The Big Red One

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Overview

Iconoclastic film director Samuel Fuller spent decades nurturing his dream project, a movie about his experiences in the Army's First Infantry Division during World War II, but it wasn't until 1979 that he was able to finally bring the picture before the cameras. Unfortunately, Fuller was forced by his producers to work with a scaled-down budget, and he did not have final cut on the film; after his first rough cut ran nearly four-and-a-half hours, the studio took over editing on the project, and Fuller was ...
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Overview

Iconoclastic film director Samuel Fuller spent decades nurturing his dream project, a movie about his experiences in the Army's First Infantry Division during World War II, but it wasn't until 1979 that he was able to finally bring the picture before the cameras. Unfortunately, Fuller was forced by his producers to work with a scaled-down budget, and he did not have final cut on the film; after his first rough cut ran nearly four-and-a-half hours, the studio took over editing on the project, and Fuller was vocally unhappy with the final results. In 2003, critic and film historian Richard Schickel initiated an effort to restore The Big Red One to a form that more closely resembled Fuller's original vision; using a large cache of newly discovered footage and the director's shooting script as a guide, the 113-minute theatrical version was expanded to 158 minutes, adding depth and detail to Fuller's sweeping and episodic tale of a hard-as-nails sergeant Lee Marvin and four inexperienced recruits under his command Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco, and Kelly Ward as they battle their way across Africa to Europe between 1942 and 1945. Schickel's reconstruction received enthusiastic reviews when it went into limited release in the fall of 2004.
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Special Features

Cardboard O-sleeve package. Disc One: Digitally mastered with soundtrack remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1; commentary by reconstruction producer Richard Schickel.
Disc Two: Alternate scenes; anatomy of a scene: before-amd-after restoration comparisons; new documentary, "The Real Glory: Reconstructing The Big Red One; "The Men Who Made the Movies: Samuel Fuller" profile; U.S. War Department film, "The Fighting First"; 1980 promo reel, theatrical trailer and TV and radio spots; 2004 reconstruction trailer; stills gallery.
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
Two years in the making -- and 35 years in the head of writer-director Samuel Fuller -- this World War II epic redefined an entire genre when it finally hit theaters in 1980. The Big Red One has great scope and a narrative drive best described as relentless, but it also captures scenes of intimacy and poignancy. Based on Fuller’s own experiences as a G.I., the film follows the First Infantry Division’s incursions into North Africa and Europe; in a sense it presents the land war through the eyes of five foot soldiers who have one thing on their minds: survival. Lee Marvin, in what is surely the best performance of his waning years as a star, plays the intrepid sergeant determined to bring his squad through, intact. Mark Hamill, in his first post-Star Wars role of substance, is terrific as one of the soldiers -- so much so that his typecasting as Luke Skywalker now seems all the more regrettable. Robert Carradine has a nice turn as another dogface, the film’s narrator and Fuller’s alter ego. The action is intense, and the Nazis make despicable villains, but the film never falls back on the jingoism that typifies most war movies: Fuller refuses to rely on such facile conceits. Clearly, he wanted to tell a different kind of war story, and his insistence on maintaining certain scenes, viewpoints, and characterizations put him at loggerheads with the producers, who wanted various cuts and changes. This 25th anniversary DVD edition, overseen by film historian and critic Richard Schickel, restores 40 minutes of subplots, character development, and grit to the film. This is the Big Red One Fuller wanted us to see, and it’s even more powerful than the version that played theatrically.
All Movie Guide
Samuel Fuller's The Big Red One is generally well regarded, but it does suffer from excess ambition; it wants to examine the second world war's every oddity, irony, combat philosophy and battlefront (excepting the Pacific). And so it was that character development and plot continuity were sacrificed when the studio cut it to under two hours, prompting Fuller to publicly air his disappointment. Six years after Fuller's death, Richard Schickel set out to correct that via The Big Red One: Reconstruction, which restores 45 minutes of highly useful footage. Now instead of this rifle squad bouncing between Northern Africa, Sicily and Belgium in the space of barely 30 minutes, the connecting scenes contextualize their jet-setting (or maybe "boat-setting"). This reconstruction also gives a true character arc to the one German officer the story visits. With certain other characters, however, it seems Fuller never had that plan to give them better dimension. The supposed cowardice of Mark Hamill's Griff is never fleshed out -- at some points he seems morally opposed to killing, at others he fears for his life, but most often he's as jolly as can be, making his character's big moment somewhat unconvincing. One thing undercutting the film's graphic nature is how often it resorts to broad humor, or shows the rifle squad joking and reveling. Certainly, this is part of the duality of war, but The Big Red One comes up short on the gravitas half of that equation, as too few characters who die are significant. On the plus side, Lee Marvin is exceptionally dignified, and surprisingly soulful for a man with his rock-hard countenance. Fuller would be a lot happier with this particular incarnation of his passion project, but by setting such an aggressive agenda, he probably never had a clear path to a fully realized vision.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/3/2005
  • UPC: 012569432222
  • Original Release: 2004
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Home Video
  • Region Code: 1
  • Time: 2:42:00
  • Format: DVD

