The Big Red One
|The Big Red One|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Samuel Fuller|
|Produced by||Gene Corman|
|Written by||Samuel Fuller|
Bobby Di Cicco
|Music by||Dana Kaproff|
|Editing by||Morton Tubor|
|Distributed by||United Artists (original release)
Warner Bros. (reconstruction)
|Release date(s)||July 18, 1980|
|Running time||113 minutes|
It was heavily cut on its original release, but a restored version was premièred at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, seven years after Fuller's death. Fuller wrote a book, with the same title, which was more a companion novel than a novelization of the film, although it features many of the scenes that were originally cut.
Fuller saw a great deal of action in World War II as a member of the US First Infantry Division, which was nicknamed The Big Red One for the red numeral "1" on the Division's shoulder patch. He received the Silver Star Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Purple Heart Medal for his courageous actions and wounds received during his combat service in Europe. He was present at the liberation of the Falkenau concentration camp.
The film begins in black and white at the end of World War I. A Private (Marvin), using his trench knife, kills a German soldier who was approaching with his arms raised and muttering in German. In the background stands a wooden crucifix, the wood infested with termites.
When he returns to his company's headquarters, the private is told that the war ended "about four hours ago." The 1st Division patch is shown in color.
The squad crosses the same field where the sergeant killed the surrendering German decades before, where a memorial now stands. The following short conversation takes place:
- Johnson: Would you look at how fast they put the names of all our guys who got killed?
- The Sergeant: That's a World War One memorial.
- Johnson: But the names are the same.
- The Sergeant: They always are.
At the end of the film, the sergeant is in a forest, at night, having just buried a young boy he had befriended after liberating a concentration camp. A German soldier approaches, attempting to surrender, and the sergeant stabs him. His squad then arrives and informs him that the war ended "about four hours ago." This time, as the squad walks away, Pvt. Griff (Mark Hamill) notices that the German is still alive; the sergeant and his men work frantically to save his life as they return to their encampment.
- Lee Marvin - The Sergeant - A First World War veteran, he leads the squad through World War II.
- Mark Hamill - Pvt. Griff - A skilled marksman who refuses to "murder."
- Robert Carradine - Pvt. Zab - Author of "Dark Deadline" and the film's narrator.
- Bobby Di Cicco - Pvt. Vinci - As a Sicilian, he proves an important asset to his squad in Sicily.
- Kelly Ward - Pvt. Johnson - As a civilian, he was a farmer and a medic.
- Siegfried Rauch - Feldwebel Schroeder - The German counterpart to "The Sergeant".
- Stéphane Audran - Underground Walloon fighter at asylum.
Restored scenes 
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (April 2012)|
- 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.
- 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.
Warner Brothers Studio was interested in filming The Big Red One in the late 1950s, sending Fuller on a trip to Europe to scout locations. Fuller directed Merrill's Marauders as a dry run for the film. When Fuller argued with Jack Warner and his studio over cuts they made to Merrill's Marauders, the plans for the film The Big Red One were dropped.
The film was shot on location in Israel and Ireland, with some snow scenes featuring Marvin shot in and around Big Bear National Park. Trim Castle in Trim, County Meath was used as the derelict castle where the adolescent sniper kills one of the GIs (Boyne) as he crosses the river.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film three out of four stars, concluding his review by stating, "It's one of the most expensive B-pictures ever made, and I think that helps it fit the subject. 'A' war movies are about War, but 'B' war movies are about soldiers."
It is currently listed 'Certified Fresh' by the critical website Rottentomatoes.com with a 91% rating and aggregate score of 7.7 based on 44 reviews.
- The Fighting First: The Untold Story of The Big Red One on D-Day by Flint Whitlock - 2004. ISBN 0-8133-4218-X
- The Big Red One (novel version) by Samuel Fuller - 1980; republished in 2004.
- The Big Red One at the Internet Movie Database
- The Big Red One at AllRovi
- The Big Red One at the TCM Movie Database
- Review of the Reconstruction
- Sam Fuller's Last Testament
- D-Day 67 Years On by Robert Farley on Lawyers, Guns and Money" - June 6, 2011 Video Interview of Mark Hamill on his meeting with director Sam Fuller