The Steel Helmet

Synopsis: During the Korean War, strong but worn and cantankerous Sergeant Zack is aided by a young, orphaned Korean boy. Together they encounter and join a small group of American soldiers. The group stumbles upon a Buddhist temple where they decide to hold up, believing it to be empty...
Genre: Action, Drama, War
Director(s): Samuel Fuller
Production: Criterion Collection
  1 win.
Rotten Tomatoes:
85 min

South Korean.

-Where'd you get that rifle?

-Find M1.

How do you know it's an M1?

G.I.s here. Four years.

-Tech sarge. You good dog robber.

-Oh, yeah?

You talk more like a dogface

than a gook.

I am no gook.

I am Korean.

All right, all right, all right.

So you're not a gook.

Can say that again.

-Bullet in head, yes?

-Bullet in head, no.


The bullet went in the front,

spun around inside and came out here.

-See if there's any ammo on those guys.

-I know. Thirty-caliber.

Where's your people?

-With Buddha.



-By Red artillery.

-Big stuff.


No bullets. All swipe-o by enemy.


I ain't got no chocolate, Short Round.

Divvy a cigar?

All right. Well...

shove off.

Don't take any wooden yen.

Quit following me.

Kachi Kop See Da.

That means we must travel together.

Yeah, well, you go

Kachi "Koppy" by yourself.

But your heart is in my hands.

My what is where?

Buddha say when you save a friend,

his heart is in your hands.

Look, you've done your good deed

for today. Now blow.

-I don't like kids around me.

-But I good scout.

-Don't need one.

-I know where river is.

-So do I.

-But you sick, bad wound.

Beat it!

Ah, come here.

Come on.

-You can tag along.

-Oh, we thank you. We thank you.

-We thank you.

-But you're on your own. Get it?

Grab yourself a steel pot.

You might need one.

Get yourself a pair of clodhoppers!


No, no. No. Over there.

Take Peewee Johnson's.

That's it.

Come here.

What's that paper on your back for?

Prayer to Buddha,

asking him to heal me if I am wounded.

Oh, yeah? Thought you

forgot to take off the price tag.


-Let's go, Short Round.

-What is short round?

It's a bullet that don't go all the way. And that's

you, bud. You're not goin' all the way with me.

Just till we meet some gook-

some South Koreans who'll take you off my neck.

-They pray for Korean heroes.


Well, if anything happens, hit the dirt.

Eat rice.

Bad wound. She wants your help.

Oh, yeah?

Lots of these Red guerrillas dress

like women, huh?

-You can say that again.


Get their weapons and ammo.

Let's go.

You know where river is, yes?

I know where river is, no.

This -This fog has got me all fouled up.

-Buddha help us find river.


You better ask Buddha which way.

Might be another Red.

Eat rice.

Relax, buster.

Take it easy.

Got any chocolate?

-See anything?

-Can you?


-Can you feel it?

-Can you?


I feel it.

So you were a prisoner

for six hours, huh?

Yeah. They cut up my platoon

when we pulled back across the river.

How come they didn't murder

all you guys too?

They did.

Kept me alive

to patch up their casualties.

Guess you had plenty of chances

to find out how those Reds treat you guys.

-They hate our guts.

-That's not what Joe Stalin says.

There are 15 men out there to prove it.

-Sure your head's all right?


I knew a P.F.C. in Germany...

had a bullet rip right through his belt,

didn't even graze the skin.

-So you were in the last one too, huh?

-From Africa to Czechoslovakia.

-Red Ball Express?


Till they asked for volunteers

for a rifle outfit.

Sixteenth Infantry, First Division.

Yeah, that was to prove you guys

could shoot besides drive trucks. I remember.

-You another retread?

-I was with the 16th.

Must have looted all of Korea.

Yeah, I got away with beaucoup chow

before I took off.

Too bad they can't make

a bulletproof helmet.

Yeah. Did you stay in

after the last one?

No. Went back to school. G.I. Bill.

Oh, yeah?

Go to Paris?

Paint any of them pictures?

Nah. Took up surgery.

Yeah? Where? In a butcher shop?

-You must have been hit in the mouth.


D-day. Normandy. By an 88.

Half my back I'm w -

I'm wearing on my face.

You know what?

When my face gets tired, I sit down.

Hey, Sarge.

What's that on your back?


You and your Buddha.

-Sounds like a patrol.


Eat rice.


I've got a hunch we're going around

in circles, Lieutenant.

-I'm not interested in your hunches.

-Yes, sir.

Hey, you ballerinas!

You're all bunched up!

Where'd you learn to go on a patrol?

At special service?

Holy smoke.

Sounds like sourpuss himself.

Hey! That you, Zack?

Yeah. Buddha-head?

-Yeah! Where are you?

-Smack in front of ya.


-Iron Mike Zack?

Yeah. Who's that?

Driscoll. Lieutenant Driscoll.

Well! Heard you were killed

in France in the invasion.

You had plenty of chances

to leave the States and find out.

Where's your officer?

Fertilizing a rice paddy

with the rest of the patrol.

-What happened, Zack?

-We were supposed to get a P.W.

They got us instead - ambushed.

Wiped out the whole mess.

Tied our hands behind us

with shoelaces and massacred us.

-I was lucky.

-You're the only survivor?

Yes, sir.

What's your story?

I was lucky too, sir.

Uh-huh. Regiment's been getting

a lot of stories about stragglers.

I'm Corporal Thompson, sir.

24th Division, 19th Infantry,

3rd Battalion Medics.

They killed every man in my platoon.

I saw them throw three into a bonfire.

And I'm no straggler.

-Who's the, uh -

-He's a Korean.

Boy, do you know where

the Chang-An-Saw Temple is?

I ask you, do you know -

What's the matter?

Doesn't he understand English?

Sure. He just doesn't like you.

We got fouled up, Zack. We're lost.

You ought to know that's how it is

all the time, Buddha-head.

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Samuel Fuller

Samuel Michael Fuller (August 12, 1912 – October 30, 1997) was an American screenwriter, novelist, and film director known for low-budget, understated genre movies with controversial themes, often made outside the conventional studio system. Fuller wrote his first screenplay for Hats Off in 1936, and made his directorial debut with the Western I Shot Jesse James (1949). He would continue to direct several other Westerns and war thrillers throughout the 1950s. Fuller shifted from Westerns and war thrillers in the 1960s with his low-budget thriller Shock Corridor in 1963, followed by the neo-noir The Naked Kiss (1964). He was inactive in filmmaking for most of the 1970s, before writing and directing the war epic The Big Red One (1980), and the experimental White Dog (1982), whose screenplay he co-wrote with Curtis Hanson. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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