The Red Badge of Courage (1951)

Genres - Historical Film  |   Sub-Genres - Historical Epic  |   Release Date - Mar 16, 1951 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 69 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
  • AllMovie Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

Share on

Review by Dan Jardine

The Red Badge of Courage is a powerful retelling of the classic Stephen Crane Civil War novel. A potent combination of epic battle scenes and intimate personal story, the movie's awesome and bloody combat sequences highlight the hero's (WWII veteran Audie Murphy) internal struggle with issues of courage, loyalty, cowardice, and betrayal. John Huston's film was troubled by conflicts with the studio, which used negative preview notices as an excuse to re-edit the film, slashing its length down to a meager 70 minutes before its 1951 release. Huston bemoaned that the film "could have been" his greatest, if not for the studio's interference. Crane's novel and the film's cinematography (Harold Rosson) were both inspired by the famous Civil War photography of Mathew Brady and imbue the film with a realism that borders on the documentary. Huston's direction -- with its sparse narrative, unusual camera angles and shadowy black and white imagery -- shows the influence of film noir, a genre he helped create. He augments this with a mobile camera -- lots of panning, tracking, and dolly shots -- to mirror the pace of the war scenes. The fall and redemption of the protagonist, while clearly predictable, is still intelligently and effectively executed.