13 January 2017 | Spikeopath
There's nothing dirtier than a rearguard action!
Fixed bayonets! is directed by Sam Fuller and Fuller writes the screenplay which is based around a novel by John Brophy. It stars Richard Basehart, Gene Evans, Michael O'Shea, Richard Hylton, Craig Hill and Skip Homeier. Music is by Roy Webb and cinematography by Lucien Ballard.
The Korean War, and a platoon of GIs are tasked with diverting the enemy to allow the command units time to regroup and prepare for a counter attack.
"Somebody's got to get left behind, get their bayonets wet. It's tough picking out an outfit, but it's got to be picked"
Samuel Fuller was a real life infantryman combat veteran of WWII, so any time he chose to direct a war film it was time to sit up and take notice, Fixed bayonets! finds him in prime form. All his great traits are here, how things are so understated yet so potent, how his characters are stripped to a very real human form, there's no fuss, filler or pointless flab here. Every line of dialogue and the various combat scenarios positively beg our utmost attention, so as to get some sort of feel as to just what it must have been like in war.
Plot revolves around 48 men holding a rearguard action so as to give 15,000 others a break. The odds aren't really in their favour, because not only do they have to face the oncoming enemy and all their numbers, but they have to battle the terrain, for they are up in the snowy mountains, the harsh coldness a fitting accompaniment to the psychological pangs at work in the platoon. The main narrative thread is based around Basehart's Cpl. Denno, who has trouble shooting an enemy soldier, which is not great since there's a very real chance he may soon have to take command. Ouch! The pressure of impending command...
Combat action scenes are thrilling, artillery warfare in the snow constructed with skillful thought. While this wouldn't be a Fuller film without some edge of seat drama, with the stand out here a breath holding sequence of events in a minefield. Tech guys come up trumps, the sound mix is bang on (a haunting cacophony of Asian bugles really rattles the head), Ballard's black and white photography is crisp and captures the pending peril vibe suitably, and Webb's musical compositions are unobtrusive and rightly keeping focus on the human drama.
A lesson in being simple yet so potently effective, Fuller on blob. 8/10