The famous 1st Div. of the U.S. Army is the background for this World War II film. Marvin stars as an experienced sergeant with four teenagers in his squad. Combat period covers the landing in North Africa through the invasion of Europe.
Episodic retelling of the exploits of the American First Infantry Division during World War II, focusing on the squad's sergeant and four of the soldiers. They struggle to survive campaigns from North Africa in November, 1942, to Czechoslovakia in May, 1945, along the way participating in the invasion of Sicily and the D-Day invasion and freeing a lunatic asylum and a concentration camp.
"The Big Red One" was based on director/screenwriter Sam Fuller's personal experiences as a soldier in World War II. The Robert Carradine character is based directly on Fuller himself. Film was first proposed as a project for John Wayne in the 1950s. Title refers to the First Infantry Division, known as "The Big Red One" because of the red one which adorned its shoulder patch and helmet insignia. The symbol was designed by an artist in 1918 and incorporated the red piping from a German soldier's forage cap. Additional cast: Charles Macauley (as General/Captain), Alain Doutey (Broban), 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), and Galit Rotman (Pregnant Frenchwoman). Additional crew: William Hankins (Props), Craig Corman (Production assistant), Roy Street (Stunt horseman), and Alan Weisman (Gunsmith). "The Big Red One" originally ran 140 minutes, but was cut by the studio down to 113 minutes, with the director's apparent approval. Color by Metrocolor. Prints by Technicolor. Titles by MGM. Filmed on location, with Israel standing in for North Africa, Sicily, France, Belgium, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. Scenes depicting the Rhine Valley were filmed in Ireland and featured Fuller's wife, Christa Lang, but were eventually cut from the film. Rated BBFC AA by the British Board of Film Censors.
"...A picture of palpable raw power which manages both intense intimacy and great scope at the same time..." - 05/14/1980 Variety
"...Handsome, technically first-rate....Fuller is a nervy, no-nonsense Hollywood original..." - 07/18/1980 New York Times, p.C6
"It now seems to be Fuller's masterpiece, maybe the most unpretentious war movie ever." - 10/21/2004 Los Angeles Times, p.E10
"This is Marvin's picture, and he dominates it not with heroics and speechmaking but with competence, patience, realism and a certain tender sadness." Chicago Sun-Times, p.37
"[I]t now explodes onscreen with the brash extremes of cynical violence, heartache, and profane humor that define Fuller's cinematic style." - 06/01/2005 Premiere, p.117
"It's vivid stuff, with an intimacy and intensity not found in later war movies..." - 07/01/2005 Sight and Sound, p.82
"From the chaos on Omaha Beach to the scene with the little girl dying in Lee Marvin's arms, this is a film that burns deep into your brain." - 11/01/2008 Total Film, p.138