget big enough to make the film convincing ( Well it was made by Lorimar the company who brought us DALLAS ). No matter where the action takes place the landscape resembles sunny California especially the beaches of Western france which looks suspicously like the same place BAY WATCH is filmed , every expense has been saved where location filming is concerned . I`m also surprised I didn`t notice something from my first viewing and that`s the German tiger tank not being a tiger tank at all but it being an American Sherman , and strange that you never see two tanks side by side . No doubt the production team couldn`t afford to hire more than one tank . And looking back on this film 20 years later after seeing APOCALYPSE NOW , A BRIDGE TOO FAR , CROSS OF IRON , SAVING PRIVATE RYAN , THE THIN RED LINE and BLACK HAWK DOWN I can`t say the battle scenes in THE BIG RED ONE are all that impressive to me in 2003.

THE BIG RED ONE does have a few good points . First of all it does make mention of the British contribution to the war which is something you don`t see in American films in recent times . There`s an interesting subplot ( Though it`s painfully underwritten ) about Mark Hamill`s character being a coward . There`s also a great line about it " Being okay to kill sane people but not insanes ones ? " . But the best part of the movie is a moving segment featuring Lee Marvin`s tough Sarge befriending a child who`s just been liberated from a Nazi death camp , though once again this is skated over far too quickly in a film that`s got too many negatives and not enough positives . As I said I waited 20 years between seeing it for the first and second time and could happily wait for another 20 years before seeing it a third time
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"In war we don't murder, we kill."
MisterWhiplash17 November 2004
In the past several months, I've clicked by on television and seen that The Big Red One was on, and I would check it out for a few minutes or so, here and there as it were. I knew though, once it became official that the New York film festival was premiering it, that the reconstructed version of Samuel Fuller's epic was going to be seen as no longer being truncated. When it was over, I felt as though, like with his other films I've seen (Pickup on South Street and Shock Corridor to a degree), that I'd seen something special- a work of art that's told with such straight-forward precision it elevates the B genre. There is something about war that is, like life usually, a contradiction. There are scenes and instances in Fuller's film where confusion occurs, and tragedy comes about as if it's springing out of nature.

But what Fuller captures as well is the camaraderie, so to speak, of the platoon- the humor, the understanding of one another that strengthens when other soldiers come and go without much notice. And the strengths and humanity of the sergeant (here portrayed in a performance that could possibly be better or at least on part with what was in The Dirty Dozen) comes through clearest of all. The Big Red One, at its extended length, is one of Fuller's triumphs as a storyteller; infusing his own experiences in the first battalion (the cigar that re-appears with one character signify who he made as his kind of alter-ego) as well as others he fought with, stories he heard, etc. While it is a film that lends itself partly to the ideals of the "old-fashioned" WW2 films, it's very modern in its personal take on the situations, battle sequences/outcomes, and the dynamics of the characters. To put it another way, what Oliver Stone was to Vietnam, Samuel Fuller was to WW2, to an extent.

Though his version of, for instance, the invasion of Omaha beach, doesn't have the grainy, documentary feel of Saving Private Ryan, the realism and suspense and chaos it all there. Fuller's experience as a journalist - his sense of detail and pacing in the scenes - is what gives that sequence involving Marvin and his men, among others, such truth. Along with the Israeli cinematographer Adam Greenburg, who would go on to lens the first two Terminator films, The Big Red One brings forth numerously unforgettable images. The climax, in and of itself, in which the quote I mentioned is put to the test for Mark Hammil's Pvt. Griff, is extraordinary. The shots, the faces, and usage of light, and the acting by him and the others, brought to me some of the strangest emotional reaction (not as in crying, but empathizing) I ever felt in a war film. In that respect the film, in scenes like that, and in the little moments with the "four horsemen" and their episodes, are on the level (if not superior) to the emotional connectedness that Spielberg or Stone achieved.

