Combustible Celluloid
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With: Richard Basehart, Gene Evans, Michael O'Shea, Richard Hylton, Craig Hill, Skip Homeier, Henry Kulky, Richard Monahan, Paul Richards, Tony Kent, Don Orlando, Patrick Fitzgibbon, Neyle Morrow, George Wesley, Mel Pogue, George Conrad, David Wolfson, Buddy Thorpe, Al Nego, Wyott Ordung, Pat Hogan, John Doucette, Bill Hickman, Kayne Shew, James Dean
Written by: Samuel Fuller, based on a novel by John Brophy
Directed by: Samuel Fuller
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 92
Date: 11/20/1951

Fixed Bayonets! (1951)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Snow Bind

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Samuel Fuller's second Korean War movie, after the masterpiece The Steel Helmet, also stars Gene Evans as a grizzled sergeant. This time, he's Sgt. Rock, leading a ragtag rear guard through the snowy Korean terrain, attempting to convince the enemy that their numbers are greater than they actually are. Richard Basehart is the Corporal who can't bring himself to fire his weapon and worries how he will lead when his time comes. A handful of dogfaces come to life for brief moments thanks to their vicious, rambunctious dialogue, but even so it's often difficult to tell them apart, especially wearing their heavy snow gear.

Fuller's action sequences were one of a kind, getting close to the fray and moving quickly, but never more quickly than the eye can follow. James Dean apparently has a bit part in this movie, but I was unable to spot him. Fuller claims in his great autobiography A Third Face that Dean has a line -- "Who goes there?" -- which echoes around in his head to emphasize isolation, but I didn't see this scene in the movie.

Fox has released Fixed Bayonets! on a new 2007 DVD in a beautiful, black-and-white widescreen transfer. It comes with a trailer and a still gallery, but nothing else. Some information on Dean and his whereabouts in the movie would have been a good addition. In 2016, Kino Lorber released a Blu-ray edition, with a much-appreciated audio commentary track by historian Michael Schlesinger, Sam's widow Christa Lang Fuller, and his daughter Samantha Fuller. I was finally able to spot Dean, nearly at the end at around the 1:29:00 mark. The new disc also includes trailers.

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