Big Red One (1980)



Director:    Samuel Fuller.

Starring:   Lee Marvin (Sergeant), Mark Hamill (Griff), Robert Carradine (Zab), Bobby Di Cicco (Vinci), Kelly Ward (Johnson), Siegfried Rauch (Schroeder), Stephane Audran (Walloon), Serge Marquand (Ransonnet), Charles Macaulay (General/Captain), Alain Doutey (Broban), Maurice Marsac (Vichy Colonel), Colin Gilbert (Dog Face POW), Joseph Clark (Shep), Ken Campbell (Lemchek), Doug Werner (Switolski), Perry Lang (Kaiser), Howard Delman (Smitty), Marthe Villalonga (Madame Marbaise), Giovanna Galetti (Woman in Sicilian Village), Gregori Buimistre (German), Shimon Barr (German Male Nurse), Matteo Zoffoli (Sicilian Boy), Avraham Ronai (German Field Marshal), Galit Rotman (Pregnant Frenchwoman).


The famous 1st Div. of the U.S. army with the sergeant (Lee Marvin) dealing with four teenage survivors in his squad and fighting from North Africa to Germany.  The four survivors are: Mark Hamill (Griff), Robert Carradine (Zab, as the author Samuel Fuller character), Bobby Di Cicco (Vinci), and Kelly Ward (Johnson).

The movie is a good one.  I think it would help if one knew a bit about WWII before watching the movie, because the Big Red One is all over the place. 

The first scene is from World War I, where the Sergeant kills a German who, with raised hands, wants to surrender because the war had ended four hours earlier.  The Sergeant is upset when he learns that the killing was done after peace had been declared and it bothers him for the rest of his life.   

They start by landing on a beach in Algeria and have a brief fire fight with the French Vichy troops before the French accept them as their allies rather than their enemies. 

The guys then find themselves fighting in the German victory over the Americans at Kasserine Pass. 

The second amphibious landing made by the troops is on Sicily.  They are involved in driving the Axis forces off the island.  The women of one of the liberated villages throw the fellows an outdoor feast. 

The next stop is the third amphibious landing, this time on Omaha Beach during D-Day.  The squad loses a lot of men on the beach.  They finally make a breakthrough when they use a bangalore torpedo, a long tube filled with TNT that when it explodes its takes out the barbed wire emplacements, creating an opening for the troops. 

The fellows then find themselves involved in the Battle of the Bulge, a German counter-attack that surprised the Allies and allowed the Germans to make large inroads into Allied lines.  As soon as the weather improved, however, American aircraft ripped up most of the German tanks and supply lines.  The Germans were soon back to their original positions, from which they were then pushed farther back, no longer having any real offensive strength. 

The last action shown in which the squad was involved, was at a concentration camp.  Obviously, the men are shocked at what horrors they found at the camp.

Not long afterwards, the war comes to an end.   

The movie is good, but no where near as good as Band of Brothers (2001).  You don't really learn that much about the infantry squad.  There is just too much material to cover within one movie.  Things move a little too fast for great insight.  On the other hand, however, it does provide a brief overview of the American action in the African and European theatres.  

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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