1980s The Big Red One (1980)

Published on April 16th, 2008 | by Chris

1

The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (1980/2004)

Movie by :
Samuel Fuller
Version:
2004 Reconstruction

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On April 16, 2008
Last modified:October 2, 2012

Summary:

As a package, The Big Red One: The Reconstruction turns a merely average war movie into a true war movie classic. It's sad and unfortunate that Mr. Fuller couldn't have lent a hand in the effort, and that the studio couldn't have put this together in the first place.

 

BigRedOne1980When I originally reviewed The Big Red One, the original version, I found it to be lacking something in many respects. I dunno, it just seemed to be missing something.

Then I heard about the "Reconstruction" of The Big Red One, an attempt to rebuild director Samuel Fuller's original vision of the film. I have to say, I have a much better respect for this movie now that its more-or-less "complete."

With an additional hour or so of footage recovered from the Warner and Lorimar archives, and painstakingly cleaned up and re-edited back into the movie, it takes on a much more cohesive tone.

Additionally, the editors went back and did a lot of sound work, which honestly I didn't even notice until I watched the "Making of" feature on the second disc of the set. That's a compliment! The work they did rebuilding these lost scenes and re-working the audio and soundtrack to make them fit in seamlessly was just amazing.

The recovered scenes flesh out a lot of the characters in more detail, which was one of my gripes about the 'original' version. In particular was Hamill's character, Griff. His internal conflict was really brought out more. Marvin's "Nameless Sarge" character also takes on a bit more detail, as we really see his weariness of war, and his overall compassion in scenes that should have been there.

Then there is the contrast of the German who follows them from North Africa, all the way up to the final scene of the film. This connection wasn't clear to me in the original version, but now that its made much more obvious due to the insertion of several dropped scenes with him, it really hits home.

The absurdity of war that Fuller sought to portray really comes through more as well. The French Legion cavalry vs. the German tank in the ampitheater is just one of those scenes. The "infiltrator" at their table is but another, briefer one, but one of those "gotcha" moments that adds to it. You've also got to love the cut "Fritz" scene during "Sarge's" brief stay in the German hospital, a scene that you know wouldn't have passed muster in 1980, but is just hilarious today.

In addition, the second disc of the set includes even *more* scenes that didn't make it into the reconstruction, and for good reasons. The commentary over them is simply great from a technical point of view. There's a great documentary on the entire process of the reconstruction, with lots of interviews with the cast (sans Marvin of course) and Fuller himself.

As a package, The Big Red One: The Reconstruction turns a merely average war movie into a true war movie classic. It's sad and unfortunate that Mr. Fuller couldn't have lent a hand in the effort, and that the studio couldn't have put this together in the first place.

The Big Red One - The Reconstruction (Two-Disc Special Edition) The Big Red One - The Reconstruction (Two-Disc Special Edition)
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Description

Sam Fuller's The Big Red One was already one of the best films of 1980, despite the fact that the version released to theaters ran barely half as long as the director's cut. Fuller had been America's ballsiest B-movie auteur, an ex-newspaper reporter of the hardnosed breed who made fiercely personal, radically stylized, and politically outspoken films between the early '50s (The Steel Helmet, Pickup on South Street) and the early '60s (Shock Corridor)...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio:
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Brand: Warner Manufacturing
Manufacturer: WarnerBrothers
Original Release Date:
Actors:
  • Lee Marvin
  • Mark Hamill
  • Robert Carradine
  • Bobby Di Cicco
  • Bobby DiCicco

Features

  • Factory sealed DVD

Reviews

Customer reviews
Average Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Restoration Done Right, August 8, 2016
By 
Michael Berry (Portland, OR USA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Big Red One - The Reconstruction (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
A dedicated group of professionals restored this badly cut film to a version that Fuller wanted. This is a "chamber" war story with a focus on character interactions and details rather than a a collection of sweeping battle scenes.
This is not poignant and humanistic film that is :All Quiet on the Western Front" but memorable in its own way.
The extra features are quite interesting as well with discussions of what was required to include the missing portions pf the film. Fuller and Marvin were not alive for the restoration interviews but their personalities enhance the flavor of the extras.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good movie becomes great movie!, May 1, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Big Red One - The Reconstruction (Two-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
I have always considered this a good movie, but it was too picaresque. The shorter cut lacks a central theme, and the movie suffers. This longer cut adds in that theme, and viscerally. It promotes this from good war movie to great human war story. The only version I will ever watch again.

As well, it allows Lee Marvin the space to turn in the greatest performance of his career as he embodies that theme, "the only glory in war is surviving."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, March 22, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Big Red One (Amazon Video)
Samuel Fuller (Army) and Lee Marvin (Marine) fought in WWII, so this film has an authentic feel that only first hand experience can bring. Lee Marvin's performance is exceptional and the rest of the cast is superb, especially Mark Hamill. There are images that only someone who has fought in a war could create: Soldiers marching on a freezing, snowy road but then occasionally Samuel Fuller will cut to a beautiful rabbit or a deer, which is what soldiers saw while marching. In a few moments Fuller masterfully describes his theme: He shows us a gorgeous, peaceful Earth on the one hand, and the pointless wars men make on it on the other.
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The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (1980/2004) Chris

Summary:

4.5


User Rating: 0 (0 votes)


About the Author

I've been watching war movies for probably 25 years now. Since December 2006 I've been sharing my habit and passion for these movies here on this site.



One Response to The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (1980/2004)

  1. Never got really into it though I do admire Lee Marvin as a character player. In this one he stays kind of pale. I own it because critics call it a reconstructed »classic«. Whatever!

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