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226 of 237 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jumps to the top of the heap.
Whenever I would catch it on cable years and years ago, Sam Fuller's "The Big Red One" was a quirky war movie with strange pacing and a very uneven balance of comedy and tragedy, of high and low-- several great moments strung loosely together. Working on the upcoming DVD, I was not aware of the fact that Fuller had shot 4 hours or that he wished to his dying day that the...
Published on February 24, 2005 by Daniel Fineberg

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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is a BLU-RAY review, for the new edition released in spring, 2014
First, as many of you know, the reviews here mix the Blu-Ray with the DVD. These comments are directed at the Blu-Ray edition, released in April / May of 2014.

1) It does include the original theatrical cut, and the "extended" cut. This is contrary to the original announcement by the studio.

2) BUT - and this is a very big "but"...
Published 7 months ago by Bruce M. Spielbauer


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226 of 237 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jumps to the top of the heap., February 24, 2005
By 
Daniel Fineberg (Northridge, California USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Whenever I would catch it on cable years and years ago, Sam Fuller's "The Big Red One" was a quirky war movie with strange pacing and a very uneven balance of comedy and tragedy, of high and low-- several great moments strung loosely together. Working on the upcoming DVD, I was not aware of the fact that Fuller had shot 4 hours or that he wished to his dying day that the film would be lengthened, and I was skeptical as I always am with extended versions (this one carries the subtitle "Reconstruction"). I got to look at it several times, once for business and twice more for pleasure, because the film is transformed and made great, and there are so many memorable scenes that one wants to go back to it again and again. 40-plus minutes have been added on, some full scenes, some simply extended bits to old scenes. The narrative structure of the movie is still very free and loose, very episodic, but the greater length is absolutely crucial to the plot, since we are meant to get at least some slight idea of the tedium and homesickness that goes along with being a soldier in an ongoing war. Fleshed out is the character and performance of Lee Marvin--everything that he is capable of as an actor, everything that that stone wall of a face can convey is on display here--tough as all hell but with a simultaneous sweetness that can be, when called upon, heartbreaking. Look at his expression when a gunfight breaks out after the Italian girl places flowers on his helmet--he jabs the rifle into position along his chin and begins firing rounds, his face jerking only slighty with each shot. We don't see anything of the gunfight, only close-up on his face and the expression says nothing and everything all at once--we're meant to meet him halfway and fill in the blanks ourselves. He makes it easy for us because by this point in the movie we know what kind of a man he is. And because this is Sam Fuller, the movie has a diabolical sense of humor, sometimes downright hilarious, as when some of the boys swap sexual fantasies, some of which have become warped and deranged after so much time in battle. Another sequence has the Sergeant and the boys of the One helping to deliver a baby inside the belly of a German tank--the mispronunciation of the French word for "push" setting the stage for some verbal slapstick. This juggling of moods doesn't seem quite so out of place in the longer version, and I get the impression that if they ever decide to cut together the 4-hour picture that Fuller had intended, we still wouldn't tire of the characters or their tours of duty. But as it stands now at 2 hours, 40 minutes, it has been rounded out for us and has jumped to the top of the heap alongside the small handful of truly important movies depicting war. The most common complaint I hear is that the German tanks are clearly American tanks dressed-up. This is true-- if you are searching for dead-on accuracy and detail in set design such as in Private Ryan, this is not for you. "The Big Red One" is a gritty personal little movie that is not burdened by the kind of strained sentimentality that sometimes hampers Spielberg. It can be at times surreal and absurd, but not the kind of surrealism that floats above and transcends the actual war as in "Apocalypse Now"-- it keeps its feet firmly on the ground. The tanks don't pass the test, but the characters more than make up for it... Lee Marvin's nameless Sergeant, stone-faced, intransigent, whose tragic prologue sets up a touching epilogue... Keith Carradine's cigar-chomping, novel-writing Private Zab-- a fill-in for Fuller, who lived all these experiences in his days with the Big Red One-- and Mark Hamill's Griff, the most fleshed-out character, whose unforgettable finale in the Falkenau concentration camp gives new meaning to Conrad's notion of "shelling the bush". The Falkenau scenes, by the way, were shot, like much of the movie, in Israel with Jews playing the Nazi wardens--a surrealistic slap in the face to anyone itching for strict realism in their war flicks. Inconsistencies be damned. This is a great one, and now, thanks to Richard Schickel and his gang, a fuller Fuller movie, a very generous update of a picture that never got a fair chance its first time around.
