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The Dirty Dozen
The Dirty Dozen
Actors: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas
Director: Robert Aldrich
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
NR     1998     2hr 30min

A model for dozens of action films to follow, this box-office hit from 1967 refined a die-hard formula that has become overly familiar, but it's rarely been handled better than it was in this action-packed World War II thr...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas
Director: Robert Aldrich
Creators: Edward Scaife, Michael Luciano, Kenneth Hyman, Raymond Anzarut, E.M. Nathanson, Lukas Heller, Nunnally Johnson
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Classics, Charles Bronson, Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 04/29/1998
Original Release Date: 06/15/1967
Theatrical Release Date: 06/15/1967
Release Year: 1998
Run Time: 2hr 30min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
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Member Movie Reviews

Reviewed on 8/19/2010...
43 years old, 'The Dirty Dozen' remains the quintessential guy movie. A tightly choreographed, a testosterone-loaded actioner, it works well as an entertainment, but was also one of the first movies to show the dark side of war. Clearly, the movie's main notion, that the best soldiers are often society's outcasts, the kind of sociopaths and misanthropes who kill, rape and steal. War is not civilized, we all know that. Yet, at the time this film was released, there was a sense of shock and outrage from some critics and venal politicians at the movie's message that there's no place for tradition or fine manners amidst the carnage of a battlefield.
Still, the Dirty Dozen's subtext allows those who prefer to ignore it to feel comfortable. The notion that emptying our jails of the system's worst, most violent criminals and putting them to good use as homicidal instruments of the state may get some people's backs up; but, in our modern society without a draft, recruiting the dregs of our society over the best and brightest is not so absurd a concept.

One of the reasons the film still works is the craggy presence of Lee Marvin. In the lead role of Major John Reisman, an army lifer who forms, trains, and lead his commando forces. Marvin, was at his hottest in 1967, having just won a Best Actor Oscar a year in Cat Ballou. The ensemble, many of whom were longtime veterans of director Robert Aldrich's previous work during the golden age of T.V. includes Robert Ryan, Ernest Borgnine, John Casavetes, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland and Charles Bronson. All do yeoman work.

Plotwise, set in June, 1944 with D-Day approaching, the U.S. military has come up with an suicide mission meant to interrupt the Nazi chain-of-command. It's a raid on a country mansion where high ranking German officers have tryts with their mistresses. If this criminal band can get in and kill everyone there, their sentences will be commuted. In charge of the operation, General Worden (Ernest Borgnine) picks Major John Reisman (Marvin) to train the men and lead them. Ever obedient, Reisman meets his group of 12 angry men - a sullen, antisocial lot, most of whom are convicted murderers and rapists. They are all good 'types': a stoic Pole (Joseph Wladislaw, played by Charles Bronson), a religious fanatic (Archer Maggott, played by Telly Savalas), a rebel (Victor Franko, played by John Cassavetes), and a hard, vicious black thug (Robert Jefferson, played by Jim Brown). Jefferson is the obvious target of of the usual kinds of verbal racial abuse from his fellow prisoners. Things are thick with tension but the men ultimately learn to work together and create a sense of camaraderie and when begins a pompous colonel (Robert Ryan) tries to humiliate them they take the opportunity to turn the tables on him.

After the success of The Dirty Dozen, it became acceptable to portray war in a more realistic, less glamorous fashion. Such films as The Deer Hunter, Platoon and Saving Private Ryan are defintely an extension of what director Robert Aldrich started with The Dirty Dozen. Aldrich was never an auteur-type. He liked the gritty feel of the script as a new approach to a war scenario. Nevertheless, the film is a rousing adventure story about camaraderie. The Dirty Dozen was the biggest success of Aldrich's 30-year career. For anyone interested, Aldrich's 1956 film 'Attack' had the same message, but the public reaction toward 'The Dirty Dozen' was much better. 'Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte'(1964) and 'Flight of the Phoenix'(1965), were box-office hits but 'The Dirty Dozen' put him on Hollywood's A-list.

Sonya W. from BIRMINGHAM, AL
Reviewed on 11/18/2009...
This action packed movie is filled with testosterone ragamuffins with guts and brawn. This classic movie makes a great way to enjoy your favorite popcorn and a box of tissues.

Movie Reviews

Rousing Crowd Pleaser
Westley | Stuck in my head | 02/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