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Lee Marvin Sergeant Possum
Mark Hamill Griff
Robert Carradine Zab
Bobby Di Cicco Vinci
Stéphane Audran Walloon
Kelly Ward Johnson
Siegfried Rauch Schroeder
Serge Marquand Rensonnet
Charles Macaulay General/Captain
Alain Doutey Broban
Maurice Marsac Vichy Colonel
Colin Gilbert Dog Face POW
Marthe Villalonga Mme. Marbaise
Doug Werner Switolski
Ken Campbell Lemchek
Perry Lang Kaiser
Joseph Clark Shep
Howard Delman Smitty
Technical Credits
Samuel Fuller Director, Screenwriter
Adam Greenberg Cinematographer
Merv Adelson Executive Producer, Producer
Gene Corman Producer
Peter Jamison Art Director
Dana Kaproff Score Composer
Jim McBride Screenwriter
Bryan McKenzie Editor
Lee Rich Executive Producer, Producer
Richard Schickel Producer
Arne Schmidt Asst. Director
Mort Tubor Editor
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Worth having

    I consider this movie a good addition to my war collection. Its a little long for my taste but overall it serves its purpose.

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An overlooked masterpiece

    When it was originally released, The Big Red One was a good movie, but now that it has been expanded to more properly meet director Samuel Fuller's original vision of the project, we see the film as an unquestionable masterpiece. It's a big, sprawling look at the 1st infantry's efforts in WWII, from the beaches of Africa to the concentration camps in Czechoslavakia. Lee Marvin is great (as always) as the unflinching harda-- who, at moments, shows his affection for people, such as the moment he accepts his helmet from an Italian girl who has decorated it to look like a bouquet of flowers, or the end when Marvin befriends a mute boy in a concentration camp. Mark Hamill, still in the thick of Star Wars, also has a great role as a soldier who begins to question the morality of the war, stating that he cannot murder anyone. Marvin corrects him, you don't murder animals, you kill them. Late in the movie, Hamill discovers something that changes him completely, making for a most memorable scene in a film filled with memorable moments. Robert Carradine, who most know from Revenge of the Nerds, plays the Sam Fuller character, a cigar-smoking writer who thrills at the moment when he meets a fellow soldier reading his very own book. His best moment comes when he meets a replacement, one of many who he refuses to acknowledge simply because replacements all end up dead. "Will I get it?" the replacement asks. "Why?" Carradine says, removing his cigar, "you think you're somethin' special?" The added footage is all great, adding moments to scenes already in place, such as the embarassing moment where the men help a woman give birth in a German tank, or where they are led to an emplaced weapon by a young boy trying to bury his mother. But the best additions to the movie are huge scenes long thought vanished. The best one is the scene where the men are being held down by a sniper in a ruinous castle. What they find inside is quite startling and leads to one very emotional moment followed by maybe the funniest moment in the film. Also added is a major subplot that follows a German soldier, the one fated to encounter Lee Marvin at the end. We see how the other half lives and how they're not so different from the allies, not always anyhow. On the whole, a great movie that will hopefully be rediscovered as one of the finest films of its kind.

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