Friday, 19 February 2016

fixed bayonets!

fixed bayonets! is set during the korean war and follows a small unit of u.s. soldiers left behind to stall enemy forces to give a larger division time to advance. the story focuses on inexperienced corporal denno (richard basehart), a man wrongly believed to be a hero when in fact he is unable to pull the trigger when faced with an enemy, and his relationship with his superior, sergeant rock (gene evans).

i've never been all that interested in war films, but anything directed by samuel fuller is worth a watch. shock corridor is one of my favourite films and remains the most terrifying film about mental illness that's ever been produced. i'll probably get in trouble for saying this, but one flew over the cuckoo's nest has nothing on shock corridor. fuller also directed forty guns, which i love and reviewed here, and was still making great films towards the end of his career with the big red one and the controversial white dog. the thing about fuller and the reason his movies are still remembered and re-released is that there's always something a little different about them. he doesn't make a standard western or a standard war film, there's always an element of fuller magic that puts a different, usually darker, spin on things.

i'm no expert, but as a war film fixed bayonets! is pretty effective. it reminded me of that documentary restrepo, where the filmmakers follow one unit for a year in the same location. this had that same sense of pointlessness and isolation. essentially rock and denno and their men are trapped on the side of a mountain for pretty much the whole film and there's a constant threat of gunfire at all times. there's a realism to this, but also there's something a but existential about it with the men constantly questioning why they're doing what they are doing and what it means to be a solider.

there are some fantastically tense scenes, including a moment where denno has to cross a minefield to rescue a wounded comrade. there's also a really thrilling battle with a tank at the end of the film. however, the real highlight for me was one of the stranger moments, when one of the characters (i won't reveal which one) effectively predicts his own death. he describes to the men what he would do if he were the enemy, and the whole time he's talking about it we're watching an enemy soldier as he actual does it, following the prediction word for word. it's a weird moment of almost magic realism and it's kind of sad and beautiful at the same time.

fixed bayonets! is a solid war film and there are things to enjoy here whether you're into the genre or not. however, it also has some moments of sheer samuel fuller genius and for that reason it's worth checking out.

fixed bayonets! was released in a dual format (blu-ray and dvd) edition by eureka entertainment on 15th february 2016

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