The Dirty Dozen


2h 29m 1967
The Dirty Dozen

Brief Synopsis

A renegade officer trains a group of misfits for a crucial mission behind enemy lines.

Film Details

Genre
Action
Adventure
War
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1967
Premiere Information
New York opening: 15 Jun 1967
Production Company
M. K. H. Productions; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Dirty Dozen by E. M. Nathanson (New York, 1965).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 29m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.00 : 1

Synopsis

A few months before D-Day, Major Reisman, a U. S. Army officer stationed in England, is given the task of training 12 convicted GI's--murderers, rapists, thieves--for the suicidal mission of parachuting into Nazi-occupied France and blowing up a chateau housing top-ranking German officers. Although the 12 men agree to undertake the assignment in the hope of being granted pardons, their initial reaction to Reisman is one of indifference and contempt. But with Sergeant Bowren's aid, Reisman goads, browbeats, and drives the men until he earns a small measure of respect from each of them. And by standing up for his squad against the opposition of two superior officers, Colonel Breed and General Denton, Reisman eventually succeeds in forging his band of misfits into a fighting unit. To prove the worth of "The Dirty Dozen," a nickname the men acquired when they were deprived of soap and water, Reisman gains permission from General Worden to allow the men to participate in war game maneuvers. After making a fool of the pompous Colonel Breed by capturing his entire staff, the men are given the go-ahead for the dangerous mission. Once parachuted into France, they make their way to the chateau and, by various ruses and surprise attacks, gain entry. Everything goes as planned until one of the Dozen, a Bible-spouting sex degenerate, Archer Maggott, goes berserk and betrays his colleagues. He is shot down, however, as the chateau is turned into a battleground of rapid machine-gun fire and exploding grenades. The savage in-fighting ends only when gasoline-soaked grenades are thrown down ventilator shafts, blowing the chateau to bits. Only three of the 12 men--Wladislaw, Posey, and Sawyer--are still alive when it is over. Both Reisman and Sergeant Bowren are present when General Worden reveals that the ex-criminals who gave their lives are now listed as soldiers who died honorably in the line of duty.

Photo Collections

The Dirty Dozen - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for The Dirty Dozen (1967). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Action
Adventure
War
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Jan 1967
Premiere Information
New York opening: 15 Jun 1967
Production Company
M. K. H. Productions; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The Dirty Dozen by E. M. Nathanson (New York, 1965).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 29m
Sound
Stereo
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.00 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Editing

1967
Michael Luciano

Best Sound

1967

Best Supporting Actor

1967
John Cassavetes

Articles

The Essentials-The Dirty Dozen


SYNOPSIS

With some reluctance, US Army Major Reisman takes on the job of training a dozen convicted violent criminals for a suicide mission behind enemy lines. Reisman works against the wildly disruptive and erratic behavior of the men in his charge to whip them into excellent condition to first humiliate American troops in a mock battle and then to carry out their brutal assignment, the mass assassination of German officers at a chateau in France.

Director: Robert Aldrich

Producer: Kenneth Hyman

Screenplay: Nunnally Johnson, Lukas Heller

Cinematography: Edward Scaife

Editing: Michael Luciano

Art Direction: W.E. Hutchinson

Original Music: Frank De Vol
Cast: Lee Marvin (Major Reisman), Ernest Borgnine (General Worden), Charles Bronson (Joseph Wladislaw), Jim Brown (Robert Jefferson), John Cassavetes (Victor Franko), Robert Ryan (Col. Breed), Telly Savalas (Archer Maggott)

Why THE DIRTY DOZEN is Essential

Judging by the audiences who cheered for its rousing World War II action and explosive, over-the-top heroics, The Dirty Dozen could hardly be called an anti-war movie, not in the sense of others of its time, such as M.A.S.H. (1970). On the other hand, the anti-authoritarian, anti-military attitude on display in the picture, so characteristic of this period (in the thick of the war in Vietnam), mark the film as vastly different from John Wayne's gung-ho The Green Berets (1968). This story of condemned criminals pressed into the service of a sneak attack against German high command pulled off the neat trick of appealing to all sides of a nation increasingly divided over the controversial military conflict in Southeast Asia, becoming one of the biggest hits of the year and continuing to appear on many people's favorites lists.

