Comparison between the Theatrical Version and the reconstructed version
1980 Samuel Fuller shot his almost autobiographic (Pvt. Zab is the Alter Ego of Sam Fuller) war movie. Unfortunately, only a heavily cut version made it into the cinemas. Until his death in 1997 he had the intention of making his experiences from the war into a movie that was true to historical facts as well as his personal philosophy. In order to save what could be saved he never distanced himself from the shorter unauthorized version of the producer. Thanks to film critic and -historian Richard Schickel "The Big Red One" has been reconstructed – as good as it was possible after over twenty-five years.
Theatrical Version 1:43:24 Min.
Reconstruction 2:37:40 Min.
Cut scenes: 63
Alternative scenes : 4
Difference: 3.026 Sec.
A text screen has been added
We see the blurred head of a horse.
Now the horses legs are shown.
We see the head clearly.
The horse attacks the young soldier (Lee Marvin). He tries to get to safety and trips over an old exhaust pipe. (shot in grainy b/w)
The horse leaves him be and runs across the battlefield.
After killing the German soldier he walks across the battlefield.
He explores the presumably abandoned trench.
The red One is colored while the rest remains b/w.
Pvt. Griff (Mark Hamill) and Pvt. Vinci (Bobby Di Cicco) are using condoms to protect their rifles from the water.
The unit is eating. A boy wants to trade booze for cigarettes. Pvt. Zab (Robert Carradine) makes a deal with him and takes a swig out of the bottle before spitting it right back out and exclaiming that it tastes like piss. Pvt. Johnson (Kelly Ward) receives the bottle and makes the same experience. Johnson asks Zap why he never misses while shooting to which he replies that this is because they always run. There is also a girl, watching the Sergeant eat and exchanging glances with him. Now the boy offers them erotic pictures and Pvt. Vinci says that they could get a whole harem for a pack of smokes.
The Sergeant walks over to Pvt. Griff and the girl follows him
The Sergeant gets up, leaving the rest of his meal for the girl, and leaves. Pvt. Griff (Mark Hamill) watches him leave and then watches the girl eat.
The same shot is shown in an alternative version. Instead of a long shot, we see a close up of the Sergeants face before the camera pas over to the can and the girl eating from it.
It is night and Zab lights a smoke while the men are getting ready to rest. The Sergeant approaches and slaps the smoke out of Zabs hand with the butt of his rifle, telling him again that they are not allowed to make fire at night before getting ready to sleep himself. The men go on to talk about the enemy propaganda broadcast station, wondering what the hostess might look like.
Next scene. We're in the middle of combat against German forces. Pvt. Griff, Pvt. Zab, Pvt. Vinci, and Pvt. Johnson are seen in close ups. The Sergeant gives orders through hand signals. A French officer tells his countrymen that they have found the lost unit before joining the battle on horseback, surprising Americans and Germans alike. After the Americans manage to take out two MG nests they are forced to retreat again. The Sergeant manages to retreat into an arena until he notices a camouflaged tank that promptly opens fire. The men are seeking cover while the French ride into the arena. Griff manages to stick explosives onto the tank, blowing it up. After the end of the battle an Algerian soldier starts to cut of the ears of dead soldiers and the Americans trade their cigarettes for them. Since it is likely that he ears of dead American soldiers have been cut off as well the Sergeant puts an end to this.
Close up of said tanks.
More troops and tanks.
After the German Staff Sergeant Schroeder (Siegfried Rauch) has shot the Sergeant he himself is shot down by a German MG.
The G.I.s are seeking cover from tank fire, some losing their rifles in the process.
The Sergeant wakes up in a German military hospital. A German orderly (Shimon Barr) says that it is a miracle that he's still alive.
The German orderly stands in front of the Sergeant, making it very clear that he is attracted to him and kissing him on the mouth. Upon trying it a second time, the Sergeant grabs the mans throat and pushes him away so hard that he stumbles. The man walks away and past Schroeder who also was send to the hospital. From farther away the orderly calls to the Sergeant that he should have been dead.
