Review: Steel Helmet (1951)

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Starring Gene Evans

An engrossing war drama set during the Korean conflict. A cigar-chomping US infantryman whose been bound, shot and left for dead is rescued by a Korean orphan. Together they navigate their way through enemy territory trying to get back to the American line. Of course Sgt. Zack is tough and gruff, and initially refuses to have the kid tag along. The kid sticks by him though, but because this is a Samuel Fuller Film (The Big Red One and Shock Corridor) sentimentality thankfully plays no part of the story.

Along the way, Zack and the kid, whom he nicknames Short Round, encounter a group of rag-tag soldiers wandering around lost. In exchange for a box of cigars, Zack agrees to escort the soldiers to their objective, a Buddhist temple where they’re to set up an observation post. Once there, the characters become trapped in the outpost, with the enemy on all sides–and within.

Though the film looks like it was shot on a soundstage on a low budget, the acting is tops and the story is gripping. It’s worth it just to see Gene Evans as Sgt Zack scramble up to the top of a giant Buddha statue, guns blazing. [****]

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