Twenty-five years after it was first released in truncated form, Sam Fuller's deeply personal masterpiece has been lovingly restored to honour his shooting script. It now weighs in at 156 minutes... and ranks as Fuller's best movie.
A 12-man rifle squad, led by a nameless Sergeant (Lee Marvin, superb), is soon whittled down to four as they take part in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, the bloody D-Day landing on Omaha beach and the liberation of Falkenau concentration camp. The surviving `Dogfaces' include Griff (Mark Hamill), an Everyman who must learn to kill, and Zab (Robert Carradine), Fuller's cigar chomping novelist alter-ego.
As outlined in Fuller's enthralling autobiography, A Third Face, the director fought on all the fronts depicted in the film. This experience, coupled with Marvin's own Pacific combat service, informs The Big Red One's unsentimental surreal realism. "Survival is the only glory in war," is Zab's/Fuller's stark message. Watch this and you'll see why.