WolfmanOz at the Movies #81

Feed the French. Kill the Germans.

Well its been over a month since I lasted posted and I feel sufficiently refreshed and with time on my hand again to resume posting. So to start the ball rolling again I’ve selected a movie that has been requested by a number of Cats.

Set during the World War II, The Dirty Dozen (released in 1967) stars Lee Marvin as Major Reisman who is a tough and efficient US military officer with attitude problems with his superior officers.

He is assigned by General Worden (Ernest Borgnine) for an almost impossible top secret suicide mission where he has to assemble a squad of army criminals for a mission to destroy a château in France just before the D-Day landings. This particular château has no military value as such, but is used by many Nazi officers as a place of recreation, destroying it whilst they relax inside will disrupt the German plans immensely. But can this rag tag band of murderers, rapists and thieves shape up into something resembling a fighting force ? Their reward, should they survive the mission, is amnesty, but Reisman for sure has his hands full whether it be it with his squad or with his superiors.

The Dirty Dozen has evolved to be one of those films from the 1960s that has become a perennial favourite like The Great Escape, Zulu and The Magnificent Seven. It’s a little surprising that it’s popularity has endured given its cynicism and amoral core, something which is one of the many great and intriguing things about director Robert Aldrich’s testosterone laced movie. Met with mixed reviews on release, with the negative side of the fence bemoaning its violence and preposterous plot, The Dirty Dozen none the less performed outstandingly at the box office where it was the fifth highest grosser of the year and the number one money maker in terms of profit to budget. Coming as it did during the middle of the Vietnam War, it was evident that the paying public quite easily bought into the thematics of it all. In over 50 years since it first lured people into the picture houses, Aldrich’s movie shows no sign of aged frayed edges, or better still, and more remarkable, the enjoyability factors it holds has not diminished.


What makes it a terrific film, then ? First off is the all-star macho cast assembled by Aldrich and his team, big hitters like Lee Marvin (stepping in when John Wayne balked at the script), Ernest Borgnine, George Kennedy, Robert Ryan and Charles Bronson were already names to the public; but these are also supplemented by soon to be stars like Donald Sutherland, John Cassavetes, and Telly Savalas (also stepping into a role vacated by another, this time Jack Palance who didn’t like the racial aggression of the character) and stoic performers like Richard Jaeckel & Robert Webber. Into the mix is curio value with the casting of singer Trini Lopez and gridiron star Jim Brown. Throw Clint Walker into the pot as well and you’ve got a considerable amount of beef in the stew ! Secondly the film led the way for a slew of movies that featured bad guys as heroes, so with that Aldrich’s film holds up well as being a hugely influential piece. Then thirdly is that it is not only intermittently funny as the violence explodes on the screen, but that it is also chocked full of action and adventure. All that and for those so inclined you can find questionable morals under scrutiny and see the war is hell banner firmly flown during the nastiness of the missions’ culmination.


Split into three parts: meet the guys; see them train; and then the mission; the film has been criticised for its lack of realism, but is that really needed in what is essentially a male fantasy piece setting out to entertain ? Besides which, lets applaud it for acknowledging that brutality and atrocities were committed on both sides of the fence; rest assured, The Dirty Dozen still had enough edginess about it back in the 1960s !


It’s also true enough to say that the characters, are in the main, stereotypes, and that the unravelling story is a touch clichéd, but these are men that men want to be (okay maybe not Savalas’ religious maniac rapist !) and men that women can cast a flirtatious eye over; there’s plenty of character here to hang your hats on as they appeal to the inner rebel hidden away in many a viewer. The messages in here are not sledge hammered into the story (Aldrich always said he wasn’t making a message movie, just a film about camaraderie and unlikely heroes), and the construction of the action is top notch from one of America’s most under appreciated directors. It’s nicely shot in 70mm MetroColor/MetroScope by Edward Scaife (Night Of The Demon, Khartoum) and features a suitably boisterous music score from Frank De Vol (Cat Ballou, The Flight Of The Phoenix).

It’s far from a flawless picture, of that there is no doubt, but it’s loved by millions and continues to gain an audience yearly by those who are willing to view it on its own entertaining terms. As a young boy I wanted to be Lee Marvin because of this film. As a retired guy in his 60s now, I still want to be Lee Marvin in this film (my favourite tough guy movie star from the 1960s). That’s yet another reason for me why The Dirty Dozen continues to be so thoroughly entertaining.


and the tease for next weeks post . . . They fought like seven hundred.

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August 31, 2023 7:49 am

Thank you.
I hadn’t known that the film received mixed reviews.
Probably didn’t occur to me because I really loved it; couldn’t choose a favourite actor in this film.

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
August 31, 2023 8:58 am

People love a rollicking good war story, and it doesn’t have to be accurate or even plausible. I loved the Dirty Dozen. The Guns of Navarone was another one from the same decade, which was a staple for Saturday afternoon TV for ages.

