Movie Review: The Dirty Dozen (1967)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1967 war film starring Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson

Synopsis: A World War II Army major is put in charge of a group of ex-soldier convicts and told to turn them into a commando unit. They are then sent on a top secret suicide mission to kill dozens of high ranking German officers so the German military will struggle to respond to the upcoming D-Day invasion with the promise they will have their sentences commuted if they succeed and survive.


I was fighting some sort of bug the past few days and, on Sunday, finally had time to get some rest and get over it. Well, actually, I still had plenty I needed to do. But, it was pretty nasty outside so I figured I would procrastinate.

As I was resting, I remembered this movie was on Netflix. And, since it had been a while since I last watched it, I figured it was as good of a choice as anything else. I didn't regret that decision.

I think the most entertaining thing about this movie is the way the men under Maj. Reisman's (Marvin) command never become predictable. The men were in prison/facing execution for everything from a spur-of-the-moment decision to obvious mental health issues and, because of that, it was never a certain they would follow his orders to the letter or would ultimately betray him when it mattered.

Also, unlike a lot of older war movies, this one doesn't sugar coat the realities of war. Watching the heroes of the film crossing some lines, such as killing civilians, did give the film a bit of a sobering effect during the final battle. On one hand, you want the heroes to win. But, on the other hand, the movie does make you question whether or not they really went about achieving their mission in the right way.

I only have two real complaints about this film. The first is there is a bit too much lead-in to the final mission than I would prefer. Between the training sequences and the decision to let the prisoners take part in a war games activity, I realized their actual mission is really a very small part of this film. As a result, I would have liked to have seen less filler and more action.

I also thought Reisman was in desperate need of a better backstory. The movie makes it clear he has disciplinary issues himself. But, it never really fills in any of the details. I think it would have been good to have had some examples of why nobody wants him under their command even though he has been successful enough to reach the rank of major.



Final Opinion

I don't watch a whole lot of war movies. But, this is a classic film that I'll make an exception for and I'm glad I took the time to watch it again this past weekend.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 02/25/2019, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 07/23/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.

In particular, I appreciate where you identify disappointments and suggest fixer-uppers, such as the back story to Major Reisman.

The library system here has The Dirty Dozen among its Blu-ray and DVD collections and in book format. So the summer is not yet over, and end July-beginning August look convenient for squeezing this book and film classic in.

How would The Dirty Dozen fare in prequel or sequel, reboot or remake formats nowadays?

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