The Big Red One (1980)

The original The Big Red One Movie Poster
Theactrical Release Poster.

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  Directed by: Samuel Fuller
Produced by; Gene Corman
Written by: Samuel Fuller
  Lee Marvin
  Mark Hamill
  Robert Carradine
  Bobby Di Cicco
  Kelly Ward
  Siegfried Rauch
  Marthe Villalonga
Music by: Dana Kaproff
Cinematography: Adam Greenberg
Editing by: Morton Tubor
Distributed by:
  United Artists (original release)
  Warner Bros. (reconstruction)
Release date(s): July 18, 1980
Running time: 113 minutes
R-rated reconstruction version: 162 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $4,000,000

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The Big Red One is a World War II war film starring Lee Marvin and Mark Hamill. Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, it was produced by Lorimar and released by United Artists in the US on July 18, 1980. The film details the experiences of several US soldiers from The Big Red One (the nickname of the 1st Infantry Division), serving in an infantry squad as part of a rifle company and the effects of the war on them.

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.

Plot - SPOILERS! Stop Reading now if you don't want the plot spoiled for you.

The story's focus is on four privates and their squad leader, a sergeant, serving in a rifle company, who survive the war from beginning to end. Thus becoming known as "The Sergeant's Four Horsemen" as early as North Africa and Sicily. The body of the movie consists of a series of episodes highlighting the insanity and grotesqueness of war.

The film starts at the end of the First World War and is shown in black and white. A shell shocked black horse threatens the sergeant (Lee Marvin), then a private, and damages his rifle. He then kills a German soldier, with his trench knife, who was approaching with his arms raised in surrender and muttering in German that the war is over. The camera moves away from the action and towards a life-size wooden crucifix in the background, the wood infested with termites.

When he returns to his company's deserted headquarters he is told that the war ended "about four hours ago." Killing versus murder is a theme that repeats throughout the film. The 1st Division patch is shown in color.

The film then transitions to the sergeant as he leads his squad of infantrymen through North Africa, Sicily, then on to the D-Day landings, where they land on Omaha Beach at the start of the Battle of Normandy.

The squad crosses the same field where the sergeant killed the surrendering German decades before, which now contains a memorial:

    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.

The squad then treks though Europe, ending up at the liberation of Falkenau concentration camp (a subcamp of Flossenbürg) in Czechoslovakia.

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, one of his men notices that the German is still alive; the sergeant and his men work frantically to save the life of the wounded German soldier as they return to their unit's encampment. While Private Zab (the film's narrator) notes that saving the life of that German soldier was one of the craziest and best things that they did in the war.

[SOURCE: Wikipedia]