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Even in the studio-truncated version, there was no shortage of astonishing moments and sequences: the squad choking on dust in a bat-filled cave in North Africa as German tanks clatter past the entrance; Fuller's cold-blooded distillation of the D-Day slaughter on Omaha Beach, with a wrist watch on a dead arm in the surf marking time as the water slopping over it grows redder; the rifle squad delivering a Frenchwoman's baby in a German tank on a battlefield full of corpses; a commando-like raid on Nazi troops bivouacked in a Belgian insane asylum. A quarter-century later, film critic Richard Schickel and Warner Bros. executive Brian Jamieson succeeded in restoring 15 never-seen sequences and fleshing out 23 others to create The Big Red One: The Reconstruction, a "new" film nearly an hour longer.
Above all, BR1: The Reconstruction has a rhythm the 1980 cut lacked. The arc of years, battles, and battlegrounds is so much more satisfying. Greater play is given to Fuller's feeling for children caught up in the sidewash of history and atrocity. And the 2004 cut puts sex back into the movie, not orgiastically but as a fact of life and a rarely forgotten driving force. We can see now that Fuller touched, bluntly and shockingly, on the phenomenon of infiltrators--English-speaking German warriors who donned GI khaki and moved among their enemies waiting for a chance to strike.
It's also apparent, as it was not in 1980, that Lee Marvin as the eternal Sergeant leading the young squad is magnificent. This was Marvin's greatest role, rivaled only by his walking dead man in John Boorman's Point Blank. Just beneath the masterly implacability, we glimpse the tenderness, rage, dark humor, experience, and wisdom beyond guilt that have enabled him to survive, to preserve others and to soldier on. His performance, like Fuller's film, is a masterpiece. --Richard T. Jameson
The movie was alright, however it wasn't what I expected. Also Lee Marvin was out of his element, I am used to Western Lee Marvin. Crow or Liberty Valance. Not Sarge.Published 25 days ago by David Laitinen
Very good historical record of the BIG RED ONE. Learned from our mistakes on this onePublished 1 month ago by Jose Cintron
Though there are other war films that I think are greater (particular favorites include Das Boot, The Thin Red LIne, and Paths of Glory), this nearly-three-hour movie is right up... Read morePublished 1 month ago by D. R. M.
Excellent movie. Lee Marvin is perfect in the role of battle weary sergeant.Published 2 months ago by TerryH