The Steel Helmet

  • 1951
  • Movie
  • NR
  • War

Scripted in a week, shot in 10 days, and released only six months after the start of the Korean War, Sam Fuller's THE STEEL HELMET stands as one of the best films about that war or any war. Dark, violent, and disturbing, this film doesn't celebrate duty, honor, and heroism; it shows men simply trying to survive the madness. Evans, a wounded sergeant whose...read more

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Scripted in a week, shot in 10 days, and released only six months after the start of the Korean War, Sam Fuller's THE STEEL HELMET stands as one of the best films about that war or any war. Dark, violent, and disturbing, this film doesn't celebrate duty, honor, and heroism; it shows men

simply trying to survive the madness. Evans, a wounded sergeant whose platoon has been wiped out, is saved from sniper fire by Chun, a South Korean orphan nicknamed "Short Round" (a name adopted by Steven Spielberg for his cute Asian kid in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM). With the kid

tagging along, Evans meets up with a group of raw recruits, and agrees to lead them in exchange for a box of cigars. The tiny group then proceeds to an ancient Buddhist temple which is to be used as an army observation post. Before long, the Americans find themselves furiously besieged by the

enemy.

THE STEEL HELMET is a film made for an audience tired of war. The world had welcomed home its battle-weary soldiers from WWII only five years before, and many were less than enthusiastic when another war--one neither so popular nor so ideologically clearcut--dragged men away again. This time the

public wondered whether the bloodshed was necessary. THE STEEL HELMET reflects these doubts. Those soldiers who are not confused and scared are cold and cynical. The rules of this war are different from the last. The enemy looks exactly like the people the soldiers are supposed to be defending. A

confused soldier asks Evans, "How do you tell a North Korean from a South Korean?" Evans replies, "If he's running with you he's a South Korean. If he's running after you he's a North Korean." Director Fuller emphasizes this confusion visually. The film is very claustrophobic (most of the action

takes place on a single set) and the characters nearly always seem to be immersed in smoke and fog. Things are never what they seem. GI Monahan's snoring is mistaken for the whistle of incoming shells, Buddhist priests turn out to be North Korean soldiers in disguise, and Loo, the intelligent and

brave South Korean soldier, isn't trusted by the American lieutenant. By the end of the film, the American soldiers who have survived are on the brink of madness. Fuller's final comment on the situation comes with the closing credit, which reads, "There is no end to this story." He spoke the

truth: his movie became the model for nearly every Vietnam war film.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Scripted in a week, shot in 10 days, and released only six months after the start of the Korean War, Sam Fuller's THE STEEL HELMET stands as one of the best films about that war or any war. Dark, violent, and disturbing, this film doesn't celebrate duty, h… (more)

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