The script is a feat as a story of the stead-fast progression of the soldiers from North Africa to Germany. However without the cast it might have faltered. Marvin pulls off a rounded character by the end and is successful in his own right, but the four privates are the show. Most of the time if not all through, Ward and Di Cicco (not very well known actors to me before viewing this film) are very dependable for some comic and sensible interludes. Carradine's Zab (Fuller's re-incarnation) is in a performance of insight, amusement, and is a crucial piece to the film. It is Hammil then that comes away as most rewarding. His character is given a brilliant arc as the sharpshooter, and in the "cremation" scene, he proves he is far more valuable and compelling an actor most would give him credit for. My advice to people who think he can only play Skywalker and the occasional voice-over work is that this film is a must-view.

I can say, in wrapping up this review, that there was not much at all to nit-pick or complain about with this film, long length and all. There may or may not have been truth to the English-speaking Germans, but that didn't matter to me. When some of the dialog was not entirely clear as well, that was not a problem. Almost every frame (in particular a few key long shots on the beaches and some close-ups of faces and eyes in the third act) are like carefully molded sculptures/paintings of the condition of war. Bottom line, I can't tell whether or not the film has bettered from the additions, but I do know for certain I would not want to sit through a truncated version when these forty or so minutes fit in so well. So, whether you've seen the original 1980 version or not, when this new version comes to DVD, it's for certain to be a collector's item.
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Total failure of attention to detail
Thomas Lord17 February 2014
I really have no idea why this film is so highly rated, I think it must be down to reviewers nostalgia from seeing it as a child. The attention to detail is awful; I understand that it was probably not possible to source authentic equipment in 1980 and obviously there was no CGI but really, is it too much to ask not to have 1980's hairstyles , modern Israeli(Oh the irony!) tank drivers with modern helmets and Germans shouting "Americaner schweinhund!".

I've tried to watch it three times now, and I'm sure a modern re telling would do a much better job.It's clearly a fascinating story but this version doesn't make it so.
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Vignettes of the Survivors of War
JerryP-29 January 2005
The Big Red One isn't so much a war movie as it is a message, sometimes obscure, of what war is really like. There is much symbolism in this movie, for example the human arm, with a wristwatch on it, washing in the bloody surf of Omaha Beach. If you want realistic detail of combat, watch Saving Private Ryan. If you want to the voice of experience, blurry from the passage of time, The Big Red One is a movie to see.

Keep in mind that this movie reflects the life experiences of some survivors of WWII. That Lee Marvin was cast as the grizzled sergeant is part of the symbolism: Marvin was a combat Marine who participated in the invasion of Saipan; he is cast as a survivor of WWI who is retracing part of the path he took during that conflict. I found some of the scenes from the movie barely believable, for example, the French insane asylum, but you must keep in mind that there is a message from the survivors of that war in each and every scene. How you take the message, apparently, is up to you.
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Among the greatest WWII epics
Jason Forestein8 November 2004
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.
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BR1 was excellent. Reconstruction is awesome & different movie.
scaevola18 May 2005
BR1 has been my top WWII movie for 25 yrs, incl. Private Ryan. Spielberg wishes he could have created something this real, this moving. No smoke and mirrors, just the gritty reality.

The Reconstruction is a different movie. About 3 minutes of original film to 15 of new. It's so obvious, if you know the first movie, that Hollywood forced Sam FUller to trim away most of the grit and pain. BR1 is tough and real, but squeaky-50s-clean compared to the Reconstruction. All the real impact was trimmed away. That must have hurt.

There was a point, about 2 hours in, I thought, "I can't take much more of this." And it hit me that Fuller intended that. Pushed us to that limit, so we would experience a tiny bit of the exhaustion, the overload, the need to just get away from it for a while. Private Ryan never even got close. I can't think of any WWII movie that got close. And I've watched them all.

Band of Brothers is the only work I would put in the same frame as the Reconstructed BR1. If you haven't seen either, buckle up. It's going to be a bumpy night.
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One of the most under-rated war films ever
unbend_544012 July 2001
"The Big Red One" is a nickname given to the 1st Infantry Squadron's on World War 2. The film is brilliantly scripted, and feels very realistic in it's depictions of World War 2 battles. There's a reason why the film is realistic. It's based on actual experiences that the Writer/Director, Sam Fuller, went through during his time in the war.

