1950s Fixed Bayonets! (1951)

Published on March 7th, 2013 | by Chris


Fixed Bayonets! (1951)

Review of: Fixed Bayonets!
Movie directed by:
Samuel Fuller

Reviewed by:
On March 7, 2013
Last modified:March 7, 2013


Torn, torn, torn. Especially cheesy and western-like in places, but in the end, actually makes perfect sense and achieves its goal quite nicely.

Fixed Bayonets! (1951)Iconic director Samuel Fuller brings us Fixed Bayonets!, a film about a platoon in Korea with a dangerous mission... to cover the rest of the battalion's retreat and make the enemy think that they are facing a much more capable foe.

They hold out at a pass, creating a bottleneck that the Koreans and Chinese will have to pass through.  They make their stand here, and its here that all the action occurs.

The movie, though, is not about any of this.  It's about one Corporal Denno (Richard Basehart), who hasn't yet found the strength within himself to pull the trigger on another human being, let alone lead this platoon.  Once it becomes clear that this is what the movie is in fact about, then its like a lightbulb goes off and things finally start to make perfect sense.  But it takes a while to get to that point, actually.  Little hints and shards of whats to come, especially between Denno and the ironically-named Sgt. Rock (Gene Evans, also from Fuller's The Steel Helmet)...  Rock is (of course) the picture of a model tough-guy soldier, where Denno is obviously not.  Their conversations (once you pick up on it) lead into the premise quite nicely.   The "inside the head" bits also get the point across, but I think they would have been better served if the entire squad hadn't had them, but only Denno....

Truth be told.  I was really, really, worried at the start of Fixed Bayonets.  The opening scene in the tent, while maybe painting an accurate picture, seems way too long, difficult and forced for Fuller.  For a good part of the movie, it seems rather ham fisted and amateurish.  I hate to say it, being Fuller and all, but that's how I saw it.  You'll just have to see it to really understand.  Lets just say there are plenty of Hollywood style (again demonstrating Fuller's roots in the Western) heart clutching slow-fall deaths and plenty of cavalry-vs-indians moments....

That's not to say that its great, either.  The combat scenes (and there are plenty of them) at times get a little corny and, well, just plain odd.  Take the bit with the horns.  What?  I didn't really understand why this took so much screen time...

I'm really, really, torn on how to rate Fixed Bayonets.  On the one hand its really not that good, sorry, guys.  Yet once the main objective becomes clear and the character of Denno starts to flesh out... If you're able to pick up on that and follow that through to the end it really makes a lot of sense and works.  It just ends up working.  I don't know any other way to say it.  Like you're sitting there going "Oh COME ON!" for a bit, then "Well, hm, that's interesting" and then "yeah, I get it now...."

So, Fixed Bayonets! gets a 3.5/5.  I really don't like going that high, but I don't feel right going lower.  If that makes sense.

Oh, and its also a curiosity that this movie (along with The Steel Helmet) were made so close into the Korean War....

Luck would show the entire movie up on YouTube... if this disappears please (PLEASE!) let me know.

Fixed Bayonets Fixed Bayonets
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Not your typical star-studded or star-spangled war film, cult-fave director Samuel Fuller's Fixed Bayonets is a viscerally thrilling Korean War drama of one platoon's trial, and one corporal's baptism, under fire...

DVD Information

Binding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Manufacturer: 20th Century Fox
Original Release Date:
  • Richard Basehart
  • Gene Evans
  • Michael O'Shea
  • Richard Hylton
  • Craig Hill


  • Factory sealed DVD


Customer Reviews
Average Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best Korean War film, July 15, 2014
Jonathan Weller (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fixed Bayonets (DVD)
Director Samuel Fuller's "Fixed Bayonets" is my all-time favorite Korean War film, and in my opinion ranks as one of the war movie genre's best. Fixed Bayonets is a rather callous war movie that doesn't follow the typical patriotic fever of anti-communist propaganda films of the time. The movie seems more centered on the actual emotions and trials of the everyday grunt in Korea, as well as the time-tested fear if taking another human beings life. The movie sometimes lacks the action of a typically captivating war film, but Fuller uses the storytelling to make up for the lack of explosions and expenditure of ammunition.

The premise of "Fixed Bayonets" is that a small platoon of forty-eight men is supposed to keep the onrushing communist throngs from finding out that an entire division is trying to move south to safety. 'Forty-eight men to give 15,000 men a break" is what the general explains is needed in the beginning of the film, and he handpicks the... Read more
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5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty Sam Fuller War Film, September 4, 2016
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This review is from: Fixed Bayonets (DVD)
FIXED BAYONETS! is one of Sam Fuller's best war films. Set in the Korean War this is a gritty film with very little sentimentality. It is very memorable if you have ever seen it before. FIXED BAYONETS! was written and directed by Samuel Fuller and is very typical of his style focusing on specific events in the story that reflect on the psychological impact and giving way to an emotional reaction to them. Thus, FIXED BAYONETS! is rather thought provoking and does not lend itself to a sweeping narrative flow as was the case with Sam Fuller's later classic WWII films MERRILL'S MARAUDERS (1962) and THE BIG RED ONE (1980). FIXED BAYONETS! is set in the harsh winter and the "Chinese Intervention" into the Korean War where death and devastation were daily and hourly seeds of depression on the psyche. It is an interesting film and often difficult to absorb as Fuller intended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty war movie, January 9, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Fixed Bayonets (DVD)
In the early Winter campaigns of the Korean War, American troops were ill prepared, ill equipped and surprised by first, the North Korean invasion and, when the invasion faltered and the North was forced into retreat, the second invasion led by tens to hundreds of thousands of Chinese Army troops. The intervention of China forced the American retreat from the North.

"Fixed Bayonets" is about a U.S. Army unit having to fall back to the South. One smaller unit is left behind as the rear guard, to cover the retreat and give the impression that the larger unit was still in place. The movie is about the men in this rear guard. The heroes, the cowards, those unsure of themselves and those over confident. It's well acted, with many familiar faces. The violence is subdued by modern standards, but with this film the men's struggles with themselves and each other are more important than those with the enemy around them.

If nothing else, "Fixed... Read more
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Fixed Bayonets! (1951) Chris

Summary: Torn, torn, torn. Especially cheesy and western-like in places, but in the end, actually makes perfect sense and achieves its goal quite nicely.


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.

3 Responses to Fixed Bayonets! (1951)

  1. I liked it more but I saw it before Steel Helmet, so the standard was lower. Definitely lacks the raw intensity of The Steel Helmet. Part of the problem, or maybe the whole problem, is that it was his first movie for a big studio, so he had to restrain himself, and it shows.

  2. the war movie buff says:

    As you already know, I am not as keen on it as you are. It is a nice effort considering the low budget (which definitely shows), but a big step down from Steel Helmet. Great acting from Evans, who basically will play the same character in Steel Helmet.

  3. Chris says:

    Agreed on all counts, guys. Believe me, I was ready to pan this until it all finally “clicked” closer to the end. If that hadn’t happened…

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