[Thanks to John Huston] "The Red Badge of Courage" has been transferred to the screen with almost literal fidelity….
Don't expect too much from it in the way of emotional punch—at least, not as much as is compacted in [Stephen] Crane's thin little book. For, of course, Mr. Crane was conveying the reactions of his hero to war in almost stream-of-consciousness descriptions, which is a technique that works best with words….
[The] major achievement of this picture is the whole scene, it re-creates of a battlefield near the Rappahannock (Chancellorsville) from the soldier's point of view…. Mr. Huston, who made "San Pietro," one of the great documentaries of World War II, can conceive a Civil War battle, and he has done so magnificently in this film.
Furthermore, he has got the sense of soldiers in that long-ago day and war—their looks, their attitudes, their idioms—as suggested in the writings of the times….
Also, Mr. Huston has captured and etched vividly most of the major encounters of the hero that Mr. Crane described—the heartbreaking death of the Tall Soldier, the stunning blow on the head—all but the shocking discovery of the rotting corpse in the woods….
But, in most respects, Mr. Huston has put "The Red Badge of Courage" on the screen, and that means a major achievement that should command admiration for years and years.
Bosley Crowther, "'The Red Badge of Courage'," in The New York Times (© 1951 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), October 19, 1951 (and reprinted in The New York Times Film Reviews: 1949–1958, The New York Times Company & Arno Press, 1970, p. 2558).