Friday, October 27, 2006

[1980] THE BIG RED ONE: AKA Sam Fuller Hearts Lee Marvin. Aesthetically it's a bit dated--people just fall down and die when they're shot instead of screaming and flailing as in modern war porn, and they do that thing where speaking English in an accent stands in for a foreign language (instead of subtitles.) Tonally it's all over the map, but it seems to love absurdity more than anything else--the asylum scene with an assassin among the inmates, the woman giving birth in the tank, Robert Carradine pulling a cigar out of a dead man's pocket and not even pausing to look at the intestines spilling out of his gut. A Belgian lady who can spot a German infiltrator by the way he eats. Lee Marvin throws away a wounded man's testicle, but the guy's deliriously happy because he still has his cock. An unconscious Marvin getting mouth-kissed by a German who thinks Lee's a "superman." There's great moments of dialogue too: the "Horst Wessel was a pimp" speech, the "fat ass against a cold window" fantasy of Kaiser's. Performances--here we range from Lee Marvin being completely awesome as the best possible Sgt Rock to Robert Carradine ruining a movie with narration in a way that probably tops Harrison Ford in Blade Runner. (And yes--neither Fuller nor Ridley Scott wanted the narration. And I can't believe I've watched two Robert Carradine movies in a row.) Mark Hamill's performance lies somewhere in the middle. The film's kind of a muddle and I understand that was probably Fuller's intent, to present war as a series of absurdities and grotesqueries (did I mention the ear cutting?) that you simply either survive or do not survive--there's almost no trace of war as something heroic here. It's good at what it does but it's not whole enough somehow for me to really love it. It's like once Fuller decided to make a war film drained of heroism he couldn't quite figure out what to replace it with, and stuffed in as much stuff as he could think of--so as a cinematic grab-bag it's great.

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