At the time of its release, however, not everyone was cheering. Many reviewers objected to the picture's "deleterious" viewpoint and excessive violence, characterized by one critic as "criminal and psychopathic forms of sadism." Director Robert Aldrich, with a screenplay based on a true story and a cast of both macho action players and respected actors, took to the extreme the standard war movie cliché of a squad from disparate backgrounds thrown together for an impossible mission. The heroes here range from the merely criminal to the fully unhinged, promised clemency for their misdeeds by a military command heedless of their safety and any ethical/moral concerns. Aldrich objected to the criticism by insisting he wanted to show how all sides in a war do despicable things, but the New York Times' Bosley Crowther echoed the sentiments of many who said the film's ability to have it both ways pointed to an easy cynicism whose clear intent was "just to delight and stimulate the easily moved."

However you take the intent and effect of The Dirty Dozen, its entertainment value can't be denied, but that alone is not what earns it a place in cinema history. As Gary Sussman of moviefone.com has pointed out, all of the things Crowther and others slammed back in 1967--what they considered its sadistic, antisocial "hooliganism" and excessive violence, its mocking cynicism about authority--are exactly what would make it a hit today. The so-called brutality on display here was just the early stage of a new level of violence creeping into movies as censorship standards and public taste changed. This is one of the key films of the time, along with such bloody dramas as The Wild Bunch (1969) and Bonnie and Clyde (1967), that shifted the depiction and degree of violence on the screen and changed how we viewed and accepted it. Even more significant, as with those movies, The Dirty Dozen had us rooting for characters who, only a decade or so earlier, would have been the villains of any other movie--criminals, outlaws, sociopaths, people who will never fit into the mainstream even on the very slim chance that they may want to--while the once typical "heroes," i.e., the military authority (with the exception of Lee Marvin's sympathetic major), are shown to be stupid, delusional, and generally contemptible.

As Sussman rightly points out, then, the influence The Dirty Dozen has had on future generations of film has more to do with attitude: "Every anti-authoritarian action hero (from another 'Dirty' guy, Clint Eastwood's once-controversial Dirty Harry, to Bruce Willis' John McClane, to Sylvester Stallone's John Rambo, to Christian Bale's public-opinion-be-damned Dark Knight), every indiscriminate slaughterer we're expected to identify with (from Bronson's vigilante heroes to take-your-pick from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, or Jason Statham), every lawman who bitterly grinds his badge into the dust, every crimefighter who must become as monstrous as the brutes he pursues, every warrior who expects our admiration for his willingness to shoot first and ask questions later--all of them owe a debt to The Dirty Dozen and the challenge it offered us, to see something admirable and even noble in antisocial violence channeled in the right direction."

It also didn't hurt, during the Vietnam years, that it put forth the idea that war is not merely hell, it's insane; it's not noble, it's dirty. We may never engage in another "popular" war as we did in the 1940s. Our enemies are not always as easy to identify or pigeonhole as before, and our motives may no longer read quite so pure and honorable as they did then. The Dirty Dozen didn't create that cynicism or destroy our faith in those who purport to lead us, but it certainly tapped into a growing sentiment in the air, and it helped to define a type of action movie that, for better or worse, audiences still flock to.

