Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gene Evans, Robert Hutton, Steve Brodie, James Edwards, Richard Loo, Sid Melton, Richard Monahan, William Chun, Harold Fong, Neyle Morrow, Lynn Stalmaster
Written by: Samuel Fuller
Directed by: Samuel Fuller
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 85
Date: 01/10/1951

The Steel Helmet (1951)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Tin Pot

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Made the same year as Fixed Bayonets, The Steel Helmet (1951) was Fuller's first full-fledged masterpiece, a small-scale war film in which the exotic landscape reflects the characters' psychology.

In Korea, Sergeant Zack (Gene Evans) finds himself the sole survivor of an attack, and a young Korean boy (William Chun) lends him a hand. Zack dubs him "Short Round" and takes him on as a kind of mascot. He runs into another platoon (made up of men from all different races, religions and creeds), and they take shelter in a beautiful Buddhist temple, where internal conflicts bash up against the real, external conflict.

Evans' gruff delivery expertly matches Fuller's rock-hard dialogue, and the various jumble of surfaces coheres into a sublime experience. I'm not much for war films, but this is one of the best.

Criterion Eclipse continues its series of excellent DVD box sets devoted to "lesser" films by great directors. The idea is that, by packaging these films together for a bargain price with no "extras," they are more easily accessible than they would be individually. The First Films of Samuel Fuller, containing three DVDs, is the fifth in the series.

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