Synopsis by Mark Deming
Writer and director Samuel Fuller enjoyed his first box-office and critical success with this hard-boiled but human tale of men at war, informed by his own experiences in the armed forces. Zack (Gene Evans) is a gruff U.S. Army sergeant who is the lone survivor of an attack on his outfit in North Korea. Rescued by a friendly Korean orphan he dubs Short Round (William Chun), Zack tries to make his way back to friendly territory with the boy as his guide. Zack crosses paths with Thompson (James Edwards), an African-American medic who like Zack narrowly escaped death after an enemy attack, and as they make their way through the jungle they encounter a platoon led by Lt. Driscoll (Steve Brodie), a humorless by-the-books type who has no use for Zack. Zack, Thompson and Driscoll's men -- among them Japanese-American "Buddhahead" Tanaka (Richard Loo), former conscientious objector Bronte (Robert Hutton) and nervous grunt Baldie (Richard Monahan) -- make their way to an abandoned Buddhist temple to set up an observation post, but they soon run afoul of the enemy. Shot in a mere ten days, with the battle scenes staged in Los Angeles' Griffith Park, The Steel Helmet captured the tension and gritty circumstances of war with commendable accuracy and Evans delivered a superb performance in his first starring role as Zack. The film proved controversial in some quarters due to scenes in which Fuller's characters discuss racism against Asians and Blacks in the United States, though the film manages to be resolutely patriotic at the same time.
anti-war, atrocity, battle [war], battlefield, friendship, military, war, boy, survivor