The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Reviewed on 2008 September 20
This is another war movie I’d not seen before, and I corrected that by getting the two-disc special edition DVD. I’m glad I splurged on that; but watch the introduction by Ernest Borgnine after you’ve seen the movie. It’s a nice introduction, but it assumes you’ve seen it before and there are some spoilers in it. Mr. Shukti insisted on watching that first and I had a feeling some key stuff would be given away. When it looked like I’d be right I literally put my fingers in my ears and sang, causing the other half to think I was losing it. [And not for the first time. — Mr. Shukti] Too bad. I’m glad I did because it would have ruined it for me.
Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) is stuck with the job of recruiting a dozen men to infiltrate and destroy a French chateau infested by Nazis. Apparently this fortress is where the Wehrmacht officers liked to sip Gewurztraminer and oink out their commands, and it’s nestled so deep in the countryside that it’s pretty much a suicide mission. Reisman selects twelve military prisoners who will have their sentences erased if they pull this off, and since they’re all facing life behind bars or death by hanging, they all agree.
The men are suspicious at first, especially troublemaker Franko (John Cassavetes), but they fall in line when they see Reisman is as fair as he is tough. The next hurdle is determining if they can actually pull this off. Will only takes you so far, and some of the men aren’t the most cunning, especially the goofy Pinkley (Donald Sutherland) and the big lug Samson Posey (Clint Walker). The men manage to impress Reisman, but he’s smart enough not to celebrate until the mission is over.
This was even better than I’d anticipated. The acting was very good, with Telly Savalas really creeping me out as the psychotic Maggott. This is another long movie — 149 minutes — that doesn’t feel long. I think the direction is as much to thank for that as the acting. Watch the scene where Reisman gives his crew a special meal and then notice the abrupt (and deliberate) shift in mood when the mission starts. Very well done.
Four chocolate morsels.