Such films can still do well. Saving Private Ryan was a huge hit, and Fury was profitable. But I suspect woke Hollywood doesn’t like war stories these days.

August 31, 2023 10:38 am


What did you think of Chevalier?

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
August 31, 2023 11:30 am


How to Save Hollywood With This 1 Weird Trick (30 Aug)

I won’t give an excerpt…you’ll have to read it to see what the one weird trick is.

Bruce in WA
August 31, 2023 11:56 am

Great cast helps to overcome the quite ludicrous plot.

Reportedly, while filming, the movie armourer was explaining to Lee Marvin the correct method of holding, operating and firing the M3 “grease gun” he was to use.

Without saying a word, Marvin picked up the weapon from the table, field stripped it, laying out the component pieces, then reversed his action and reassembled it, before putting it back on the table and walking away.

The armourer hadn’t known that Marvin was a former US Marine.

August 31, 2023 1:15 pm

Great movie. Thanks Wolfie!

The movie was influential in the naming, two decades later, of the 12 watches produced to spec for the Brit MOD during the war.

August 31, 2023 4:05 pm

I’m not a fan of war or action movies as genres – but the exceptionally good ones transcend the genre.

The Dirty Dozen is remarkable because it transcends the genre, the plot is ridiculous and the actors are mismatched, just like the Dozen.

But, it just works.

I re-watched it on TV recently, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

As William Goldman rightly said, in Hollywood, nobody knows anything.

Mind you, that statement is much more correct today than it was in his era.

Johnny Rotten
September 1, 2023 5:34 am

Kelly’s Heroes was another good film. A Great ending with all that GOLD.

September 1, 2023 9:28 am

Plenty of professionalism and skill, absolutely.

But I think this is also art. Here we have what looks like a recipe for disaster on paper, numerous rules for conventional success broken, but out of it came a movie that we are still talking about, and is still enjoyed, more than 50 years later.

I think that’s art.

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
September 1, 2023 12:17 pm

Kelly’s Heroes was another good film.

I can watch that one over and over! Lots of fun. Clint Eastwood and Donald Sutherland, plus many others. Written by Troy Kennedy Martin who later did the breathtaking Edge of Darkness BBC miniseries.

Fair Shake
Fair Shake
September 1, 2023 1:24 pm

Kelly’s Heroes for me. Maybe its the Mike Curby Congregation singing Burning Bridges.
I still think there is a solid movie plot there which could be rehashed and modernised.

Fair Shake
Fair Shake
September 1, 2023 1:31 pm

…whilst thinking about Kellys Heroes, …who could forget Oddballs (The Don)

“There you go, more negative waves. Have a little faith, baby. Have a little faith.”

‘Like man where am I going to get sixty feet of bridge?’ Enter Sgt Bell – Len Lesser (Uncle Leo from Seinfeld).

Fair Shake
Fair Shake
September 1, 2023 1:32 pm

Typo..should be Mike Curb congregation…

September 1, 2023 2:50 pm

Kelly’s Heroes had some inspiration from late war real events involving “Nazi” gold, trucks and trains in the night, deep lakes and US “treasure hunters”, both “official” and not quite. Even Episode two of the “Mission: Impossible ” episodes shot in South East Queensland in the late 1980s featured an episode about “Nazi gold”.

Recently there was “The Monuments Men”, and in a related vein of wayward loot before that, another great movie, “Charade”.

Anchor What
Anchor What
September 2, 2023 7:12 am

At the opposite end of the scale, and set in UK during WW2, The Eye of The Needle is endowed with no less than Donald Sutherland making it with the gorgeous Kate Nelligan.

September 2, 2023 7:38 am

I may have to give it another look.

It is one of the greatest caper films.
Supposedly, a lot of fortunes were made by the various “private armies”
wandering Western Europe, with ill defined duties and access
to abundant amounts of TNT.

September 2, 2023 10:26 am

Patton’s headlong charge across Germany was not just a cowboy whim.

His course was plotted to cover a huge complex of scientific, engineering and manufacturing facilities before the Soviets got there.

The “prizes” included at least one, possibly two advanced Atomic operations, underground aircraft factories, suspected “transit points” for pillaged art treasures, etc. He appears to have had a long shopping list. And he and his “special teams” were not just after equipment / facilities; they sought documents and PEOPLE with very special skills.

Because the soviets had utterly penetrated the British spook services in the late 1920s, they had to be aware of everything the US was sharing with the Poms. That FDR was a drooling fan of Stalin is also a factor.

Roger W
Roger W
September 2, 2023 5:00 pm

Lower budgets, better writing and no Wokeness?
What parallel universe are you living in?
Lower budgets and better writing, OK. But no Wokeness???
They would eat their firstborn before that.

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