By Rob Nixon
The Essentials-The Dirty Dozen

The Essentials-The Dirty Dozen

SYNOPSIS With some reluctance, US Army Major Reisman takes on the job of training a dozen convicted violent criminals for a suicide mission behind enemy lines. Reisman works against the wildly disruptive and erratic behavior of the men in his charge to whip them into excellent condition to first humiliate American troops in a mock battle and then to carry out their brutal assignment, the mass assassination of German officers at a chateau in France. Director: Robert Aldrich Producer: Kenneth Hyman Screenplay: Nunnally Johnson, Lukas Heller Cinematography: Edward Scaife Editing: Michael Luciano Art Direction: W.E. Hutchinson Original Music: Frank De Vol Cast: Lee Marvin (Major Reisman), Ernest Borgnine (General Worden), Charles Bronson (Joseph Wladislaw), Jim Brown (Robert Jefferson), John Cassavetes (Victor Franko), Robert Ryan (Col. Breed), Telly Savalas (Archer Maggott) Why THE DIRTY DOZEN is Essential Judging by the audiences who cheered for its rousing World War II action and explosive, over-the-top heroics, The Dirty Dozen could hardly be called an anti-war movie, not in the sense of others of its time, such as M.A.S.H. (1970). On the other hand, the anti-authoritarian, anti-military attitude on display in the picture, so characteristic of this period (in the thick of the war in Vietnam), mark the film as vastly different from John Wayne's gung-ho The Green Berets (1968). This story of condemned criminals pressed into the service of a sneak attack against German high command pulled off the neat trick of appealing to all sides of a nation increasingly divided over the controversial military conflict in Southeast Asia, becoming one of the biggest hits of the year and continuing to appear on many people's favorites lists. At the time of its release, however, not everyone was cheering. Many reviewers objected to the picture's "deleterious" viewpoint and excessive violence, characterized by one critic as "criminal and psychopathic forms of sadism." Director Robert Aldrich, with a screenplay based on a true story and a cast of both macho action players and respected actors, took to the extreme the standard war movie cliché of a squad from disparate backgrounds thrown together for an impossible mission. The heroes here range from the merely criminal to the fully unhinged, promised clemency for their misdeeds by a military command heedless of their safety and any ethical/moral concerns. Aldrich objected to the criticism by insisting he wanted to show how all sides in a war do despicable things, but the New York Times' Bosley Crowther echoed the sentiments of many who said the film's ability to have it both ways pointed to an easy cynicism whose clear intent was "just to delight and stimulate the easily moved." However you take the intent and effect of The Dirty Dozen, its entertainment value can't be denied, but that alone is not what earns it a place in cinema history. As Gary Sussman of moviefone.com has pointed out, all of the things Crowther and others slammed back in 1967--what they considered its sadistic, antisocial "hooliganism" and excessive violence, its mocking cynicism about authority--are exactly what would make it a hit today. The so-called brutality on display here was just the early stage of a new level of violence creeping into movies as censorship standards and public taste changed. This is one of the key films of the time, along with such bloody dramas as The Wild Bunch (1969) and Bonnie and Clyde (1967), that shifted the depiction and degree of violence on the screen and changed how we viewed and accepted it. Even more significant, as with those movies, The Dirty Dozen had us rooting for characters who, only a decade or so earlier, would have been the villains of any other movie--criminals, outlaws, sociopaths, people who will never fit into the mainstream even on the very slim chance that they may want to--while the once typical "heroes," i.e., the military authority (with the exception of Lee Marvin's sympathetic major), are shown to be stupid, delusional, and generally contemptible. As Sussman rightly points out, then, the influence The Dirty Dozen has had on future generations of film has more to do with attitude: "Every anti-authoritarian action hero (from another 'Dirty' guy, Clint Eastwood's once-controversial Dirty Harry, to Bruce Willis' John McClane, to Sylvester Stallone's John Rambo, to Christian Bale's public-opinion-be-damned Dark Knight), every indiscriminate slaughterer we're expected to identify with (from Bronson's vigilante heroes to take-your-pick from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, or Jason Statham), every lawman who bitterly grinds his badge into the dust, every crimefighter who must become as monstrous as the brutes he pursues, every warrior who expects our admiration for his willingness to shoot first and ask questions later--all of them owe a debt to The Dirty Dozen and the challenge it offered us, to see something admirable and even noble in antisocial violence channeled in the right direction." It also didn't hurt, during the Vietnam years, that it put forth the idea that war is not merely hell, it's insane; it's not noble, it's dirty. We may never engage in another "popular" war as we did in the 1940s. Our enemies are not always as easy to identify or pigeonhole as before, and our motives may no longer read quite so pure and honorable as they did then. The Dirty Dozen didn't create that cynicism or destroy our faith in those who purport to lead us, but it certainly tapped into a growing sentiment in the air, and it helped to define a type of action movie that, for better or worse, audiences still flock to. By Rob Nixon

Pop Culture 101-The Dirty Dozen


In style, attitude, and pushing the envelope of violence, the film can be seen as a major precursor to modern-day action films, particularly those that feature a group of unlikely heroes banding together for impossible missions.

