Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Big Red One: The Reconstruction

Voittamaton ykkönen / Den obesegrade ettan. The original release version: US © 1980 Lorimar Productions, Inc. P: Gene Corman. D+SC: Samuel Fuller. AD: Adam Greenberg. AD: Peter Jamieson. FX: Jeff Clifford, Peter Dawson, Kit West. Make-up, hair: Blanche Shuler. M: Dana Kaproff. S: Jack A. Finlay. ED: Morton Tubor. LOC: Israel. CAST: Lee Marvin (Sergeant), Mark Hamill (Griff), Robert Carradine (Zab), Bobby DiCicco (Vinci), Kelly Ward (Johnson), Stéphane Audran (Walloon), Siegfried Rauch (Schroeder), Serge Marquand (Ransonnet), Charles Macaulay (General / Captain), Alain Dourey (Broban), Maurice Marsac (Vichy colonel), Colin Gilbert (prisoner), Joseph Clark (Shep), Ken Campbell (Lemcheck), Doug Werner (Switolski), Perry Lang (Kaiser), Howard Delman (Smitty), Marthe Villalonga (Madame Marbaise), Giovanna Galetti (woman in a Sicilian village), Gregori Buimistre (a German), Shimon Barr (a German nurse), Matteo Zoffoli (Sicilian boy), Avraham Ronai (German Marshal), Galit Rotman (pregnant woman). (The original release version was 113 min)

The Big Red One: The Reconstruction. 2004. PC: Lorac Productions. EX: Brian Jamieson. P: Douglas Freeman, Richard Schickel. Digital intermediate: Efilm. Digital paint: Arn Campero, John Falchi, Gary Forbes. S: Mark Linden, Tara Paul, Harry E. Snodgrass. ED: Bryan McKenzie. Released by: Warner Bros. 162 min

A 35 mm Cinematek print with French / Flemish subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion (Samuel Fuller), Helsinki, 9 Dec 2010.

Revisited Richard Schickel's superb reconstruction of The Big Red One with 50 additional minutes.

The Big Red One was the most important film in Samuel Fuller's life. Officially he was working with it since 1957, originally for Warner Bros., but the project was cancelled because Fuller did not accept John Wayne in the leading role. Merrill's Marauders was Fuller's "dry run" for another attempt to produce The Big Red One for Warner Bros., but although it was a success in every way, nobody wanted to finance The Big Red One in the 1960s.

Fuller finally got to direct the magnificent story, and the film was released in 1980. It is a small-scale semi-autobiographical interpretation of the way of the U.S. First Infantry Division in WWII in North Africa, Sicily, Normandy Landing, occupied France, the Kasserine Pass, the Hürtgen Forest, the Battle of the Bulge, Germany, and finally, the Falkenau concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. Watching The Big Red One I project mentally the feeling of the scope and magnitude of Merrill's Marauders to this "little big film".

All Samuel Fuller aficionados are grateful for this reconstruction. Yet Fuller's other war films are much better, and the best account of the subject is in Samuel Fuller's autobiography A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting, and Filmmaking. Fuller went to war with the attitude of a crime reporter to cover the biggest crime of our time. His whole oeuvre can be seen as a coming to terms with the experience of the Second World War.

The audience was grateful for the rare chance to see The Big Red One: The Reconstruction in a film print screening. Although 35 mm, the print has an obvious digital intermediate look.

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