96 of 1001 Movies: The Big Red One (1980)

Samuel Fuller is a classic director of B-Movies, but he probably made the most expensive B-movie there has been when he set out to direct, The Big Red One, which is now a staple war classic for it’s blend of humor and the ability to showcase the horrors of war. With a myriad of memorable scenes that really do blend horror, and comedy, and other scenes that purely show the touching actions of the men in the unit it ties up to be a nice film. It’s really long though, and has a lot of male humor that does appeal to a wide range.

Sergeant leads his man through battles all over the world beginning in North Africa, and traveling through a variety of places in Europe including Sicily, and parts of Germany. New man come in to replace old ones, but the four we start with keep on pushing through despite the loss of their surrounding men.  The guys you follow are Griff, Zab, Vinci, and Johnson. Their journey will lead around to the end of World War Two, and a very nostalgic ending for Sergeant.


What is most likable about the story that Samuel Fuller has crafted is that he has created a close group of guys, and he focuses in on them. While as a female I found parts of it’s intriguing it does seem very male charged, and that is okay, but it’s really got more of a reflective attribute in that sense. There are many scenes that are supposed to reflect deeper meanings behind the rough backdrop, like the woman giving birth in the army tank, but sometimes scenes like that are lost in the very vulgar jokes surrounding those very scenes.

Lee Marvin is the strongest, and memorable actor of the crew, and he has a reputation for starring in many military films despite the fact he might have been a little too old to make another showing in World War 2 after being in World War 1 prior to it. You’ve probably heard Mark Hamil’s name, and wondered where he ended up after Star Wars, and if you’re curious then check him out in this. He actually reflects where a lot of men thrown into World War 2 were at. He was a young men transitioning from teen wonders to adult thoughts. Most the guys are still sexually overboard intrigued by women, and juvenile in the way they think, but they are having to tackle very adult things with the death and violence that surrounded them. The transitioning scenes of how this affects them as it nears the end are quite powerful.

The one scene with Sergeant when he meets a young boy they have rescued from captivity by the Nazis is the strongest in the movie, and probably gave this movie a little bit more of a boost for me. It gave it the much needed heart that had been sort of obscured throughout the film. Also, whether you like the humor depends on what type of jokes you like. Some of the jokes involve men worried about their penises being injured in war, and men going so long without sex that they get horny watching a woman give birth. Honestly, not many scenes outside of Sergeant were funny without trying to use some form of dirty humor.

The Big Red One is really an unique film. It catches you from the beginning and then drags a bit until they get back into Europe. It’s biggest problem is just some of the very overdrawn out scenes that seem to rely on violence to interest you. Overall, the viewing experience got better as I watched, and it went from being something I dreaded getting through to one where I grew with the characters and got invested.

Rating 6 of 10

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