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The Dirty Dozen (1967)

September 30, 2009

7/10 Badass Conventions

Can’t believe it took me this long to get around to this movie, also hard to believe that this was my first introduction to Lee Marvin, but man, just check out that poster, what the hell was I waiting for?

The Dirty Dozen is about a renegade Major in the U.S. military that’s ordered to take 12 soldiers who are either on death row or are serving life sentences and turn them into a mean band of Nazi-killin’ brothers so they can win back their freedom and help win WWII for the good guys in the process.

For those of you who have seen Inglourious Basterds and liked it as much as I did, you might want to give this baby a look, the inspiration is pretty obvious. That is definitely a good thing.

But aside from the whole Tarantino connection, there are probably two reasons one would want to see this movie. The first being the whole “badass convention” I mentioned up top there, and the second being that this is a “badass convention” which also happens to revolve around killing Nazis, and those are two kickass reasons to go see any movie.

So the highlighted members of the Dirty Dozen themselves are Lee Marvin as the Major in charge of the operation (who was actually a military sniper before becoming an actor, just thought I’d throw that out there), Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas, Jim Brown (that’s right, football legend Jim Brown) and John Cassavetes make up five of the said dozen, and why not give two bit roles to Ernest Borgnine and George Kennedy while they’re at it. If some of these names aren’t ringing any bells, I recommend you go watch this just so you won’t have to lose any more sleep over what you’ve been missing. There aren’t a whole lot of movies out there that can claim to have what is arguably the most manly collection of guy movie legends of all time and also have them turn out solid performances to drive it all home. Kelly’s Heroes is up there, but then again, that’s just kind of a knockoff of The Dirty Dozen anyway. Sorry, Clint, nothing against you, man. You’re still a god.

But the area where this movie starts to slip is the second reason I mentioned, about this being a WWII movie. Now, from what I hear, World War II was some gritty, hardcore, brutal shit, but for some reason I really didn’t get that vibe from The Dirty Dozen. It takes a good two hours for the dozen to get their asses through boot camp and over to Germany, and only then does it start to feel like a war movie, everything else had me feeling like I was watching a group of guys dicking around and getting into various hijinks instead of acting like the hard-as-nails death row mother effers they’re supposed to be. It’s not an issue of the movie being too long or the actors living up to their badass reputations, it’s just that the writing and the dialogue is surprisingly weak and sugarcoated. Maybe it’s just dated considering how much movies have changed over the past 40 years, but it doesn’t feel serious or mean enough to be the war movie I was hoping it would.

It also has a really abrupt non-ending that I was really surprised by. I was this close to giving it an 8…then the credits started rolling. What the hell’s with that?

Anyway, I can’t say that I was blown away by The Dirty Dozen, but I wasn’t exactly disappointed by it either. It’s definitely got its merits and there are a couple great scenes here that really had me on edge and made me forget about some of the more boring parts, and it’s hard to knock a movie that’s filled to the brim with some of my all-time favorite actors. Might not be the best war movie out there, but damn if it isn’t one hell of a guy movie.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Thompson permalink
    September 30, 2009 10:33 am

    Just reviewed this for my site, won’t be published until I get to its place in my WWII Marathon, and I’d have to agree. This was to me what The Great Escape should have been, basically awesome tough guys kicking ass.

  2. September 30, 2009 5:48 pm

    See, for me, the best part of the movie has always been Donald Sutherland impersonating a general…

    “Where are you from, son?”
    “Madison City, Missouri sir!”
    “…Never heard of it.”

    Gold. Absolute gold.

  3. September 30, 2009 7:31 pm

    What a plot, huh? Go kill some Nazis and win WWII (Though you are right about it lacking some of its war movie feelings) Still, The Dirty Dozen is a classic and much better than Inglorious Basterds, in my opinion.

    • September 30, 2009 7:57 pm

      Lol, a kickass plot alright. Have to say I liked Basterds more though, but I bet I’m in the minority here.

  4. Bill Thompson permalink
    September 30, 2009 8:55 pm

    I’d say you are in the majority actually, Basterds already has a huge following, I’d say much larger than Dozen has. I personally didn’t care for Basterds at all, but I don’t like QT as a filmmaker at all, so it’s not all that surprising I didn’t like it.

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