Published on August 10th, 2007 | by Chris0
The Big Red One (1980)
There are some movies which are called classics, and which could have been classics, and which just fall short of the mark. The Big Red One is just one of those films, and falls under all three categories.
The cast is a line up of past, present, and future (for 1980) stars, including war movie staple Lee Marvin, upcoming Star Wars star Mark Hamill, and future "Revenge of the Nerds" star Robert Carradine.
The premise is your typical war movie plot, in that it follows a squad in the Army's "Big Red One" through their episodic and twisted adventures (if you want to call it that) in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and later on the beaches of Normandy. We're shown just how weird and surreal the whole war experience can get, from being driven over in tiny foxholes by enemy tanks, to the resistance in a mental asylum, and later assisting with a childbirth inside an enemy tank.
The problem is the whole experience is just very mechanical, as is most of the acting. Carradine's voice-over narration doesn't lend much to the experience either, although it intends to lend some perspective to their situations.
Then there is the parallelism in Marvin's character. The film starts with him during World War I, killing an enemy soldier just hours after the war has ended, but he hasn't gotten the news yet. Seems he's the one responsible for the "Big Red One" moniker as well. Then later he winds up on that same plain, with an ominous lonely cross. And at the end of this war, he repeats his mistake, but this time is given a chance to correct it.... Honestly this little subplot is about the deepest aspect of the film. Without it, The Big Red One would be completely devoid of anything resembling meaning.
But don't get me completely wrong, there are lots of little meaningful moments, which provide a brief interlude of sanity, even if they are ultimately depressing. Such as the boy they rescue from the concentration camp, and the little girl decorating the Sarge's helmet with flowers.
So is it a completely bad movie? No, not really. I just don't think its worthy of a lot of the praise given it. I'd rate it merely average. There are a lot better movies than this, and a whole lot worse ones to be sure. I'll let you ultimately decide.
I should mention that I saw the original cut of "The Big Red One", broadcast on AMC, and that there is a new "reconstructed" edition with 40 minutes of additional footage available. I may rethink my opinion after seeing that, so stay tuned.
The Big Red One - The Reconstruction (Two-Disc Special Edition)
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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 InformationBinding: DVD
Audience Rating: R (Restricted)
Brand: Warner Home Video
Original Release Date:
- Lee Marvin
- Mark Hamill
- Robert Carradine
- Bobby Di Cicco
- Bobby DiCicco
- Factory sealed DVD
Summary: So is it a completely bad movie? No, not really. I just don't think its worthy of a lot of the praise given it. I'd rate it merely average. There are a lot better movies than this, and a whole lot worse ones to be sure. I'll let you ultimately decide.