""The Dirty Dozen" became one of the biggest hits of 1967, placing behind only "The Graduate," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," and "Bonnie and Clyde." Its success was well-deserved and unsurprising given how enjoyable and stirring it is. Lee Marvin stars as a Major during WWII who is disliked by many of his superiors. He's assigned to lead a suicide style mission behind Nazi enemy lines. He's disinclined to do so, particularly after he meets his "troop" comprised of a dozen murderers and other criminals - the titular "dirty dozen." Despite his misgivings, Marvin eventually agrees to train and lead this rag-tag group, as a shot of redemption for all concerned.The story is constructed brilliantly, beginning with an introduction to the assignment and the dirty dozen, detailing their training, showing their first "mock" operation, and climaxing with their final mission. The cast is a superior mix of established stars and then-newcomers, including Ernest Borgnine, George Kennedy, Charles Bronson, Trini Lopez, Jim Brown, Clint Walker, Telly Savalas, and Donald Sutherland. Special cudos go to Lee Marvin, who is terrific as the renegade Major, and John Cassavetes as the rebellious Franco; Cassavetes received his first Oscar nomination for the role (he later received one for writing and one for directing his own films). Director Robert Aldrich does his best-ever work (he was nominated for best director by the Director's Guild of America), building on such earlier hits as "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" and "Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte." His skillful direction manages to make us care deeply and root for a collection of violent offenders. Overall, "The Dirty Dozen" is a first-rate action movie - one of the most enjoyable ever made. Extras: Included is a fascinating short (9:15) featurette, which was made at the time of release for promotional purposes. The short film presents the actors making the film and then relaxing in "swinging" London, shopping on King's Row, and so forth. A most fascinating time capsule! The building of the chateau for the film is also detailed; it was one of the largest sets ever built for a movie and was blown up for the climatic scene."
War Classic Stands Test of Time...
Benjamin J Burgraff | Las Vegas | 07/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

""The Dirty Dozen", Robert Aldrich's 1967 adventure classic, would redefine a whole genre of films, as public attitudes towards warfare and heroism changed, due to Vietnam. With 'heroes' who were certainly not noble, a mission that would require a level of cruelty film audiences had never before seen from American fighting men, and graphic language and bloodshed, the impact of the the film was both immediate (despite huge 'box office', many critics panned the film as 'disturbing' and glorifying violence), and continuing (influencing films as diverse as "Patton" and "Saving Private Ryan"). It can be viewed at many levels, as a crackling good adventure yarn, an 'anti-establishment' and anti-war statement, the ultimate 'buddy' film...few films have generated as much controversy, or stood the passage of time, better!

Based on E.M. Nathanson's novel (of rumored 'Death Row' convicts offered a pardon or reduction of sentence for volunteering for a suicide mission), with a large dash of the Pathfinders' legendary "Filthy Thirteen" of WWII tossed in, the property was purchased as a potential starring vehicle for John Wayne. The Duke passed on the project, however (choosing to make "The Green Berets", instead). Director Aldrich never envisioned Wayne in the lead, preferring WWII Marine vet Lee Marvin in the complex role of maverick Maj. John Reisman, and the actor, fresh from winning an Oscar for "Cat Ballou", was dead-on perfect in the part. Veteran stars Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, Robert Webber, George Kennedy, and Richard Jaeckel were cast as Marvin's military allies and adversaries.

For the "Front Six" of the Dozen, sullen Charles Bronson (another WWII vet), John Cassavetes (who would garner an Oscar nomination), Telly Savalas (in the most 'whacked-out' role in his career), Clint Walker (of "Cheyenne" TV fame), football legend Jim Brown (in only his second film), and popular singer Trini Lopez (in his film debut) would dominate the screen time, with a "Back Six" of character actors in much smaller roles, simply filling out the rest of the twelve parts. But a movie 'miracle' occurred; when Walker objected to a scene where, as a bogus 'General', he would idiotically review an Airborne unit (feeling it demeaned Native Americans, who his character portrayed), Aldrich passed the scene to "Back Six" actor Donald Sutherland...and the scene would spectacularly launch his career, leading to his starring role in "M.A.S.H."

Aldrich's meticulous shooting style, and the often rainy British weather (where the film was shot), more than doubled the shooting schedule, and after seven months on location, Trini Lopez (on the advice of friend Frank Sinatra), informed Aldrich and the producers that he was missing singing dates, and would need a pay hike to continue. To Lopez' surprise, Aldrich 'dropped' him, having him die in the climactic parachute drop!

The director was warned that if he didn't eliminate the film's most controversial scene (pouring gasoline and dropping grenades on the women guests, as well as the Nazi officers seeking refuge in the bomb shelters), he would lose any chance of a 'Best Director' Oscar. After soul-searching, he left the scene in ("War is Hell, and HAS to be portrayed that way"), and while he sacrificed the prize, Robert Aldrich gave the film a brutal honesty that subsequent wars would sadly verify.

With loads of Disc Two Special Features that open up the film and gives an insight into why it has become a 'classic' (including the first "Dirty Dozen" TV 'sequel', a Lee Marvin Marine 'Leadership' training film, and an astonishing documentary on the "Filthy Thirteen"), it is absolutely an essential for any 'War Film' library.

"The Dirty Dozen" survived contemporary criticism, and has proven to be one of the most enduring war films of all time, as fresh today as when it debuted in 1967.
Dirty Dozen is nice and clean on HD!
Elwood Conway | Frankfort, KY United States | 11/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Wow...this HD presentation captures everything, including (much maligned) film grain. It is most likely a better presentation than this film had when originally released to theaters. Visuals are wonderfully clear, the print is exceptionally clean and the sound, for a movie almost 40 years old, is top shelf. This is definitely the version to own!!"