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Critic Completes Fuller's WWII Epic

4 May, 2005 By: Fred Topel

Director Samuel Fuller died in 1997. Seven years later, film critic and historian Richard Schickel completed a film he thinks Fuller envisioned.

Fuller's World War II film The Big Red One is now an epic, with more than 45 minutes added. The Big Red One: The Reconstruction was released this week from Warner Home Video.

“We probably included things that, in the last analysis, he might not have included,” Schickel said. “But we wanted to put in everything he had shot that was coherent with the material that we had.”

Completing Fuller's posthumous vision wasn't a total shot in the dark.

“It wasn't so hard, because we had Sam's script,” Schickel said.

Of the restored material, only one segment of dialogue had to be re-recorded. That was the scene where the squad is listening to Axis Sally.

“When [Fuller] shot it, he read Axis Sally's dialogue,” Schickel said. “So we gave that to a voice actress.”

In the early 1990s, Schickel interviewed Fuller for a documentary, which is included on the two-disc set, and it's where he became passionate about completing The Big Red One.

“He did talk to me about his disappointment with the shortened version of Big Red One and his desire that someday it be released in something like its full form,” he said.

Whether there is mass consumer demand for the restored version of the film or not, Schickel did it for the film community.

“I just think it should be done,” Schickel said. “It was a seriously truncated version of the film. At least 45 to 50 minutes of the movie were missing when it went out in 1980. It was not the film Sam shot or the film Sam intended. There's an aesthetic demand to do it, but whether there's a huge popular demand, who knows? There is in the critical community and the cinefile community.”

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