Critics have noted that sections of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009) borrow heavily from this picture, not least the violent wish-fulfillment fantasy of a sneak attack on Hitler and his high command during a social occasion.

The movie inspired three loosely connected sequels, all of them television movies. The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission (1985) featured Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Richard Jaeckel in their original roles in a story once again revolving around convicted soldiers recruited for a deadly mission. Borgnine turned up as General Worden again in The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (1987), in which Telly Savalas had the lead, not as his character from the first movie, who was killed, but as an Army major leading his misfit band to destroy a nerve gas manufacturing plant. Borgnine and Savalas reprised their roles one last time in The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission (1988) with yet another renegade soldiers plot. There was also a short-lived TV series that aired in 1988 with none of the original cast or characters.

Some shots and sequences from the original were edited into the first (1985) sequel.

The Dirty Dozen bears close resemblance to an earlier movie about criminals and misfits being recruited for a dangerous covert mission. Although a B movie in just about every respect, The Secret Invasion (1964) was director Roger Corman's most expensive project to that date. Corman later said he had heard that the producers of The Dirty Dozen actually postponed production for a year because of the story similarities. Corman noted that both films shared some plot points with his first directorial effort, Five Guns West (1955), in which a group of condemned Southern prisoners are promised pardons if they undertake a mission that could prove suicidal.

A remake of The Dirty Dozen has been bandied about for a few years. Reportedly, Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006) is writing the screenplay.

In the romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Tom Hanks compares his emotional reaction to the combat scene in this movie to the way Rita Wilson's character reacts to An Affair to Remember (1957).

The term "dirty dozen" is now in fairly widespread use, generally for a group of undesirables, such as the 12 most contaminated types of produce or the IRS list of the most common tax scams. The National Recreation and Park Association also uses the term for the 12 most common playground safety concerns, and the League of Conservation Voters groups under that title the members of Congress who consistently vote against environmental causes.

There is a popular music group in New Orleans known as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

Across the U.S., several foot races with mud pits and obstacles, usually for charity, are termed The Dirty Dozen.

A book published by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, examining the 12 so-called "worst" Supreme Court cases from the authors' point of view is called The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom.

Jake McNiece, one of the Filthy 13 whose exploits inspired the novel on which this film was based, wrote a memoir of his war years (with historian Richard Killblane), The Filthy Thirteen: From the Dustbowl to Hitler's Eagle's Nest - The True Story of the 101st Airborne's Most Legendary Squad of Combat Paratroopers (Casemate, 2003).

Trini Lopez's recording of the song he sang in the movie, "The Bramble Bush," reached number 4 on the US adult contemporary charts.

The "Last Supper" scene is similar to one used in another Vietnam-era anti-war film set during an earlier war (Korea), M.A.S.H. (1970). It's not clear if Aldrich's scene influenced Robert Altman a few years later since evocations of the Last Supper appeared in other films before The Dirty Dozen, notably Luis Buñuel's Viridiana (1961).

The scene with Jim Brown running through the chateau grounds, dropping grenades to blow up the building, played on the audience's awareness of his famous touchdown runs as a pro football player.

Four of the actors in this movie--Clint Walker, George Kennedy, Ernest Borgnine, and Jim Brown--were cast as the voices of the animated figures in the film Small Soldiers (1998).

Director-actor Ron Howard told Moviefone.com that despite being a child star for several years on television and in the movies, it was The Dirty Dozen that really got him excited about film craft. "It was perfect. I was twelve, thirteen years old; going through puberty. Here was this totally macho rock 'em-sock 'em, heroic action movie--one of the best 'mission' movies ever made. Everything about it, top to bottom, was cool. And it turned me on to the movies. In a lot of ways, it made me want to go to the movies every single week to try and have the kind of experience that would just take you away."

