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The Steel Helmet

The Steel Helmet(1951)

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The following written, onscreen dedication appears before the credits: "This story is dedicated to the United States Infantry." Samuel Fuller's onscreen credit reads: "Written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller." The film ends with the written statement, "there is no end to this story." This was the first American feature-length film about the Korean War, which began in late 1950.
       According to material contained in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, in October 1950, the Breen Office raised a number of objections, from the standpoint of the Production Code, to certain details in the script. The criticisms ranged from the inclusion of offensive expressions, such as "gook," which appeared in the final film, to the insensitive portrayal of Buddhism and the disregard for the sanctity of the Buddhist temple. In this matter, the Breen Office urged producer Robert L. Lippert to confine the violent scene in the temple to an ante-chamber so as not to show the wanton destruction of Buddhist religious icons. Notes in the MPAA/PCA file also indicate that the Breen Office informed Lippert that it did not approve of the story's unpunished murder of the North Korean prisoner of war, as it was a direct violation of the Geneva Convention code.
       In response to the Breen Office complaints, associate producer William Berke assured them that the only destruction to the temple would be done by enemy fire, and that "Zack" would be punished more severely for murdering the North Korean prisoner of war. While the U.S. Department of Defense refused to grant the production its offical approval, it did furnish the production with with some stock military footage of artillery fighting and tank maneuvers. A February 1951 Daily Variety news item notes that although the Pentagon raised objections to the film's unfair depiction of American officers, the film was booked, uncensored, for the entire circuit of Army and Air Force camps in the United States. An October 1951 Variety news item noted that the exhibition of the film in Iran had been marked by Communist demonstrations, which resulted in the barring of the film there.
       According to modern sources, the film was shot in only ten days, including a day and a half of exterior scenes in Griffith Park in Southern California. Modern sources also note that the unexpected success of the film led to a contract for Fuller with Twentieth Century-Fox. The Steel Helmet was the first of a small number of films in which Lynn Stalmaster, who became a prominent casting director, appeared as an actor.