The movie follows several soldiers in The 1st Infantry. Lee Marvin brilliantly plays The Sergeant. Four soldiers under his command, played by Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Kelly Ward and Bobby Di Cicco, have been named The Four Hoursemen, and they become well known among other soldiers. Despite being in a position and squad, where most troops come in and die before others even know their names, these four manage to live through the most dangerous situations and missions. Most of the time without even getting a scratch on them.

There's no big overall story in "The Big Red One". It's made up of many different combat scenes that The Sergeant and his men fight in. The D-Day footage is almost as realistic and frightening as those shot in "Saving Private Ryan", and this was made 18 years earlier. There are some very dramatic and intense scenes in this film, but it avoids making the viewer feel too depressed or saddened, thanks to a lot of light humour throughout the script.

Although "The Big Red One" is not well known, it easily ranks up there with Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now, and Tora Tora Tora as one of the greatest war films of all time. I can't recommend this movie enough to anyone reading this. "The Big Red One" does not disappoint. It gets a perfect 10 from me.
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have some of you seen the right movie??
sprtpilot26 November 2011
So many good reviews here, can only be a lot of people with the most casual, limited knowledge of WWII confusing this movie with some other, well done picture. First, what was the budget for this thing? Must have been very very low. The entire movie seems to involve six guys (total on both sides), who are sharing maybe three weapons. There are no planes, no ships, two incorrect tanks (one just had a hole where the driver's machine gun should have been). Just about any made for TV series or movie about WWII comes off more convincing than this turkey. This was a "major" motion picture, wasn't it?? It simply defies credulity that there could be a single good review of this travesty on here.
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Occasionally Striking, Overall Unconvincing
James Hitchcock25 June 2004
Films about the Second World War were not particularly common in the post-Vietnam aftermath of the 1980s, but 'The Big Red One' is one of the few exceptions. War films tend to fall into two categories. The first, such as 'The Longest Day' or 'The Dambusters' concentrates on a single battle or episode in the war's history. The second, such as 'In Which We Serve' or 'Twelve O'Clock High', (or, to take an example from another war, the more recent 'Master and Commander') follows the fortunes of a unit of fighting men over a longer period.

'The Big Red One' is a film of the second type and details the experiences of a platoon of the First Infantry Division of the US Army. (The title refers to the numeral which formed that division's badge). It concentrates on the veteran Sergeant and four of the soldiers fighting under him as they fight their way through the European theatre of war. Although other members of the platoon are killed, these five survive the war unscathed. We first meet them during the North Africa campaign of 1943, and follow them through Sicily, France, Belgium and into Germany. The film, which ends with the liberation of a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia in 1945, does not have a coherent plot, but rather consists of a series of short vignettes illustrating each phase of the war.

This is not a traditional big-scale war film. Despite the fact that the featured platoon takes part in a number of major battles, it appears to have been made on a relatively small-scale budget. The battle scenes are too small-scale to be convincing, and are unrealistic in comparison not only with recent films such as 'Saving Private Ryan' but also with others of the same period such as 'Cross of Iron'. While the scenes of, say, the D-Day landings are not too bad, at other times the action sequences have a near-farcical quality. Particularly risible was the scene where our heroes attack a German-held lunatic asylum (a suspiciously Mediterranean-looking building, even though it is supposed to be in the Belgian Ardennes), and Stephane Audran, playing a resistance fighter who has infiltrated the building posing as one of the inmates, waltzes around slitting the throats of the Nazi soldiers. At no time is any serious attempt made to conjure up a realistic atmosphere; we always have the impression that we are watching actors on a set rather than soldiers on a battlefield.

The lack of verisimilitude might not matter if we were presented with characters we can sympathies with, but the soldiers in this film are a fairly unsympathetic lot, with the partial exception of Mark Hamill's Private Griff, a semi-pacifist who is suspected of cowardice by his colleagues. We see Lee Marvin's sergeant explaining to him that soldiers don't murder, they kill. We then see a stereotypically brutal Nazi officer explaining exactly the same thing to his men. If, however, the idea was to make a pacifist point about the moral equivalence of the two sides, this idea is not pursued, particularly at the end, where the final scenes in the concentration camp highlight the evils of Nazism. Incidentally Marvin, who was in his mid-fifties when the film was made and looks older, seems to old to be playing a front-line soldier; shades of John Wayne in 'The Green Berets'.

