Combustible Celluloid
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With: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, George Kennedy, Trini Lopez, Ralph Meeker, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker, Robert Webber, Tom Busby, Ben Carruthers, Stuart Cooper, Robert Phillips, Colin Maitland, Al Mancini, George Roubicek, Thick Wilson, Dora Reisser
Written by: Nunnally Johnson, Lukas Heller, based on a novel by E.M. Nathanson
Directed by: Robert Aldrich
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 150
Date: 06/15/1967

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Unwashed Masses

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?) was one of Hollywood's most brutal, unruly directors, and his instincts sometimes led to huge flops, as well as to popular successes like The Dirty Dozen. Certainly a 150-minute action movie could come across a bit sloppy and overstuffed. Today, however, The Dirty Dozen actually looks tighter and more focused -- and less violent -- than it might have when it first opened.

During WWII, General Worden (Ernest Borgnine) calls Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) into his office with a new assignment. He will attack a chateau filled with German officers. Unfortunately, his men will consist of twelve convicted criminals (played by Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, Jim Brown, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, and others). Many of these murderers, rapists, and other scoundrels are condemned to death anyway. Reisman has the impossible task of training them but soon figures that he can use one thing to make them bond: their collective hatred of him. His ploy works, and before too long he has a platoon of tough, loyal, disciplined warriors. But will their raid on the chateau actually work?

Aldrich manages to use his time well, focusing on character traits and never letting the pace become bogged down. Yet, at the same time, while it's a great entertainment, it's not generally considered a great film. It comes more from the gut, or by the seat of its pants, than it does from a place of thoughtfulness or artistry. (It now looks less accomplished than Lee Marvin's other 1967 movie, Point Blank.) Moreover, it seems to have a very low opinion of women, although that kind of thing is fairly normal for this male-oriented genre.

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