The Sergeant that the man in the bed next to him is dead, takes his caftan and puts a blanket over him.
The Germans try to regain control over the hospital. One of them opens machine gun fire on the British soldiers.
The Sergeant peeks out from behind his cover.
Vinci can't move further and asks for a grenade but nobody has one left. Under heavy fire Griff crawls towards Pvt. Shep (Joseph Clark) who still has some grenades. Griff throw one to Zab who passes it on to Johnson, the Sergeant and to Vinci. Vinci catches the grenade and tries to blow up an enemy hideout but misses and asks for another grenade. This time he manages to blow up two vehicles.
The wounded Pvt. Smitty (Howard Delman) is alone a bit longer before the Sergeant comes to him.
The Sergeant tells Smitty that the mine he stepped on was supposed to castrate him. He finds a bloody lump and shows it to him. Thinking it is his severed penis, Smitty wants to have it. The Sergeant explains that the mine only blew off one of Smittys testicles. Smitty reaches for his groin and is relieved to find out that the Sergeant was right.
Matteo (Matteo Zoffoli) shows the troop where the hidden cannon is located
A little girl touches a helmet.
She fiddles with the camouflage net on the helmet.
Zab talks about how the women of the village are taking care of the G.I.s.
After the G.I.s have left the women celebrate on their own. The girl that put flowers on the Sergeants helmet runs after the soldiers. Being asked what she wants Vinci translates that the Sergeants has not kissed the girl before leaving. Staff Sergeant Schroeder watches the event from afar and makes fun of the Sergeants helmet. When the Sergeant kneels down to kiss the girls cheek the Germans open fire on the soldiers who are firing back immediately.
We see US troops fighting their way along the beach.
The Sergeant sends Zab to report to the Colonel (Walter Flesch). First we see the watch on the wrist of a dead soldier. Zab seeks cover and stumbles over another corpse with an open ribcage. Shocked, he drops his cigar into the corpses intestines so he takes new cigar from his pocket and also the dead mans helmet. He reaches the Colonel, reports that the soldiers were able to break through and the Colonel orders the rest of his men to march further into the country.
We see a banner saying „Vive Les Americains“ above a picture of Harry S. Truman. Below that a few wounded people are gathered around a picture of Winston Churchill.
Before the next scene we see the Sergeant chilling a bit.
The German Sergeant is massaged by a French woman. They talk about how well she speaks German, his war wounds and her husband who she says has been shot by Germans.
Inside the German tank the Sergeant covers the mouth of every corpse and stabs it to uncover those who only pretend to be dead. Pvt. Kaiser (Perry Lang) watches in horror.
The Sergeant tries to fix the leg of the woman giving birth to a child at the moment with an ammunition belt.
Griff tries to calm the woman down.
Sergeant Schroeder climbs down the cross behind which he was hiding and runs away.
The German guard is being inattentive
He still doesn't see any of the American soldiers walking past the window. When he looks again they are already gone.
One of the mental patients shoots all over the place with an MP. Zab watches Griff and Walloon, the spy (Stéphane Audran) who have run for cover.
Before the next scene the Sergeant kills the mental patient who had begun shooting at people.
The soldiers talk about spending the night at the monastery, the palm trees at the monastery and Griffs relationship with Walloon. Griff and Walloon talk a bit and are about to spend the night together. The camera pans through the room over the sleeping soldiers.
In the next scene we see a war correspondent (director Samuel Fuller himself) filming for the newsreel .
In the Theatrical Version a date has been put in that is not in The Reconstruction! Also, the voice-over (Zab) tells us that the mental patient has been shot.
Here the whole troop takes out the mortar pit with hand grenades.
The men run through the forest a bit longer, dodging grenades. Also, the mortar pit is blown up with a bazooka that was lying around.