What saves this film from a lower mark is director Sam Fuller's eye for a striking visual image. Particularly memorable are the shots of the dead soldier's hand and wristwatch sticking up out of the shallows off the Normandy beaches or the battered wooden crucifix which appears both in the main body of the film and in the black-and-white prologue about the sergeant's First World War experiences. (One might, in fact, ask how the crucifix has survived on the battlefield when all around has been destroyed, but this does not lessen the power of the image). These do not, however, compensate for the film's unconvincing action scenes and its inadequate characterisation. 5/10
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Farcical Unlimited Cliches
m0rphy8 July 2004
About half an hour into watching this film I decided instead to count the Hollywood cliches instead of trying to believe in the plot.For those lucky enough not to have seen this film they were in no particular order: 1.Persistent lazy Hollywood producers allowing non-Americans to speak English to each other, e.g. German soldiers.At least Joseph E Levine insisted in his film "The Longest Day" (1962) that the French spoke French, German spoke German etc, and this was 18 years before the subject film was made!For those not able to understand these languages sub titles are always available.This lazy habit immediately destroys a film's credibility and convinces you all you are seeing is acting.It seems if you are going to portray an historic event you might at least film it in a credible way.

2.Untrained soldiers skilled in obstetrics in the middle of a battle field!

3.You see a concentration camp boy victim apparantly unable to walk and is laid down on the commandant's bed.Almost immediately he is seen to walk out under his own steam and then eating looking almost healthy when he refused food before.Then he cannot walk again and finally expires while riding piggy back on the sergeant!

4.The usual 1940 and 50s method of soldiers dying on screen i.e. a sudden hand up to "the wound" and then keeling over.

5.Usual portrayal of skilled German soldiers as stupid and unable to defend themselves.

6.Omaha Beach on a shoestring budget on D-Day - the platoon wins the beach battle by itself!

7.A superannuated sergeant (far too old for active service in WWII) going around Europe without any officer in charge of him and his platoon and when he asks for help from Brigade is told, "you're on your own".

8.A female resistance guerilla infiltrates into a lunatic asylum and proceeds to cut the throats of trained German soldiers.All medical staff were vetted and under German orders and would not have been able to secrete her into this type of establishment.

9.Little or no character development, so one feels no sympathy for the characters portrayed.

10.An insurance actuary would not accept when assessing the odds on survival, that the principal characters would all come through unscathed at the end of the film after risking their lives at Sicily (1943), D- Day (1944) and sundry other combat engagements. Well those are my top ten cliches. I don't want to bore readers with others.There should be a law in Hollywood at making films as excrutiating as this.I awarded it 2/10.
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A Big Fat Disappointment
professorskridlov15 November 2016
I guess people only read the "hated it" and "loved it" reviews but here goes anyway. I can't say that I really enjoyed this film or that it offered much in the way of commentary on the nature of WW2 or war in general. There have been so many films on the subject - ranging from the abysmal to the brilliant via the flawed. Terence Malik's Thin Red Line (is the name an intentional reference to Fuller's film?) would be a good example of the latter. Having just watched the "reconstructed" version it's not hard to see why the studio would have balked and re-cut it to a more digestible length. Whether this would have made it more coherent is questionable.

The relatively low budget is apparent from the start, although that isn't necessarily a show-stopper in itself. But the recycling of sets and props in notionally different locations is horribly conspicuous. Then there's the "German" tanks... Some people have criticised Lee Marvin's lethargic performance but I thought that he was one of the few good things in the film, a reflection perhaps of his own experience of combat in the Pacific theatre (he was badly wounded on Saipan). If any actor has understood the psychology of soldiers it'd be Lee Marvin.

