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The Dirty Dozen Reviews

Robert Aldrich's anti-everything-except-explosives war movie, presented as an all-star game. The film follows nonconformist Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) in his assigned task of assembling a suicide squad of military felons (murderers, rapists, thieves) to infiltrate and destroy a chateau in occupied France at which the Nazi top brass congregate during WWII. Since the cast is presented as bad guys without stories, it's impossible to get emotionally involved. Aided by his assistant, Jaeckel, Marvin recruits 12 men: Cassavetes, Savalas, Bronson, Sutherland, Brown, Walker, Lopez, Mancini, Cooper, Carruthers, Busby, and Maitland, ranging from the merely dim-witted to the overtly psychotic, to form his "dirty dozen," then subjects them to brutal training designed to mold them into an efficient fighting force. After the lengthy, but wholly entertaining training session which climaxes in a war game pitting Reisman's troops against a crack unit, the dirty dozen and their leaders parachute into France to begin a mission that most of them will not survive. Slambang funny, and extremely violent for its time, THE DIRTY DOZEN was a box-office smash that continues to be popular to this day, despite hundreds of showings on television (and two made-for-television sequels in the 1980s). Boasting excellent performances from a stellar cast, this is the ultimate macho action movie. Yet it calls into question the morals of the Americans, not the Germans: the instigators of the mission smugly sip sherry and smoke cigars, content that it was accomplished and that some of their most troublesome recruits died in carrying it out. Aldrich was a master at presenting his distinctly cynical outlook in the context of crowd-pleasing entertainment, and THE DIRTY DOZEN is one of his most effective and lasting efforts.