Monday, March 24, 2014

665. The Big Red One (1980)

Running Time: 163 minutes
Directed By: Samuel Fuller
Written By: Samuel Fuller
Main Cast: Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco, Kelly Ward
Click here to view the trailer

Note: So I'm a little late, as I intended to have this one watched and reviewed by Friday afternoon. Turns out, I didn't feel like watching this Thursday night, nor did I feel like watching it Friday morning and after that my wife was off work and ready to spend the weekend with me, which meant no BOOK movies. The two of us were going to watch a whole bunch of new releases, but decided at the last minute to binge on Breaking Bad instead and opted to just do one movie instead, which ended up being GRAVITY (which stunk - my thoughts in the recap, at the end of the month. Anyway, I managed to slip this one into two sittings, between yesterday afternoon and last night and here we are. Before we get into the review I just want to let everyone know that, while I'm not going to take a hiatus, my appearance on the blog may be a bit more sparse than you're all used to. I was going to take a hiatus, as I'm starting to get a little burned out, but have decided to just slow down my pace instead. I really think that will do wonders for me, while still allowing me to post a reivew or two (or three) per week. Now then, over the course of the next week or so, I will be stepping away from THE BOOK to work on a couple of side projects (which I'll detail better at a later date). However, you will see me on the blog, as I plan to turn both side projects into two SIN OF OMISSION posts - more on that later in the week. Just keep your eyes peeled for some special reviews. Anyway, read on...


So we come to the end and it was literally five minutes ago that I realized I watched a version of THE BIG RED ONE that was about an hour longer than the original, theatrical release. I REALLY wish I'd known that, as that could've helped to wash this one down a little easier.

I'm not going to get into a whole history lesson in detailing the plot, because honestly I just don't feel like it. All you really need to know is that this is a war movie, starring Lee Marvin as Sgt. Possum, a veteran of World War I leading a squadron through World War II. Of course, we're talking about the First Infantry Division a.k.a. The Big Red One and this particular group consists of Pvt. Griff (Hamill), Pvt. Zab (Carradine) Pvt. Vinci (Di Cicco) and Pvt. Johnson (Ward). These five seem to have lady luck riding on their shoulder, as they always seem to squeak their way out of the rough spots and end up alive. There really is no point A to point B plot, as the movie really just follows this particular squad, without giving them one, out and out mission. Think SAVING PRIVATE RYAN without the search for Pvt. Ryan.

So it's a bunch of brutes killing (not murdering) a bunch of Nazis and I'm supposed to care, why? Honestly, for a war film, it wasn't THAT bad. However, I found my mind wandering in and out, at times wanting to pay attention and catching some interesting bits and other times, just not caring in the slightest and wanting it all to just end ASAP. I will say Lee Marvin did a bang up job and managed to be an effective Sergeant, who was less brutish than your run of the mill, movie Sarge. The scene where he carries the dead child on his neck is heartwarming, as is the scene where he accepts his helmet, which has been decorated with flowers by a village child. However, the best scene in the whole flick is actually a piece of comedy and comes when the squad is responsible for delivering a woman's baby. I literally laughed out loud during that scene - great stuff.

All in all though, this was very average filmmaking, as far as I could tell. Like I said, I wish I'd known there was a shorter cut and I'd have tried my best to get my hands on that version. As it is, I'd call this cut entirely too long and unnecessarily so. I'm all for giving the filmmaker final say, but I'd have to say the studio knew what they were talking about in this instance. If you're into war films, then you'll probably love this one, as it has likable qualities (memorable characters, quotable lines). Even if you're not into war films (like me), you still may be able to pick out a moment here and there that really works and that's really all I could ask for here. I was never going to love it, but that's only because war isn't my bag.

RATING: 5/10  Let's call it right down the middle. I'd have to say that Fuller turned out to be an average filmmaker, although "Shock Corridor" was good enough to make me want to see more of his filmography.


The Outlaw Josey Wales  (1976 - Clint Eastwood)
Wanda (1970 - Barbara Loden)
Babette's Feast (1987 - Gabriel Axel)
Hill 24 Doesn't Answer (1955 - Thorold Dickinson)
The Ear (1970 - Karel Kachyna)

March 24, 2014  5:45pm


  1. Gosh, a whole 5 for this? I think you were feeling generous last night...

    You know how it is with certain genres of films.. that the whole range is so wide that (using an imaginary scale here..) Film A is so far removed from film Z that they are so different they cannot really be compared...
    Horror films is a great example. Now I can really like horror films.. but I'm very reluctant o admit so, because when i say 'horror film', I'm thinking something creepy, but with quiet menace..' Village of the Damned', the various filmings of 'Turn of the Screw', 'Rosemary's baby'.. the early Universal monsters.. and yes, Val Lewton. where everything is implied. But if you stand up and say "My name is ray, and i'm a horror film fan", most people edge away from you thinking you sit at home drooling over 'The hills have eyes', 'Texas chainsaw'. Dario Argentino etc..
    (Is this getting anywhere?)
    War movies are pretty much the same.
    I have a fair sized collection of 'War movies', but I'd hesitate to stand up and defend the genre .. because of this type.
    (oh, I see what you were doing there)
    A bunch of tough blokes, always from differing backgrounds and parts of the country get all tough and masculine, someone says "I wanna kill me a Kraut", whilst a cigar chomping sergeant snarls "Let's go get 'em boys" If this is what you mean by 'war films', then no I don't like them.. but in the same way 'The others' and 'Saw' are A-Z horror films, this is about a V or W war movie.
    Poor you Andrew, getting the 'Directors cut' of pushing 3 hours. I cannot remember which one I saw.. I was probably dusting, vacuuming the floor, washing up, mowing the lawn or going shopping whilst it was on.

    1. See, I'm too anal to do other things while I watch. I even feel bad when my mind wanders and sometimes have to rewind to catch missed sentences.

      Anyway, good points about sticking to certain genres. You're right. I don't like war films AT ALL though. Very very few have ever peaked my interest.


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