The Big Red One

May 28th, 1980


The Big Red One

No valid json found

Still of Robert Carradine in The Big Red OneStill of Lee Marvin in The Big Red OneStill of Lee Marvin in The Big Red OneStill of Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco and Kelly Ward in The Big Red OneStill of Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Lee Marvin, Bobby Di Cicco and Kelly Ward in The Big Red OneStill of Lee Marvin in The Big Red One

The story of a sergeant and the inner core members of his unit as they try to serve in and survive World War II.

Release Year: 1980

Rating: 7.3/10 (8,522 voted)

Critic's Score: 77/100

Director: Samuel Fuller

Stars: Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine

Grim story of a WWII squad consisting of an anonymous sergeant and four long-time survivors who ignore the faceless replacements who continually arrive and die.

Lee Marvin - The Sergeant
Mark Hamill - Pvt. Griff, 1st Squad
Robert Carradine - Pvt. Zab, 1st Squad
Bobby Di Cicco - Pvt. Vinci, 1st Squad
Kelly Ward - Pvt. Johnson, 1st Squad
Stéphane Audran - Underground Walloon fighter at asylum (as Stephane Audran)
Siegfried Rauch - Schroeder (German sergeant)
Serge Marquand - Rensonnet
Charles Macaulay - General / captain
Alain Doutey - Broban (Vichy sergeant)
Maurice Marsac - Vichy colonel
Colin Gilbert - Dog Face POW
Joseph Clark - Pvt. Shep (soldier on troop transport)
Ken Campbell - Pvt. Lemchek (#2 on Bangalore torpedo)
Doug Werner - Switolski

Taglines: Only chance could have thrown them together. Now, nothing can pull them apart.

Release Date: 28 May 1980

Filming Locations: Big Bear City, San Bernardino National Forest, California, USA

Technical Specs

Runtime:  | (reconstructed version)

Did You Know?

The bulk of the picture was shot in Israel, and director Samuel Fuller remarked that it was unsettling after a scene was shot when the German soldiers and SS troops pull would take off their helmets and Fuller would see them wearing yarmulkes, and between takes they would be sitting around the set in full Nazi uniform speaking Hebrew or reading the Torah.

Continuity: The tree branch moved by Sarge as he looks for the SP gun changes.

The Sergeant: You're going to live, even if I have to blow your brains out.

User Review

Groundbreaking war film, as misunderstood as the title.

Rating: 8/10

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.


Comments are closed.