By Rob Nixon

Pop Culture 101-The Dirty Dozen

In style, attitude, and pushing the envelope of violence, the film can be seen as a major precursor to modern-day action films, particularly those that feature a group of unlikely heroes banding together for impossible missions. Critics have noted that sections of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009) borrow heavily from this picture, not least the violent wish-fulfillment fantasy of a sneak attack on Hitler and his high command during a social occasion. The movie inspired three loosely connected sequels, all of them television movies. The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission (1985) featured Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Richard Jaeckel in their original roles in a story once again revolving around convicted soldiers recruited for a deadly mission. Borgnine turned up as General Worden again in The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (1987), in which Telly Savalas had the lead, not as his character from the first movie, who was killed, but as an Army major leading his misfit band to destroy a nerve gas manufacturing plant. Borgnine and Savalas reprised their roles one last time in The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission (1988) with yet another renegade soldiers plot. There was also a short-lived TV series that aired in 1988 with none of the original cast or characters. Some shots and sequences from the original were edited into the first (1985) sequel. The Dirty Dozen bears close resemblance to an earlier movie about criminals and misfits being recruited for a dangerous covert mission. Although a B movie in just about every respect, The Secret Invasion (1964) was director Roger Corman's most expensive project to that date. Corman later said he had heard that the producers of The Dirty Dozen actually postponed production for a year because of the story similarities. Corman noted that both films shared some plot points with his first directorial effort, Five Guns West (1955), in which a group of condemned Southern prisoners are promised pardons if they undertake a mission that could prove suicidal. A remake of The Dirty Dozen has been bandied about for a few years. Reportedly, Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand, 2006) is writing the screenplay. In the romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Tom Hanks compares his emotional reaction to the combat scene in this movie to the way Rita Wilson's character reacts to An Affair to Remember (1957). The term "dirty dozen" is now in fairly widespread use, generally for a group of undesirables, such as the 12 most contaminated types of produce or the IRS list of the most common tax scams. The National Recreation and Park Association also uses the term for the 12 most common playground safety concerns, and the League of Conservation Voters groups under that title the members of Congress who consistently vote against environmental causes. There is a popular music group in New Orleans known as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Across the U.S., several foot races with mud pits and obstacles, usually for charity, are termed The Dirty Dozen. A book published by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, examining the 12 so-called "worst" Supreme Court cases from the authors' point of view is called The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom. Jake McNiece, one of the Filthy 13 whose exploits inspired the novel on which this film was based, wrote a memoir of his war years (with historian Richard Killblane), The Filthy Thirteen: From the Dustbowl to Hitler's Eagle's Nest - The True Story of the 101st Airborne's Most Legendary Squad of Combat Paratroopers (Casemate, 2003). Trini Lopez's recording of the song he sang in the movie, "The Bramble Bush," reached number 4 on the US adult contemporary charts. The "Last Supper" scene is similar to one used in another Vietnam-era anti-war film set during an earlier war (Korea), M.A.S.H. (1970). It's not clear if Aldrich's scene influenced Robert Altman a few years later since evocations of the Last Supper appeared in other films before The Dirty Dozen, notably Luis Buñuel's Viridiana (1961). The scene with Jim Brown running through the chateau grounds, dropping grenades to blow up the building, played on the audience's awareness of his famous touchdown runs as a pro football player. Four of the actors in this movie--Clint Walker, George Kennedy, Ernest Borgnine, and Jim Brown--were cast as the voices of the animated figures in the film Small Soldiers (1998). Director-actor Ron Howard told Moviefone.com that despite being a child star for several years on television and in the movies, it was The Dirty Dozen that really got him excited about film craft. "It was perfect. I was twelve, thirteen years old; going through puberty. Here was this totally macho rock 'em-sock 'em, heroic action movie--one of the best 'mission' movies ever made. Everything about it, top to bottom, was cool. And it turned me on to the movies. In a lot of ways, it made me want to go to the movies every single week to try and have the kind of experience that would just take you away." By Rob Nixon

Trivia-The Dirty Dozen - Trivia & Fun Facts About THE DIRTY DOZEN


Robert Aldrich (1918-1983) started in motion pictures as a production clerk at RKO in 1941. He served an early apprenticeship as assistant to a number of acclaimed directors, including Jean Renoir (The Southerner, 1945), Max Ophuls (Caught, 1949), Joseph Losey (The Prowler, 1951), and Charles Chaplin (Limelight, 1952). He was also assistant director to William Wellman on one of the greatest war films, Story of G.I. Joe (1945).