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44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Big acting by Marvin; Red Normandy beaches; One good ending, March 11, 2001
This review is from: The Big Red One (DVD)
Sarge (Lee Marvin), first saw combat near the end of WWI. Now, years later, in North Africa in WWII he is a grizzled, war weary, seen it all veteran. Nevertheless, he's still resolute in his duty and a proud wearer of the Red #1 arm patch insignia of the US 1st Infantry Division. He is leader, father, mother, coach and whatever else he needs to be to get his rifle squad through the war. The four principal characters of interest are Griff (Mark Hamill), an expert riflemen but one who can't shoot the enemy if he sees his eyes; he calls it murder, Sarge says otherwise. There is Zab (Robert Carradine) who's main purpose is narrator, his musings provide background and setting; the other two are Johnson and Vinci. We follow this group throughout the movie and the war from North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, Belgium and finally to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia for a series of emotionally powerful concluding scenes.
There is no glorification of war here; indeed the message is very clear - the only glory in war is surviving. The movie is very creative in introducing characters whose sole purpose, with their demise, is to underline this message. The short careers of both Lemchek and Kaiser are cases in point. The battle scenes are weak and unrealistic but that's not the emphasis. The action scenes that are memorable are the ones with a subtle message; the camera focusing in on the dead soldiers wristwatch in the surf of Normandy, the water turning red with the passing of time; the scene at the asylum in France and the concentration camp scene where Griff overcomes his compunction about shooting while seeing the whites of his enemies eyes.
It's a well crafted movie, with some strong acting from Lee Marvin and Mark Hamill and a movie which delivers it's message in a well thought out and strong ending.
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78 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Longer and Better Movie, February 17, 2005
By 
D. W. Mittelberg, Jr. "." (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania United States) - See all my reviews
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I remember the original movie when I was younger. I was too young to see it in the theater so I saw it often on HBO. When it came out on videotape and then DVD I purchased it. And then I saw the bigger & badder version. WOW! What a movie. Yes, its almost an hour longer than the original, but it makes it such a better movie. There are scenes added that add more storyline, character buildup and more action. Being this is now 3 hours long it borders on beating out Saving Private Ryan as the best WWII movie ever made. Lee Marvin is at his best, but then again he was always at top form. This movie follows a rifle squad thoughout the battlefields of World War II. It seems the Sargeant (Marvin) and his 4 soldiers seem to always leave battles unharmed while the new soldiers that arrive fall victim to bullets and landmines. In this film you follow the First Infantry through North Africa and Sicily and then to the beaches of Normandy and straight through Germany. If you like long epic war films, then my friend you'll love this one. It's 3 hours well spent.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Only Glory..., January 9, 2001
By 
Joel R. Bryan (Athens, Georgia United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Big Red One (DVD)
Lee Marvin and his Easter Island visage star in this Samuel Fuller-directed World War II story about a 1st Infantry Division rifle squad, hence the title. Robert Carradine narrates the story (he's the writer of the bunch, so we see the squad from his point of view) and Mark Hamill plays a soldier who just can't bring himself to fire a shot in anger until the war's final day. The troops experience the war as a day-to-day series of small triumphs and losses. Their ultimate victory, as Carradine's narration makes clear, is surviving the whole hellish mess. And Fuller, through Carradine's voice, dedicates this movie to the guys who came back. Lee Marvin is like a stone idol; at times, his craggy face bears the scars and seams of one who's done it all before (his character fought in the First World War), but his eyes express weariness, sadness and even tender affection for the soldier-boys under his care. Especially well played is a scene where a North African girl garlands Marvin's helmet with flowers. He gives her the slightest of smiles, says nothing, puts on the helmet and makes himself look ridiculous to please her. Full of moments like this, this movie is intimate and ultimately very moving, in a manly, unsentimental, tough guy sort of way. Well worth the time.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is a BLU-RAY review, for the new edition released in spring, 2014, May 12, 2014
This review is from: The Big Red One [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
First, as many of you know, the reviews here mix the Blu-Ray with the DVD. These comments are directed at the Blu-Ray edition, released in April / May of 2014.

