Tagged in: 35 years too late

The Big Red One (1980)

Rating: ★★★★☆

This review was written  35 years too late

bigrSamuel Fuller‘s “The Big Red One” is a sort of autobiographical war film following the fate of four US 1st Infantry Division (the One of the title) rookies led by veteran Lee Marvin as America enters the war in late 1941.

Fuller, like Marvin, actually served. Fuller’s story is compelling, watchable and bold in ambition. Marvin brings real credibility to his role as the wise head shaping a handful of cannon fodder.

It’s an epic journey, taking in North Africa, the invasion of Sicily, the Normandy landings, the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, and the horrors at Falkenau concentration camp among others.

Marvin’s Sergeant Possum brings his core group through all of these fights mostly unscathed. One of the really interesting things about the film is how the nervous group don’t grow more cynical with each new battle, but rather start to believe in their own immortality, an immortality that’s preserved. Comrades die all around them, but never them.

It’s a curious, surreal viewpoint for a war film since, almost to a man, they focus on loss among brothers-in-arms. If this was Fuller’s own experience, then he does a splendid job of realising it on screen. Add to this soldiers hiding in holes dug in the ground as tanks roll over their heads, a misjudged shootout in a mental asylum, and a curious, smokey tree-splintered Hürtgen Forest to really go somewhere different.


Mark Hamill does his best to be someone other than Luke – some bad language and sex are attempts to move beyond a virginal, over-excited space boy – but “Red” and his other film outside of “Star Wars” during this period, “Corvette Summer“, didn’t untypecast him.

Often called one of the best war movies ever, Fuller’s epic certainly belongs up there. Its battles are a little tame compared to modern day depictions (the Normandy landings have none of the visceral, verisimilitude of “Saving Private Ryan“), but that’s just its time. And anyway, it doesn’t need spectacle to show war’s horrors – just a soldier killing another unaware peace broke out a few hours earlier.

Make sure you see the 162m restored cut to get the full experience.



The Comeback (1978)

Not nearly nasty enough Pete Walker directed horror-thriller about a tormented pop star on the comeback trail. Also known as The Day the Screaming Stopped.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

The Comeback (film)

Jack Jones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This review was written 35 years too late

What a bizarre cast. Crooner and cheapo Robert Redford lookalike Jack Jones teams up with Bosley from the Charlie’s Angels TV series, Compo from Last of the Summer Wine, and Not the Nine O’Clock News member and Mrs Billy Connolly Pamela Stephenson in a tale of torment, cross-dressing, and too brief brutal shocks. Heck, it’s even got Jack Palance‘s daughter in it!

Jack is Nick, a fading pop star hoping to make a comeback with a new album after some years in the wilderness. Egged on by David “Bosley” Doyle as a very un-rock’n’roll manager, he decides the best place to lay down some new tracks is a grand yet slightly creepy mansion in the country. Just as well, as his ex-wife has just been slashed to bloody shreds by a scary old lady in his London penthouse.

The mansion staff include Bill “Compo” Owen doing spaced-out, wide-eyed and slightly mad, and Pete Walker stalwart Sheila Keith as his polite yet sinister housekeeper wife. Love interest comes in the form of an early Pamela Stephenson role (she keeps her kit on, pervy readers).

The attacks are the best thing about The Comeback. Cheapo Brit horror legend Pete Walker delivers them with rapid, sudden shocks. Even though you know they are coming, when they start they are fast, twisted and alarming. Quite brutal too. Trouble is, there aren’t enough of them.

Instead, we get a fair bit of Nick wandering around the imposing mansion on his Jack Jones (nice!) as he starts to hear cries and sobs that may or may not belong to his ex, doing it with Pammy in the front seat of his Lotus in a dull-looking English seaside town, and the discovery of the odd corpse or maggot-infested head somewhere which seem to vanish every time he tries to show his gruesome finds to someone else.

Chuck in Bosley as a grotesque tranny (briefly lusted after by Are You Being Served? ‘s Penny Irving, who also starred in an earlier Walker classic, “House of Whipcord“) to confuse the mystery a bit and you finish up with, to give the film credit, a climax that does leave you wondering who is behind all the madness-inducing goings on and why until all is revealed in an axe-wielding melee of wigs and chases.

Enjoy, but warning: film contains bad songs courtesy of Mr Jones.


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