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
I hope one day we get to see the 'true' original, as Fuller intended it to be, but the 50 or so minutes that have been added do provide shape and dimension to a number of key sequences, and it features a number of scenes that were omitted from the initial release altogether. A very different experience; a much more satisfying one, as far as I'm concerned.
As is customary with Fuller, watching this feels like watching a passion play put on by the inmates of an insane asylum. "Steel Helmet" gave birth to a whole sub-genre of war movies ( "Cross of Iron", Fuller's own "The Big Red One", "Apocalypse Now") yet the irony is that rather than making any deliberate point about the absurdity of war, this film is a representation of Fuller's vision of America.
The Korean War started between North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and South Korea ( Republic of Korea) on June 25, 1950. Paused with an armistice signed in July 27, 1953. To date the war has not been officially ended, and occasionally skirmishes have been reported in the border region.
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