STUDIO: Warner Bros.
MSRP: $24.99
RUNNING TIME: 149 min.
- Featurettes
- Commentary


“Marvin’s military felons help end WWII!”


Lee Marvin, Chuck Bronson, Jim Brown, Ernest Borgnine, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, George Kennedy, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, other cannon fodder


As D-Day approaches, cynical Major Riseman (Marvin) gets “volunteered” by his superiors to take a squad behind enemy lines and attack a gathering of high-ranking German officers while they’re enjoying a little R&R. It’s a suicide mission made that much more suicidal by the troops he’s given to command: a selection of psychopathic prisoners sentenced for rape, murder, robbery and various other nasty things. With the possibility of reprieve their only motivation, Riseman has to whip these grimy cretins into shape within a reasonably timely manner, or the opportunity to stomp the Nazi hierarchy will be lost.

Chuck wasn’t exactly overjoyed that the stand was out of Rub & Tug, but beggars can’t be choosers, so Yank magazine would have to suffice.


The quintessential “guys on a mission” movie (perhaps even more than Seven Samurai/Magnificent Seven), no man can truly call oneself a man until watching The Dirty Dozen  how is this movie not on the AFI’s top 100 movies of the 20th century, but Forrest Gump and Tootsie qualified to be on there? Scandalous.

Not even The Great Escape had such excessive machismo in its day. Marvin is endearingly cantankerous as always, and tough enough to eat every cast member of Survivor and then excrete a more interesting show. And he’s got some craggy contenders like Charles “Business” Bronson as an officer-hating former officer, Cassavetes’ method madness rousing the rabble, NFL pro Jim Brown helping pave a path for John Matuszak and Brian Bosworth, a goofy Sutherland establishing his future in a single scene, and Savalas as an oily weasel who’s not just a Bible-thumping racist but also a homicidal misogynist, all of them as filthy as the title implies.

"Wait… is that a euphemism, or is the ghost of JT Walsh really watching me through the window?"

The real charm of The Dirty Dozen, formulaic though it may now seem (since most of the elements have been imitated ad nauseum), is watching the unscrupulous group interact throughout their selection and training, and director Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly, Flight of the Phoenix) allows the actors just enough rope to display their best bad guys. By the time the chateau raid itself actually happens in the film’s final half-hour, it feels an almost perfunctory finish, yet that doesn’t prevent The Dirty Dozen from holding a spot as one of cinema’s greatest testosterone-fueled war movies.


The picture is appropriately drab and occasionally grainy, which is never distracting given the subject matter, and the remastered Dolby 5.1 audio hits just the right levels. Warner Bros. did a superb job collecting as much supplemental material as possible regarding the film, including a vintage “making of” featurette (dig those groovy fashions), the theatrical trailer, a new intro from Borgnine, and a spirited and informative audio commentary that rounds up actors Jim Brown, Trini Lopez, Stuart Cooper, and Colin Maitland, producer Kenneth Hyman, novelist E.M. Nathanson, film historian David J. Schow, and omnipresent retired officer turned movie advisor Dale Dye (who points out the film’s many inaccuracies).

Attell might’ve found an audience with the drunken antics of Insomniac, but Kersey was proving to be a tougher audience.

And then there’s another whole DVD of virile treats, including the entire 1985 made-for-TV sequel The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission, a tedious wreck that reunites Marvin, Borgnine and Jaeckel, and then hands them “talent” like Ken Wahl and Sonny Landham. Once that’s out of the way, there are a couple of substantial new documentaries: the 30-minute “Armed and Deadly” looks back at the production with the surviving filmmakers and actors, and “The Filthy Thirteen”, a genuinely fascinating 50-minute piece about the real-life rebellious paratroopers whose exploits became the loose basis for the novel and story. On top of that is a Marine recruitment video hosted by Marvin that’s mainly noteworthy to see how the government tried to lure potential grunts a couple of decades back.

The only way this release could be more comprehensive and manly would be if it came with a cigar, a bottle of bourbon, an experienced hooker and some beef jerky.

9.5 out of 10