1) It does include the original theatrical cut, and the "extended" cut. This is contrary to the original announcement by the studio.

2) BUT - and this is a very big "but" -- ONLY the theatrical cut is in high definition. Let me repeat that: ONLY the theatrical cut is in high definition. The extended version is there - but it is apparently just a direct copy of the DVD transfer which has been available for some years now.

3) Now, for the really bad news... The high def theatrical cut is in high def, but it is -- to put it mildly -- pretty bad. I just watched it, at a friend's home theater. Ouch. It seemed so bad, that I arrived at my house and popped in the DVD of the same, and then the DVD of the extended cut (which were sold as a package on DVD) -- and guess what -- in my humble opinion -- the DVD of the the theatrical cut actually looks noticeably superior to the Blu-Ray of the same version. So, I checked the only review site I could find that had taken a look at this new Blu-Ray release: "Greenberg is known for deep blacks and strong cyans, but you'd never know that from Warner's 1080p, AVC-encoded presentation of the theatrical cut of The Big Red One, which adds insult to injury with a flat, dull and underwhelming image. Colors are washed out, detail is erratic, blacks are weak and the grain pattern looks suspiciously scrubbed, especially for a film that is supposed to have a raw and gritty immediacy. Colors are somewhat more vivid in specific sequences, notably the Sicily engagements and the Moroccan coast, where blue skies and beautiful flowers are meant to contrast with battle smoke and demolished buildings, but the entire presentation has the look of a transfer prepared for smaller screens, NTSC resolution and a limited color space." This reviewer nailed it. (Source: Blu-Ray.com)

IF you already own the DVD, I strongly recommend that you not reward the studio for this awful release. It is actually a step down in image quality.

If you own neither, I would still go ahead and purchse the DVD version which has BOTH versions. BOTH are there, and BOTH offer superior image quality.

Also, both offer less compression -- and they are spread across two dual-layer DVDs.

As for the film, and the controversy over which film is better, I shall leave that for the other reviewers around here.

