War Movies and Samuel Fuller

Sam Fuller (director of the classic WW2 film, Big Red One): “The only way to make a truly realistic war movie is to fill the theater with smoke and flame, the sound of explosions, and to have someone shoot the person sitting next to you.”

Sam Fuller on War Movies (recorded in a Roger Ebert interview):

Talking with Fuller, I quoted Truffaut’s dictum that all war movies are pro-war, because no matter what their “message” is, they make the action look exciting.

Fuller snorted. “Pro or anti, what the hell difference does it make to the guy who gets his ass shot off? The movie is very simple. It’s a series of combat experiences, and the times of waiting in between. Lee Marvin plays a carpenter of death. The sergeants of this world have been dealing death to young men for 10,000 years. He’s a symbol of all those years and all those sergeants, no matter what their names were or what they called their rank in other languages. That’s why he has no name in the movie.

“The movie deals with death in a way that might be unfamiliar to people who know nothing of war except what they learned in war movies. I believe that fear doesn’t delay death, and so it is fruitless. A guy is hit. So, he’s hit. That’s that. I don’t cry because that guy over there got hit. I cry because I’m gonna get hit next. All that phony heroism is a bunch of baloney when they’re shooting at you. But you have to be honest with a corpse, and that is the emotion that the movie shows rubbing off on four young men.”