“Hey, look what I found — dry socks!”
During the Korean War, a platoon tasked with tricking the Communists into thinking their forces are not retreating navigate icy cold conditions while a fearful corporal (Richard Basehart) worries that his superiors — including hard-nosed Sgt. Rock (Gene Evans) — will die and leave him in charge of his men.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Korean War
- Richard Basehart Films
- Sam Fuller Films
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “action-filled, intelligent war movie” — “written and directed by Sam Fuller” — clearly shows Fuller’s “war experience” given “the believable dialogue between soldiers and the intricate military strategy they conceive.” He notes that this “film is about the responsibility of being a soldier; it doesn’t matter if a soldier is scared or brave, for heroics will come about only if one one does the job.” He asserts that while there are “many fine moments,” there are “none better than when all the soldiers put their bare feet together for protection against frostbite and one foot, which no longer has feeling, has no claimaint.”
I would argue that the minefield scene — in which Basehart is forced to test his own mettle, inch by harrowing inch — is right up there in terms of most memorable moments:
Peary challenges us to “try to pick… out” James Dean (in his first, uncredited role), which is possible with careful scrutiny:
Overall, this compact thriller tells an effectively authentic tale of survival and bravery under extreme duress, and remains well worth a look.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- Fine performances by the ensemble cast
- Lucien Ballard’s cinematography
Yes, as a nifty wartime action flick by a master director.
- Good Show
- Important Director
One thought on “Fixed Bayonets! (1951)”
Rewatch. Must-see, as one of Fuller’s strongest films.
Working with a tight, sharp, authentic-sounding Fuller script, the film gets fine ensemble work from the cast, exhibits stellar camerawork by Ballard (impressive for a low-budget film made on a soundstage) and effective editing. It’s economic, suspense-filled, memorable filmmaking, building to a solid finish.
The TCM website quotes Fuller’s own cogent thoughts on the film: “My yarn included stuff I’d lived through on the front lines, such as the risk of frostbite in freezing weather, an officer’s misgivings about having to order his men into danger, and a soldier’s fear about pulling the trigger. ‘You take care of her,’ says one of my characters, looking at his M1, ‘and she’ll take care of you.’ I’d heard my sergeant say that again and again. …I firmly believed that the only way to honor GIs at war was by showing the truth. There’s nothing romantic about the infantry. If you survive, you’ll be proud of having been a foot soldier until the day you die. As it turned out, the army would request permission to show ‘Fixed Bayonets!’ in their own training schools.”