The Dirty Dozen

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In essence, the film is about a group of thugs attacking and killing dozens of Germans some of whom were innocent civilians in cold blood. Despite the heroic musical score and unrelenting machismo evident throughout the film, the climactic event is more of a massacre than a battle.


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Arriving on screens in the midst of the increasingly unpopular war in Vietnam, it's easy to see how this aspect of the story would appeal to some viewers. In depicting Allied soldiers as something less than model citizens, The Dirty Dozen broke a barrier, blurring the lines between the "good guys" and the "bad guys".

In the wake of The Dirty Dozen , it became a popular cinematic conceit to portray war in a more realistic and less glamorous fashion. In many ways, however, 's Saving Private Ryan can be seen as an extension of what director Robert Aldrich started with The Dirty Dozen - showing that even in wars where the objectives are noble, the means by which they are achieved may be less than heroic. Aldrich did not set out to make a "message movie. In his estimation, The Dirty Dozen is about camaraderie and how even the most unlikely men can, when placed in the right circumstances, act valiantly.

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This is, in fact, how audiences have received the movie over the years. The same story, as committed to the screen by an Oliver Stone, might come across as a blisteringly anti-war motion picture. In this case, however, it is an action adventure tale for the masses.

There is substance to be found, but only for those who take the time to look for it. The Dirty Dozen represented the high point of Aldrich's year career as a filmmaker. Although two of his earlier movies, 's The Big Knife and 's Attack garnered more critical acclaim, none of his directorial efforts met with the public reaction of The Dirty Dozen , and none has had a more lasting impact on pop culture and cinema.

Along with the two films he made immediately before The Dirty Dozen 's Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte and 's Flight of the Phoenix , his work here propelled Aldrich to "A-level" director status.

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When The Dirty Dozen was made, many of the supporting actors were not as well known as they would become. Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and George Kennedy were recognized stars, and Charles Bronson had a solid resume behind him although his biggest films were yet to come , but Jim Brown was at the beginning of his film career, John Cassavetes was a relative unknown, Telly Savalas had not yet become "Kojak", and Donald Sutherland was still wet behind the ears.

The Dirty Dozen opened doors for many of its cast members.


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Nearly everyone, except perhaps the most obscure members of the troupe, found work easier to get after the film's successful run. With so many actors vying for screen time, it's an impressive feat for anyone to catch the audience's attention. The scene was directly responsible for Sutherland being cast in M.

In real life, this is true. The script called for it to be blown up, but the construction was so solid that 70 tons of explosives would have been needed to achieve the effect! Instead, a section was rebuilt from cork and plastic. He had shot some footage of a group of American soldiers—inmates at a military prison who were under death sentence for such crimes as murder, rape and mutiny—who were training at a secret location for the D-Day invasion, for which they would be parachuted behind German lines to commit acts of sabotage and assassinations.

Prison authorities told Meyer that the men, who volunteered, were told that if they survived and returned their sentences would be set aside, their records expunged and they would be set free. After the war, he related this story to Nathanson, who was a friend of his.

Charles Bronson was so angry with Lee Marvin for constantly turning up dead drunk that he threatened to punch the star. Donald Sutherland was a late casting decision, replacing an actor who dropped out because he thought the role was beneath him.

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As the officers and their companions retreat to an underground bomb shelter, a firefight ensues between the Dirty Dozen and the chateau's guard force. As planned, Wladislaw and Reisman lock the Germans in the bomb shelter, then pry open the ventilation ducts to the shelter, drop unprimed grenades down, then pour gasoline inside. Jefferson throws a live grenade down each shaft and sprints for the half-track the team has hijacked for their getaway, but is shot down as the grenades explode.

In the course of the battle, only Reisman, Bowren and Wladislaw escape back to England with their lives. A voiceover from Armbruster at the end of the movie confirms that General Worden exonerated the sole surviving member of the Dirty Dozen and communicated to the next of kin of the rest that "they lost their lives in the line of duty". Although Robert Aldrich had failed to buy the rights to E. On publication the novel became a best-seller in It was adapted to the screen by veteran scriptwriter and producer, Nunnally Johnson , and Lukas Heller.

