The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (1980/2004)

The Big Red One: The Reconstruction (1980/2004)

Starring Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco, Kelly Ward, Siegfried Rauch, Marthe Villalonga

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: High. Been wanting to see this restoration since it came out.


This may be one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written. Above all, I want to do justice to the film and to the memory of the Fightin’ First, the Big Red One. Like never before, after viewing Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One, I feel that I grasp the immensity of their service in World War II and their contribution to the war effort. Viewing the film takes the audience on the journey with the soldiers, almost like an embedded reporter out to capture the reality of the situation. It is remarkable and somewhat unfathomable that with so much death surrounding them, these men were able to come out as survivors. The Big Red One is a film that creeps up on you in subtle ways and before you know it, you realize that you absolutely love it.

Sam Fuller brings distinct credibility to the film, himself a member of the Big Red One during the times covered in the film. The film forgoes a distinct plot and takes on an episodic format that plays out like a war diary. It’s rather ironic that this type of semi-fragmented film actually ends up packing in more narrative, character arcs and genuine excitement than most traditional films. After recently viewing Saving Private Ryan again, I was a bit worried about watching this so close after. Both films cover the Normandy beach invasion and have similar themes.

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Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Starring Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Jeremy Davies, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Matt Damon, Ted Danson, Dennis Farina, Paul Giamatti, Harve Presnell

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Expectations: High. I remember loving this. It’s been a few years.


Here’s another History class review.

Saving Private Ryan opens and closes on the same image of a faded American flag. The only sound is the quiet rippling it makes as it moves with the wind. In honor of the soldiers that have fallen and everything that has been sacrificed for the lives of their countrymen, the flag waves steadily and means much more that the simple colored fibers it is constructed of. Like the flag, the film is a commentary on the value of life and what one man is worth. Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan is the top of the game in terms of World War II films and with good reason. It is an absolute triumph on nearly every level.

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The Red Badge of Courage (1951)

Starring Audie Murphy, Bill Mauldin, Andy Devine, Robert Easton, Douglas Dick, Tim Durant

Directed by John Huston

Expectations: Moderate. It will be interesting to see how the Civil War is portrayed in a 1950s film.


[Note: This is another review I did for my History class, in slightly edited form.]

John Huston’s The Red Badge of Courage is not your typical war film. It’s more detached from the battles than standard entries into the genre, choosing to focus on the emotional makeup of one company of soldiers, and specifically the youth Henry Fleming (Audie Murphy). Murphy was a highly decorated soldier during World War II so he was no stranger to the nature of war. He plays the role of the scared, worried Army private very well, communicating the fear that any young man must face in the heat of battle.

The film’s tone is very contemplative and features readings from the source novel as narration to drive the story forward and connect the viewers with the struggles of this young man. Huston chooses to shoot many dialogue scenes using low angles which might show how the character is powerful in another film, but here it shows how Fleming wrestles furiously with his feelings. In one particular scene, Fleming meets up with a wounded squad mate who inexplicably runs to the top of a hill. Fleming chases after and when he catches him, the wounded man speaks incoherently while they are both framed from a low angle. The nobility of the wounded man confronts Fleming in these low angle shots. He cannot turn away from the imminent death of the comrade he deserted, his mind filled with the crushing regret and shame of his actions. He longs for “the red badge of courage,” a wound that would prove he was the man he wanted to be.

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Zone Troopers (1985)

Starring Tim Thomerson, Timothy Van Patten, Art LaFleur, Biff Manard, William Paulson

Directed by Danny Bilson

Expectations: Pretty high. This is cheesy ’80s Sci-Fi. I’m gonna like it.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:


Going into Zone Troopers I knew three things. I knew it was set during World War II, that there were crash-landed aliens, and that I was gonna love it. My information was correct and the film did not disappoint. Over the opening credits we are treated to Glenn Miller’s In the Mood, one of the most iconic and well-known swing songs of the era. It seems like an easy and somewhat lazy choice here, but as we’re going for instant time recognition, there’s nothing like In the Mood to sell the ’40s. As the song ends the screen irises out, revealing a full-color science fiction magazine called Fantastic Fiction in the hands of Joey (Timothy Van Patten), a young Army private with wonder in his eyes. Another soldier, Mittens (Art LaFleur), wants to read Joey’s other book, “the one with the blonde dames from space,” but Joey traded it for a pack of Luckies. Yep, this is World War II alright.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Combat Shock (1986)

Combat Shock (1986)
AKA American Nightmare

Starring Rick Giovinazzo, Veronica Stork, Mitch Maglio, Asaph Livni, Nick Nasta, Michael Tierno, Leo Lunney

Directed By Buddy Giovinazzo


Wow. Now this is just some dismal shit. I have just made it through Buddy Giovinazzo’s low budget gritfest, Combat Shock and I feel very fortunate that I am not on Prozac or prone to manic bouts of depression. The results could be devastating. Pound for pound you will be hard pressed to find a film more unflinchingly brutal and uncompromising in its depiction of a troubled mind teetering precariously on the brink of madness than you will here. If you thought your life was bad, just wait until you walk a mile in the shoes of Frankie Dunlan. This poor man has more shit on his plate than a tapeworm-infected bulimic at Hometown Buffet.

The obvious inspiration here is Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. The film doesn’t even pretend to disguise this fact. Certain situations and even wardrobe choices are lifted directly from that film. But after one viewing of this film Travis Bickle himself would have had an epiphany and realized he didn’t have it so bad. He probably would have turned himself right around and started a flower garden while huddling down with some chamomile tea and season 1 of Dora the Explorer. Not to downplay Taxi Driver, it’s one of my all-time favorite films. But if I had seen Combat Shock at the same time as Scorsese’s film there is no question which one would have had the greater lasting impact.

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