A dozen soldiers on death row are trained for a top
secret mission to assassinate a host of Nazi officers.
The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Written by Nunnally Johnson and Lukas Heller
Starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson,
John Cassavetes, Jim Brown, Telly Savalas, George Kennedy,
Robert Ryan, Richard Jaeckel, Ralph Meeker, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker, Tom Busby, Ben Carruthers, Trini López
Based on the novel by E.M. Nathanson
Oscar Wins - Best Sound Editing
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actor (John Cassavetes),
Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing
The Dirty Dozen is a badass war flick that doesn't shy away from the brutality and lack of humanity inherent in war. Every character is out for themselves and willing to do whatever is necessary to win, even by the end when they inevitably become a unit. I mean, you've got a scene of American soldiers trapping unarmed Nazi officers and their wives in a bunker and blowing them up with grenades. That's pretty hardcore and unforgivable in film today, let alone in 1967. It's no wonder this film was considered the "bad boy" of 60's war films.
Lee Marvin stars as Major Reisman, a rebellious officer who is assigned to a top secret assassination mission in which a mansion full of Nazi officers are to be killed. To pull this off, General Worden (Borgnine) wants Reisman to train a dozen ex-soldiers who were court-martialed for capital crimes and sentenced to either death or life. The men are monsters, but thanks to Reisman, they are molded into soldiers. The performances are all fantastic, particularly Telly Savalas as the psychotic and appropriately named Maggot. I was not expecting him to lose his mind, but what a scene.
My favorite thing about The Dirty Dozen is how it embraces the flaws of its characters. They aren't better men by the end of the film. They're just better soldiers. They still did bad things and will continue to do bad things. But for a brief moment, they were heroes. It reflects human nature, and reminds us that being a soldier isn't the end of one's identity. Behind the uniform, there's a complex human being with wants and desires, some of which may frighten or shock you. And this movie was made in 1967, way ahead of its time.