A repeated rhyme was written into the script where the twelve actors verbally recite the details of the attack in a rhyming chant to help them remember their roles while approaching the mission target:. Marvin served as a private first class in the Marines in the Pacific War and provided technical assistance with uniforms and weapons to create realistic portrayals of combat, yet bitterly complained about the falsity of some scenes. He thought Reisman's wrestling the bayonet from the enraged Posey to be particularly phony. Aldrich replied that the plot was preposterous, and that by the time the audience had left the cinema, they would have been so overwhelmed by action, explosions and killing, that they would have forgotten the lapses.

John Wayne was the original choice for Reisman, but he turned down the role because he objected to the adultery present in the original script, which featured the character having a relationship with an Englishwoman whose husband was fighting on the Continent.

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Lopez's character dies off-camera during the parachute drop which begins the mission. Aldrich picked out Sutherland for the bit. Jim Brown , the Cleveland Browns running back , announced his retirement from American football at age 29 during the making of the film. The owner of the Browns, Art Modell , demanded Brown choose between football and acting. With Brown's considerable accomplishments in the sport he was already the NFL 's all-time leading rusher, was well ahead statistically of the second-leading rusher, and his team had won the NFL Championship , he chose acting.

Despite his retirement from football more than 50 years ago, Brown remains the league's 10th all-time leading rusher, [11] the Cleveland Browns' all-time leading rusher, and the only player in league history to have a career average yards per game. In some form of tribute, Art Modell himself said in Spike Lee 's Jim Brown: All American documentary, that he made a huge mistake in forcing Jim Brown to choose between football and Hollywood, and if he had it to do over again, he would never have made such a demand. The script required its explosion, but it was so solid, 70 tons of explosives would have been required for the effect.

Instead, a cork and plastic section was destroyed. Exteriors were shot throughout southeast England. The credit scenes at the American military prison — alluded in the movie to be Shepton Mallett — were shot in the ancillary courtyard of Ashridge House in Hertfordshire. The wargame was filmed in and around the village of Aldbury. Bradenham Manor was the Wargames' Headquarters. Beechwood Park School in Markyate was also used as a location during the school's summer term, where the training camp and tower were built and shot in the grounds and the village itself as parts of " Devonshire ".

The main house was also used, appearing in the film as a military hospital. The Dirty Dozen was a massive commercial success. It was a hit in France, with admissions of 4,, Roger Ebert , who was in his first year as a film reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times , wrote sarcastically:. I'm glad the Chicago Police Censor Board forgot about that part of the local censorship law where it says films shall not depict the burning of the human body. If you have to censor, stick to censoring sex, I say It's not obscene as long as they burn to death with their clothes on.

In another contemporaneous review, Bosley Crowther called it "an astonishingly wanton war film " and a "studied indulgence of sadism that is morbid and disgusting beyond words"; he also noted:. It is not simply that this violent picture of an American military venture is based on a fictional supposition that is silly and irresponsible Marvin's taut, pugnacious playing of the major John Cassavetes is wormy and noxious as a psychopath condemned to death, and Telly Savalas is swinish and maniacal as a religious fanatic and sex degenerate.

Charles Bronson as an alienated murderer, Richard Jaeckel as a hard-boiled military policeman, and Jim Brown as a white-hating Negro stand out in the animalistic group.

Dirty Dozen, The (United States, 1967)

Variety was more positive, calling it an "exciting Second World War pre-D-Day drama" based on a "good screenplay" with a "ring of authenticity to it"; they drew particular attention to the performances by Marvin, Cassavetes and Bronson. The review then states:. The violence which liberal critics found so offensive has survived intact. Aldrich sets up dispensable characters with no past and no future, as Marvin reprieves a bunch of death row prisoners, forges them into a tough fighting unit, and leads them on a suicide mission into Nazi France.

Apart from the values of team spirit, cudgeled by Marvin into his dropout group, Aldrich appears to be against everything: anti-military, anti-Establishment, anti-women, anti-religion, anti-culture, anti-life. Overriding such nihilism is the super-crudity of Aldrich's energy and his humour, sufficiently cynical to suggest that the whole thing is a game anyway, a spectacle that demands an audience.

Also, the film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:. Castellari 's war film The Inglorious Bastards. Several TV films were produced in the mid-to-late s which capitalized on the popularity of the first film. The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission depicts Savalas's Wright character and a group of renegade soldiers attempting to prevent a group of extreme German generals from starting a Fourth Reich, with Erik Estrada co-starring and Ernest Borgnine again playing the role of General Worden.

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In , Warner Bros. Nathanson states in the prologue to his novel The Dirty Dozen , that while he heard a legend that such a unit may have existed, he incorrectly heard they were convicts.