Blu-Ray Review – Fixed Bayonets!

Fixed Bayonets! is a war film directed by Samuel Fuller and was his 2nd film on the Korean war after his earlier grittier and frankly superior The Steel Helmet. Fuller signed a 7 picture deal with 20th Century Fox and this was the first in that deal. Fuller was a veteran himself of the Second World War which would inform much of his filmmaking/writing and especially his later day masterpiece The Big Red One.

The premise is fairly straight forward, a platoon of 48 American soldiers who have to pretend to be to bigger platoon then they are so they can act as a rearguard. They have to do they cover the withdraw of their division over a bridge. The film however is mostly concerned with the psychology of the soldiers and the command goes through many commanders who all die until it falls on the reluctant Cpl. Denno played by Richard Basehart.

Fuller is somewhat restrained here which makes the film suffers. He’s textbook journalistic sensationalism is rarely apparent here, his next film would be Park Row which is his love letter to journalism. However the Fuller does throw the viewer into the midst of the brutal conditions the soldiers are facing in the snowy terrain. His also uses voiceover to depict the inner crisis of the platoon. The US Army who were not fond of The Steel Helmet to say the least so they assigned Raymond Harvey as a technical advisor who actually ended up becoming one of Fuller’s best friends.

Masters of Cinema have been great as releasing much of Fuller’s films in the UK where they have had sub par releases before to be kind. Fixed Bayonets! may not be the best starting point for the uninitiated for that try their releases of Forty Guns or Pickup on South Street. However it is a key film for Fuller’s development from independent auteur to studio filmmaker for a short period where his idiosyncratic voice seeped into even the more Hollywood films he made. The disc is fairly bare but it includes a commentary by Adrian Martin, the trailer and gallery of production and publicity stills. The film’s transfer is a new 4k restoration and a booklet with new writings on the film and excerpts from Fuller’s autobiography is also included.

★★★½

Ian Schultz

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