Sam Fuller’s THE BIG RED ONE
On May 16th, Warner Home Video will be releasing Samuel Fuller’s World War II Men On A Mission classic THE BIG RED ONE (1980) on Blu Ray. Largely inspired by Fuller’s own experiences during the war, the film is an up close look at the comraderie and adventures of ragtag group of young soldiers (Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Kelly Ward, Bobby DiCicco) in the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division who are led by a grizzled veteran (Lee Marvin). The story moves from 1942 to the end of the war and spans several amazing battles in North Africa, Sicily and Omaha Beach at Normandy.
For longtime fans of Fuller’s work, The Big Red One provided another no-nonsense view of his time serving our country. Fuller made hardboiled, bold cinema with colorful characters and this was his masterpiece/final entry in a series of war genre films he made which included such classics as The Steel Helmet, Verboten!, Fixed Bayonets! and Merrill’s Marauders. Throughout his career Fuller was intent on showing the realistic, unglamorous attitudes he and his fellow soldiers had towards what was going on around them during the bloody, unforgiving time in WWII. There was simply no fake John Wayne style posing portrayed with Fuller’s salt of the Earth, All-American soldiers whose fears and traumas were always shown to be constant companions.
The film was heavily cut down when it was released but was later reconstructed and given a premiere at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival several years after Fuller died. Here is a list of the restored scenes:
- Extended scene after the beach landing in North Africa when the squad is resting and eating, more quirky scene involving an Arab boy.
- The Sarge and the ‘Horsemen’ are trapped in an ancient Roman colosseum, and are relieved by French Spahi Moroccan cavalry. The scene ends with the Moroccan Goums cutting off the ears of dead Germans.
- Extended Sicilian landings where the squad engages a machine-gun nest.
- Omaha Beach, D-Day, extended scene in which the whole infantry company, including Zab, encountering casualties (this was how director Fuller earned his Silver Star on D-Day).
- Schroeder receives a massage from a French woman whose husband has been killed by German soldiers.
- Aftermath of the attack on the lunatic asylum, where Griff has sex with a Walloon.
- Belgian innkeeper uncovers a German infiltrator as the squad eats a meal.
- Scene showing a general giving an interview to a war correspondent (played by Sam Fuller).
- Tree-shelling scene extended to include the German artillery piece being destroyed by a Bazooka.
- Schroeder booby-trapping a castle, then killing the Frau of the house after he finds that she hates Hitler.
- The squad approaches a derelict castle, losing one man to a sniper. They capture the sniper, only to discover him to be an adolescent boy, a so-called “Hitler-Jugend”.
- The squad encounters a protest march of old Germans who refuse to let the squad pass until the Sarge threatens to shoot their leader.
- Schroeder removing his equipment and thus ending his responsibility to fight.