In summation -- Avoid the Blu-Ray. Get the "Reconstruction" version on DVD. The star rating above applies Only to the Blu-Ray release. An abomination.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sam Fuller's Testament, January 18, 2001
This review is from: The Big Red One (DVD)
Sam Fuller waited for years to make this film based on his experiences as a dogface with the famed First Division and he has left us with a minor masterpiece of film story-telling. Fuller did not have the budget of a Spielberg (in fact he had a rather limited budget) so the invasion of Normandy and other scenes are not sweepingly epic. (Just imagine if he had.) But that is not the point. It is a tale of rememberance & by nature episodic & anecdotal.
The original cut was over 4 hours, Fuller eventually cut it to about 2 1/2 then the studio cut it to 113 minutes--one can only imagine what is missing. Even so the film builds an incredible power, not cathartic but a weary experience of survival, which as the film states is the only glory in war.
Lee Marvin gives an amazingly nuanced performance as the "Sergeant", Robert Carridine does an amusing turn as Zap, Fuller's alter-ego and Mark Hamill is effective as conscious stricken Griff.
If you have not seen Fuller's other war films ("The Steel Helmet", which looks like it was made for 1.98, but is quite amazing; "Fixed Bayonets" & "Merrill's Marauders") they are well worth seeking out, as are his other non-war films.
Sam Fuller said that the only way for a movie audience to truly experience war was to have someone come out in front of the screen & start spraying the audience with gunfire and have the person sitting next to you shot to pieces. I think that I will stick with his films.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars nearly forgotten and underappreciated, January 23, 2003
By 
Sonicboy (Greenwood, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Big Red One [VHS] (VHS Tape)
After finally seeing this wonderful movie,I am stunned anyone would not consider it one of the great films.The pacing is so casual and relaxed in places it reminds me of Fellini.Some reviews correctly mention that the battle scenes are brief and somewhat underproduced,but they are secondary to the subtle poetic images Sam Fuller is putting on the screen.If you have seen other Fuller films as I have,it is unbelievable he was able to reach this pinnacle of creativity.Lee Marvin is too old for his part but no other actor could have played it as well.There are many delights to see and hear.To me it is the best war movie ever made. Kubrick,Coppola and Speilberg all made terrific films about war,but Fuller faced enemy guns in battle. His real experiences translate an unmistakeable authenticity into every frame.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sam Fuller's First Division, August 14, 2002
This review is from: The Big Red One (DVD)
Movie about Fuller's WWII experiences in the First Division (infantry). From Africa to D-Day to the liberation of death camps. This was shot for an eighth of the budget of Saving Private Ryan and says more with the actor's eyes and absurd situations, Lee Marvin's weary presence and narration by Fuller standin (Robert Carradine) than anything in Spielberg's self-importnat movie could. This was orginally to be a three hour film and maybe one day it will be put together as intended and shown. The dead man's watch in the bloody waters at Normandy showing the passing of time says more than any amount of legs and guts flying.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars harmed masterpiece, June 29, 2000
By 
This review is from: The Big Red One (DVD)
I read all your reviews and I realised I wasn't the only fan of this movie, it's the strongest movie I've seen about this war. The only problem is that Sam FULLER's movie originally lasts MORE THAN 4 HOURS, it was cut by the studio and this copy you're so amazed about is unfortunately a clip of THE BIG RED ONE, the movie that you can only READ fully (check at the books). It still remains a good movie but we must hope to see one day on DVD edition the original movie wich is sometimes shown at the french "cinématheque".
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Truthful, brutal and magnificent, May 9, 2005
By 
This film commences with a hard hitting statement that is unmistakably Sam Fuller. "THIS IS FICTIONAL LIFE, ABOUT FACTUAL DEATH". From that moment, he grabs the audience by the scruff of the neck and takes them on a fascinating, ballsy, unsentimental ride through WWII as he saw it. The film is refreshing for it's determined 'survivor's' point of view. He does not judge with emotions in the simplistic way that so many war films do. Instead he puts you in the state of mind you need to actually survive a war, and given Fuller himself survived WWII, he might just be on to something. The art in this film is all in the contradictions of real life and the perverse pleasures that can arise in even the most horrific of settings. A scene in Italy where the rifle squadren liberate an asylum is magnificently chaotic and amoral in it's presentation. In the midst of this madness Griff (Mark Hamill) somehow enjoys a transformative sexual experience with a psychologically damaged woman. We are reminded time and again that these men are only human, with needs that make little sense in the context of war. Fuller shows the straightforward machine you need to become to survive a war. If you know someone in your platoon is going to die, don't bother getting to know them too well. Harsh, but that, according to Fuller, is how you make it through. Lee Marvin's performance, commented upon here by many reviewers is an engine house of repressed humanity. And it's not overdone - you wouldn't even know the humanity was there. Watch this performance then watch Liam Neeson in Schindler's List. With respect to Neeson, he is playing a character. Marvin is playing a man.
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The Big Red One [Blu-ray]
The Big Red One [Blu-ray] by Samuel Fuller (Blu-ray - 2014)
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