The Sergeant, Griff, Johnson and Vinci are sitting in the kitchen of a Belgian woman, talking about getting off duty for a while. Zab enters with a bag full of money and orders all kinds of things, including women, from the woman in bad French.
A few images of the celebration are missing
The Sergeant has a hard time getting rid of the guests.
In the Theatrical Version we see the landlady from above, taking another sip.
A front shot of the landlady.
Corporal Kolowicz crashes the party and reports that the Germans are back in Belgium.
The Sergeant watches the Germans approaching while the troop is waiting in the hideout.
The still wait for the German troops to pass by.
This shot is missing in the new version.
After the Germans are gone the soldiers come out of their hideout and find a dead soldier who apparently has died of a heart attack rather than a bullet.
In the next scene the troop and some more soldiers are back with the landlady for lunch. She notices something about one of the soldiers, grabs a gun and puts it to the back of the mans head without anyone in the room noticing. She addresses the soldier in German and he lets his guard down, answering in German as well. He realizes his mistake and jumps up but the Sergeant attacks and kills him. He curses at the spies and looks suspiciously at every man in the room he doesn't know before the dead spy is dragged outside.
The soldiers encounter a group of German civilians of the Volkssturm who, only armed with pitchforks, signs and shovels, refuse to get out of the way, shouting national socialist slogans. When all translation and diplomacy fails the Sergeant shoots into the air before aiming at the leader of the group who surrenders immediately.
Next scene: The soldiers are chilling on a farm with booze and women while the Sergeant explains the difference between killing and murder.
Next scene: After bidding farewell to a German officer a German Countess (Christa Lang) Samuel Fullers wife chats with Sergeant Schroeder who is busy building a bomb. After two glasses of Cognac that sh serves him the two go to bed together.
Next scene: In the Countess bedroom the two are talking about the war. When she says that in her opinion the war is already lost and that she wants to arrange herself with the winner, asking Schroeder to join her, we hear him shooting her with an MP while we see a shot of the outside of the castle.
Next scene: At the remains of an old castle one of the soldiers is gunned down by a sniper. They fire at the ruins and charge forward. Inside, the Sergeant is almost hit by the sniper. When they finally discover him Griff lowers his weapon because it is only a small boy of the Hitler youth (Pascal Breuer). They drag him into the courtyard and agree that he should be shot according to their orders. However, nobody finds himself able to actually kill the child, so the Sergeant gives him a good spanking while the boy cries out “Heil Hitler“ with every of the first few hits, soon changing to crying for his mother and father. The soldiers separate while the Sergeant continues to punish the boy.
A German soldier is shot and falls into barbed wire. American soldiers are charging forward.
The Germans are driven backwards. Soldiers on both sides are dying.
A German soldier drops dead and the Americans continue to press forward.
A German MG pit opens fire.
The battle comes to an end.
A G.I. Crawls towards the enemy.
Griff shoots round after round into a German soldier who has hidden inside an oven in the crematorium. He then looks for another magazine which is handed to him by the Sergeant who then leaves the crematorium. Griff shoots the soldier three more times and closes the oven.
The Sergeant takes care of the boy he found in the concentration camp.
Schroeder is resting when a leaflet is blown his way by the wind. He picks it up, reads it and puts down his gun and his helmet. The war is over.
The Sergeant attacks Schroeder with a knife. The music box with which the Sergeant was fiddling just a moment ago breaks.
While Zab talks to us from the off we see images of the main characters: the Sergeant getting his helmet decorated with flowers, Griff smiling, Zab smoking a cigar, Vinci, Johnson. Then the ending credits roll (not in the version used in the making of this report since it was a TV screening but they do roll now in the Theatrical Version).
The Sergeant marches on, carrying Schroeder on his shoulders. From the off we hear Zab talking about how they had more in common with the Germans than with the fallen soldiers on their side whose names they never knew. He dedicates his book to those who fought and survived because it is about survivors – and surviving is the only thing worthwhile in the war.
The movie closes with a commemoration to Samuel Fuller.