The Big Red One

  • 1980
  • Movie
  • PG
  • War

Samuel Fuller's episodic THE BIG RED ONE is a powerful, humorous, and touching autobiographical film that's the last of the great WWII movies. In 1942, a Sergeant (Lee Marvin) leads a group of raw recruits in the First Infantry Division (nicknamed "the Big Red One"), including a quartet dubbed "The Four Horsemen"--Griff (Mark Hamill), a sharpshooter; Zab...read more

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Reviewed by Michael Scheinfeld
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Samuel Fuller's episodic THE BIG RED ONE is a powerful, humorous, and touching autobiographical film that's the last of the great WWII movies.

In 1942, a Sergeant (Lee Marvin) leads a group of raw recruits in the First Infantry Division (nicknamed "the Big Red One"), including a quartet dubbed "The Four Horsemen"--Griff (Mark Hamill), a sharpshooter; Zab (Robert Carradine), an aspiring novelist; Vinci (Bobby Di Cicco), an

Italian-American; and Johnson (Kelly Ward), a farmboy. In 1943 Sicily, with the help of a boy whose mother has been killed, they manage to destroy a huge German gun that's concealed at the top of a mountain. On D-Day in 1944, they take part in the Normandy invasion, but get trapped on Omaha Beach.

Griff proves himself by eluding enemy gunfire and blowing up a fence, enabling them to escape. The squad then goes to Belgium and recaptures an insane asylum that's being used by the Nazis as their headquarters. In 1945, they experience the worst horror of their wartime careers when they're sent

to liberate a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia.

Based in his own WWII experiences, THE BIG RED ONE was a dream project for Samuel Fuller, who had tried to get the film made for decades. Despite the film's limited budget, which necessitated that most of the location shooting be done in Israel, and the continuity lapses due to post-production

tinkering, Fuller manages to create one of the most poignant war films ever made. Fuller demonstrates his philosophy that "the only glory in war is surviving," by focusing on the Four Horsemen and through a series of searing scenes filled with unforgettable images (a Nazi hiding behind a giant

crucifix in the middle of a battlefield; the terrified eyes of concentration camp prisoners). Real-life ex-Marine Lee Marvin is perfect as the taciturn yet compassionate Sarge, and Robert Carradine is amusing as Zab, the cigar-chomping, pulp-novelist Fuller-surrogate, while the character of Griff

is solemnly played by Mark Hamill. Vehemently antimilitaristic, the film celebrates camaraderie and brotherhood and eloquently demonstrates the ultimate futility of war.

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  • Released: 1980
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: Samuel Fuller's episodic THE BIG RED ONE is a powerful, humorous, and touching autobiographical film that's the last of the great WWII movies. In 1942, a Sergeant (Lee Marvin) leads a group of raw recruits in the First Infantry Division (nicknamed "the Bi… (more)

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