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A typically well made compact tale of war by Sam Fuller
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.
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