The Steel Helmet marked Samuel Fuller’s official arrival as a mighty cinematic force. Despite its relatively low budget, this portrait of Korean War soldiers dealing with moral and racial identity crises remains one of the director’s most gripping, realistic depictions of the blood and guts of war, as well as a reflection of Fuller’s irreducible social conscience. So controversial were the film’s comments on domestic and war crimes (American bigotry, the Japanese-American WWII internment camps) that Fuller became the target of an FBI investigation. —The Criterion Collection
Noted for his tabloid-influenced storytelling style, breathless camera work, and extreme close-ups, Fuller was a pugnacious, tough-as-nails man whose movies reflect a uniquely personal vision; obsessed with themes of falsehood and deception, his films illuminated the cultural divisions at the heart of American society, depicting a grim, immoral world far removed from the placid surface typically on display in more mainstream fare. Celebrated as a genius by his fans, and denounced as a sensationalist by his detractors, Fuller was a deeply patriotic man quick to criticize his country’s flaws, as well as a raw, anarchic filmmaker capable of moments of inexpressible beauty; such contradictions fueled and ultimately defined both him and his body of work, which continues to exert tremendous influence over such prominent filmmakers as Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Jim Jarmusch. Samuel Michael Fuller was born August 12, 1912, in Worcester, MA, and raised in New York City; at the age… read more
Lean, unconventional, and deliciously unsubtle while also being careful with a very raw subject in history. This and a few other Samuel Fuller films over this year or so have shown me it's actually possible to make the subtlety sledgehammer a tool of real craft when you give it to someone who actually knew how to swing it properly. His characters may says of things that wouldn't be that directly said out loud in an anyday scenaruo, but Fuller actually dared to bring up issues, even around the multi ethnic nature of all of the characters, I haven't seen done by others around this time. The line "If you die, I'll kill you!" means so much more out of context and in context - it's the symbol that, with the best line in a film full of great lines of dialogue, you can completely throw over your shoulder numerous rules of creation to make something that is more humane through its messy, irrational tone.
Sam's third time in the director's chair sees the World War II combat veteran tackling his first war picture, a gritty tale of a platoon battling for survival behind enemy lines during the Korean War. Evans portrays a grizzled veteran who shepherds a lost patrol to a Buddhist temple and is the heart and soul of the movie. Through his experiences we're given a crash course in Fuller's battleground values. A triumph..
Full review (with screen caps, posters, video clip, links) here: http://criterioncast.com/2010/06/14/a-journey-through-the-eclipse-series-samuel-fullers-the-steel-helmet/
THE STEEL HELMET is the film that made Fuller into a major film-maker. His first masterpiece, it re-invented war films by refusing to separate the political hierarchies in which soldiers functioned… read review