The Good

A great movie gets celebrated with a bevy of well put together bonus features.

The Bad

The TV movie they made as a sequel to the original film is an insult.

Lee Marvin is an iconic actor who really carries a lot of the power and nuance in The Dirty Dozen. However, his performance is also bolstered by that of John Cassavetes, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland and Jim Brown. The story is simple, Major John Reisman (Marvin) has been commissioned to take twelve condemned soldiers on a mission in which they will most likely be slaughtered. For those who survive, their lives will be spared and for those who die, they will die as soldiers and not as executed prisoners.

This movie is interesting in that it spends almost the entire film making us care about these men. Sure, they are bad guys, most of them charged with heinous crimes, but we really get to know these people and it's hard not to like them. Everything is geared toward the mission, but director Robert Aldrich doesn't go out of his way to explain it. We see the soldiers being put through their paces, and then, as they execute the mission we are left to decide what is success and what is failure. Which, when one thinks about war is a very interesting question.

Features

Introduction by Ernest Borgnine

I had the good fortune of watching this before I saw the movie. Sure, Mr. Borgnine is reading off a cue cards, and at times he doesn't seem all there, but it was a lot of fun hearing him talk about The Dirty Dozen and pronounce John Cassavetes name wrong.

The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission

Okay, I am fan of TV and I am a fan of TV movies. I understand they don't have the kind of money that the features have, but this movie is an insult to the first one. It just seems so cheap and the fact that it seems to follow the original Dirty Dozen shot for shot, only calls attention to just how lacking it really it is. My favorite part? When they try and establish how tough and gritty the soldiers are in the opening of the movie.

Commentary Track

This commentary track features musings by cast members Jim Brown, Trini Lopez, Stuart Cooper and Colin Maitland. It also features producer Kenneth Hyman, Novelist E.M. Nathanson, Film Historian David J. Schow and Veteran Military Advisor to the movies Captain Dale Dye. I was nervous at first that all these voices were going to be together on one track, but the DVDs creators have wisely separated a lot of the commentators out. Truthfully, the best person on here is Dale Dye. More than anyone else, he seems completely engaged by the film he is talking about.

Documentaries

Two documentary films make up this segment. They are Armed and Deadly: The Making of the Dirty Dozen and The Filthy Thirteen: Real Stories from Behind the Lines. The Making Of examines the film as an "ugly" war movie drawing on many of the themes Aldrich was trying to get across. It also looks at what kind of person Aldrich was. The Filthy Thirteen: Real Stories from Behind the Lines looks at the mythic group that is portrayed in the film and also sheds light on Jake McNiece, a man who has seen more combat operations than entire platoons. From a historical perspective, these documentaries are a "must see."

Marine Corps Combat Leadership Skills

Marine life is shown in this documentary in which Lee Marvin is featured. We see the new soldiers having their heads shaved and we see what their lives are like through training. This is very interesting if for no other reason than it shows how the inner workings of the service work.

Operation Dirty Dozen

This is a puff piece about the making of The Dirty Dozen, and to be 100% honest I thought it was kind of redundant. We see life on the set, the actors and everything else we've come to expect from featurettes. Considering there already is an updated "Making Of" documentary in this two disc set, I certainly could've lived without this much older one.

Video

Widescreen Version presented in a "Matted" Widescreen format preserving the aspect ratio of it's original theatrical exhibition. Enhanced for Widescreen TVs. Aside from the opening credits seeming to roll the image as they went along the screen, I thought this movie looked really good. I am big fan of war movies that tell the story in a very straight forward manner. When filmmakers start employing a lot of "film language" I think it detracts from the story. This movie feels as real, as rough and as gritty as the title makes it sound.

Audio

Dolby Digital. Close Captioned. Despite what one might think, this isn't an action movie per se. Sure there are action elements in it, but like the pacing of Rocky most of the action comes at the very end. So much of this film is character oriented and as such, it heavily relies on dialogue. Overall, I found the audio to be leveled quite well, with the music and ambiance used to underscore this film's war themes.

Package

Lee Marvin stands off to the side of this front cover staring war right in the face and not flinching. A large explosion and some soldiers run across a field in the background. The back features an opening shot of the movie as The Dirty Dozen finds out about their orders. There is a description of the movie, a large "Special Features" section, cast lists for both the theatrical and TV movies as well as technical specs. Both discs are housed in a regular, amaray DVD case.

Final Word

I have not been able to stop thinking about The Dirty Dozen since I screened it. As many of the readers of this site already know, I am a big fan of John Cassavetes. The man was constantly striving to put across something real on screen (both in his films and in the roles he played), which is why he often clashed with the people he worked with. However, he brings a cunning and vulnerability to the role of Victor Franko that I think endears itself to viewers.

Everyone in this cast is top notch and the film is shrewdly pulled off. Director Robert Aldrich has created a paradox of a war film because while some might see The Dirty Dozen as a patriotic venture, others surely will ask who really wins when we take up arms against our fellow man?

The Dirty Dozen was released June 15, 1967.