Fixed Bayonets! DVD and Blu-ray

Monday, 15 February 2016 08:29 Written by 

Fixed Bayonets - comes to dual format Blu-ray and DVDThe Korean War (1950-1953) is the setting for Samuel Fuller’s “Fixed Bayonets!” Starring Richard Basehart (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, “La Strada”), Gene Evans (“Shock Corridor”, “The Steel Helmet”) and Michael O’Shea (It’s a Great Life, “Lady of Burlesque”), the film focuses on a platoon of 48 reluctant soldiers tasked with holding a doomed, rear-guard action to buy time for the retreat of 15,000 troops.

Facing the imminent arrival of overwhelming Chinese forces, the American platoon bed into a snow-laden, cramped valley between two sheer cliff faces, laying mines, digging fox holes and generally planning to make life as difficult as possible for the enemy. Fuller (“The Big Red One”, “Pickup on South Street”) had strong views about the futility of war and consequently the movie aims for a tone of restrained realism.

Shot in crisp, stark, black and white that is emphasized by the wintry, rocky landscape, “Fixed Bayonets!” is all about the men and personalities in the platoon, rather than the big, sweeping movements of the conflict. Some of the men are hard-nosed warriors, whilst others are less certain and assured. Introverted or joking around to ease the tension, these soldiers feel like real human beings and whilst they fight together they do not always get along.

Basehart’s Corporal Denno is effectively caught in the middle, neither a grunt not a leader, all too aware that he stands a good chance of becoming the platoon commander if the few men that outrank him should fall. Afraid of killing and desperate not to see those around him fall, he potentially faces some hard decisions along the way.

The film follows a fairly predictable pattern of quite brief but thrilling and also deafening action sequences, interspersed with scenes of the embattled men huddled together, trying to plot their next move and outfox the ‘Reds’ (as they are repeatedly referred to in the film), patch up the wounded or strip and then bury the casualties.

There is some entertaining banter between the men, and many quite comedic moments such as when they all rub their frozen feet to try to get some feeling back into them but are not entirely sure whose feet belong to whom, and an ongoing joke about the only remaining pair of dry socks, which are understandably much sought after.

Despite the constant talk of being cold and wet, the actors did not convince me that they were quite as chilled as they should have been, and the Blu-ray is almost too good, making the sets look a little obviously indoors, but those are my only, minor grumbles about what is generally a decent war film with lots of heart.

Special features include:

  • New 4K restoration by Twentieth Century Fox
  • Uncompressed monaural soundtrack on Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Gallery of production and publicity photos
  • Optional English subtitles for the dead and hard-of-hearing
  • Booklet featuring a new essay by critic Glenn Kenny and excerpts from Fuller’s autobiography “A Third Face”.

“Fixed Bayonets!” (1951) is out now on dual-format DVD and Blu-ray (two discs), courtesy of Eureka. The main feature has a running time of 92 minutes approx, carries a 'PG' certificate and retails for £17.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com.

 

Last modified on Monday, 15 February 2016 08:34

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