There were some nicely conceived and executed elements but they were few and far between. Some of the scenes (like those in the asylum) are simply ludicrous and overblown. The overall construction and editing of the film is alarmingly disjointed even with with the changes of theatre flagged up by captions. Many times it looked to me as though essential linking and establishing shots had been omitted. I don't think that it's a spoiler to note that Fuller himself appears as a combat cameraman in one scene, a conceit that I suspect was copied by Kubrick in "Full Metal Jacket" - another horribly over-rated movie IMO.
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bpmoviefan8 September 2006
We watched this as a family and found the Big Red One very disappointing indeed. I wanted to like this so am not out just to bag it. Possibly the worse scene is the totally unrealistic ambush later in the movie. The D-Day landing scene was lame. I didn't realise only one small ship was used for the invasion and about 20 men landed at Omaha! I've not seen much worse than this.

The characters were uninteresting. The story line was thin and the film just looked cheap. Basically it is an insult to the real soldiers of the 1st Division. There's not much to say about this film that is positive.

Also I have never seen Eucalypts in Europe. Eucalypts are Australian Gum Trees seen also in California where the film was obviously shot. Europe does not look like this.

Don't waste your money on this.
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A ridiculous film which should be avoided
James Long16 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I was looking forward to seeing this film as I am a big fan of WWII movies but this film was a big letdown. It is hard to know where to start and whether I should waste any more time commenting on a film that has already wasted nearly 3 hours of my life.

What we have here is what seems to be a buddy movie. A group of friends having a whale of a time on holiday in Europe during WWII. I know that sounds ridiculous but thats how the movie feels. The starkness and harsh reality of war is not what you see in this movie, war almost seems like fun. Of course not for the minor characters who keep ending up dead but for the principal characters it is all just a laugh.

The dialogues is terrible and full of clichés. I know many war movies are riddled with clichés but its not just that. The dialogues is just absurd at times. And all the characters are just walking clichés, especially the European characters. The Italians are typically over the top. Children and old grandmothers are sweet and innocent. These are just a couple of examples.

All the sub-plots in the film are completely ridiculous. Children for some reason seem to be attracted to Lee Marvin's character like he is the kiddy snatcher from chitty chitty bang bang bearing gifts of sweeties. Germans fall out of line by telling their commanding officers how much they hate Hitler until their predictable execution. The whole ridiculous birth scene inside a tank is done in very bad taste. Then you have a young Hitler youth who has killed some American G.I's and then has his trousers pulled down and spanked.

The beach scene when the Americans arrive in North Africa is probably the most ridiculous scene I have ever seen in a war movie. They start off fighting the French Vichy soldiers and as soon as the Vichy commander is killed the french troops surrender and then run over to embrace the Americans.

As you have seen I have mostly just tried to state things as they actually happen and not give my personal opinion. You don't need to give opinions to show how absurd this film is, just stating what happens illustrates enough.

Also there seem to be many homosexual innuendos in the film. Nothing wrong with that but they are very bizarre. I could go on and on here, I could talk about the terrible acting, the stupid plot and the historical inaccuracies but I will save it.

If you like to hear things go BANG ! and see a bit of blood and guts then this is the movie for you. If however you want a movie with just a little substance to it then please do yourself a favour and avoid this awful movie.

I know my review might be a little incoherent in style but I just wanted to quickly get this off my chest before going to bed. This is the first time I have written a review and that is because I have never felt so strongly about a films shortcomings as much as I did for this film.

I know the director Fuller served in WWII, but that doesn't prove anything. I respect his bravery in serving his country during WWII but as a director I have no respect for him. This is simply one of the worst films I have ever seen.
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The Big Red Mess.
jimmydavis-650-7691748 September 2010
Watched this film again recently and was shocked at just how embarrassingly clichéd it is. The characters are undeveloped cardboard cutouts and most of the action sequences ring hollow; all in a film that was made in 1980! Sam Fuller was way passed his best, not that i'm certain he was ever up to much. Just think of an action film like 'The bridges at Toko-Ri',made 26 years earlier and how much more realistic and adult it is!

