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USA 1967
Directed by
Robert Aldrich
150 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

The Dirty Dozen

The era-typical style of jocular machismo embodied in this at-the-time highly successful WW2 blockbuster has dated badly and the pre-CGI production values have long been superseded (the “chateau” blown up at the film’s end was built for the purpose)

Lee Marvin (in a role originally offered John Wayne) plays Major John Reisman, assigned to coordinate a suicide mission on a French chateau used by high-ranking Nazis as a pleasure dome. Because of the high risk Reisman must build his team from a group of military prisoners serving life sentences – a "dirty dozen" of sex offenders, killers and general bad asses (played by Telly Savalas, John Cassavetes, Donald Sutherland, George Kennedy, Charles Bronson, Trini Lopez, Jim Brown, and Clint Walker et al. Robert Ryan and ernest Borgnine add their names to the cast list as top US brass).  

Although this kind of low-life ensemble and their thuggish antics would become a familiar scenario for action movies, in its day, when audiences were long-habituated to a simple good guy/bad guy oppositionit was quite a novel and quite thrilling concept albeit the execution is quite sanitized by today’s standards and tidily subsumed within the familiar adventure yarn of the time  (compare, for instance, 1998’s Saving Private Ryan).

The principal attraction is the all-star cast but whilst Lee Marvin is, of course, great value as hard man numero uno who has to use all his chops to turn this gaggle of ratbags into a well-oiled killing machine, there's not enough to sustain anywhere near the 150 minutes required to get from go to whoa.




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