Now it's worth pointing out that there are several interesting sequences in this chaotic mess of a film, including the whole concentration camp scene and the scene in the insane asylum, but even these are marred by a clumsy approach. It seems to me that Fuller had a stubborn strangle hold on all aspects of the films production and this is what damages what is a promising albeit ambitious proposition.

It has always seemed strange to me that a veteran should want to describe his experience of war, perhaps only an old man with emotions blunted by time could attempt this and perhaps he would have to do it in such a way as to avoid dealing with his real feelings. This may be the reason for the films curious lack of character development and emotional detachment, as well as the perverse machismo displayed, especially the scene involving the homosexual orderly in the hospital.

In conclusion I think this very self conscious film tells us more about war than one might at first imagine, albeit through the distorted lens of a veteran and outdated film maker.
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This is an 80s movie, so why does it look like a 60s one?
Angry_Arguer28 June 2002
Realism is not one of Big Red One's strong suits. The combat scenes harken more to those old movies like The Longest Day, Battle of the Bulge, and (worst of all) Raid on Rommel. The Omaha beach scene made me use the restroom because how poorly executed it was, I nearly died laughing. Almost no one in the film seemed to have an IQ over 65, that bugged me a lot. I wasn't expecting actual people in war, but if Sam Fuller was wanting to recreate his life in war, he should've taken some hints from Deer Hunter, A Bridge Too Far, and Apocalypse Now. Simply awful filmmaking.
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I was ready to put my foot through the television screen
juanathan21 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I am reviewing the Reconstruction I cannot tell you how bad I thought this film was. Words really cannot explain. This was as "deeply poetic" as an LA cop show.

Before I go on to massacring this film, I have to say this film had potential and had good ideas in mind, but boy was this terribly directed. First off, as many have said, this film tries way way way too hard to be meaningful and poetic. It falls flat on its face looking very cheap and cliché. The movie is directed like it is an episode of C.H.I.Ps. There is so much winking at the camera and being tongue in cheek. The so called humor also is unbelievably stupid. The acting was very bad and it was terribly casted(Lee Marvin was at least bearable). None of the characters were interesting and the storyline was so disconnected since the movie just appears like a bunch of separate vignettes. Back to the directing, it is shot like a 60s film(I have nothing against 60s movies) and it just does not fit the script, which is wretched, and this movie could have worked better as a 30 second Go Army ad on the TV. The ending of this movie relates to my titling of the summary. When Lee Marvin liberates the concentration camp, he comes across a dying young boy and carries him on his shouldered. We slowly see the boy keeling over as her dies on Lee Marvin's shoulders as he walks on. This could have been a GREAT and touching scene, but then of course we get cut off by Robert Carradine's annoying narration and the rest of the scene gets cut to the crappy storyline. The other parts of the liberation are done so poorly that let's just say the victims of this terrible war would be rolling over in their graves. If I am to go on, I will probably kick my foot through the computer screen. Oh yeah, the movie is tedious and boring.

I will never get that two and a half hours back.
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Quite simply the worst war movie of all time
Ghenghy1 June 2002
And that may be an understatement. I am shocked at the comparisons to Private Ryan and other legitimate films of the genre. What are you people thinking. And I'm one of Lee Marvin's biggest fans but there must have been a reason I avoided watching this turkey for the last twenty years. It's terrible, and not worthy of further comment. Put Sam Fuller in the category with Peckinpah as one of Hollywood's most overrated directors. Just painful to watch. 3/10
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Big Film, Small Ideas
kenjha17 November 2009
Fuller apparently had wanted to make this movie based on his World War II exploits for decades. It's not clear why he was so eager to film this, because it adds nothing to the genre. It's long, repetitive, and full of clichés. Also working against it are unnecessary gore, superfluous narration, and a disturbing homo-erotic undertone. Did the world really need a restoration lasting nearly three hours? That is far too long for a film that essentially has no plot. It's basically a series of battle scenes punctuated by far too many facial closeups. Marvin is fine as the leader of an Army unit. Hamill is given above the title billing because of "Star Wars," but is given little to do.
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