The film's financial success allowed Robert Aldrich to buy his own film studio, which opened in August 1968. His plan was to produce up to 16 films there over the next five years, but the failure of his first two productions, The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968) and The Killing of Sister George (1968), scuttled his hopes. He was soon forced into a four-picture deal with ABC-Palomar. His pictures under that contract were not hits either. The director never regained the box office status he had with The Dirty Dozen or quite the critical acclaim he enjoyed in the 1950s, although he did enjoy something of a comeback with the Burt Reynolds prison-football movie The Longest Yard (1974).

Because they all appeared frequently in the action genre, it's not surprising that the cast worked together a number of times in various combinations: Bronson and Marvin (5 films, 1 TV show), Bronson and Borgnine (4 movies), Marvin and Borgnine (6 movies), Marvin and Ryan (4 movies, including Ryan's final film, The Iceman Cometh, 1973), Ryan and Borgnine (3 movies), Ryan and Bronson (2 movies). Aldrich also directed his stars multiple times: Marvin (3 movies), Bronson (4 movies, 3 TV shows), Borgnine (6 movies), Ralph Meeker (twice, including Meeker's starring role in what is often considered Aldrich's greatest film, Kiss Me Deadly, 1955).

In the novel, the black character's name is Napoleon White. It was changed to Robert Jefferson for the movie at some point, although in the original trailer, he's called Napoleon Jefferson.

In the "Last Supper" scene, Telly Savalas as Maggott is placed in the position of Judas, signaling his eventual betrayal of the mission.

The opening credits don't occur until several minutes into the movie. Although a common practice today, it was considered unusual back in 1967.

In the German release, audiences saw Jim Brown dropping the grenades into the chateau air shafts but not the gasoline being poured in and the people inside burning up.

In Spain, the dubbed version changed the name of John Cassavetes's character from Franko to Franchi because the country's ruler at the time was Francisco Franco.

If the soundtrack occasionally sounds like TV music, remember that Frank DeVol (billed here simply as DeVol) also wrote the theme songs for the sitcoms The Brady Bunch and My Three Sons. He had worked with Robert Aldrich on three of the director's best films of the 1950s as conductor on Kiss Me Deadly, The Big Knife, and Attack. He was nominated five times for Academy Awards, including his work on the Aldrich film Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte and the Western comedy Cat Ballou (1965), the movie for which Lee Marvin won his Best Actor Academy Award.

Screenwriter Lukas Heller (1930-1988) won an Edgar Allan Poe Award (shared with Henry Farrell) for the script for Aldrich's gothic thriller Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte. He also wrote the scripts for two other earlier Aldrich films, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), and two later pictures, The Killing of Sister George and Too Late the Hero (1970). He also wrote the screenplay for the Lee Marvin western Monte Walsh (1970).

Several vehicles and military insignia that appear in the movie have been flagged as being incorrect for the period in which it's set.

By Rob Nixon

Trivia-The Dirty Dozen - Trivia & Fun Facts About THE DIRTY DOZEN

Robert Aldrich (1918-1983) started in motion pictures as a production clerk at RKO in 1941. He served an early apprenticeship as assistant to a number of acclaimed directors, including Jean Renoir (The Southerner, 1945), Max Ophuls (Caught, 1949), Joseph Losey (The Prowler, 1951), and Charles Chaplin (Limelight, 1952). He was also assistant director to William Wellman on one of the greatest war films, Story of G.I. Joe (1945). The film's financial success allowed Robert Aldrich to buy his own film studio, which opened in August 1968. His plan was to produce up to 16 films there over the next five years, but the failure of his first two productions, The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968) and The Killing of Sister George (1968), scuttled his hopes. He was soon forced into a four-picture deal with ABC-Palomar. His pictures under that contract were not hits either. The director never regained the box office status he had with The Dirty Dozen or quite the critical acclaim he enjoyed in the 1950s, although he did enjoy something of a comeback with the Burt Reynolds prison-football movie The Longest Yard (1974). Because they all appeared frequently in the action genre, it's not surprising that the cast worked together a number of times in various combinations: Bronson and Marvin (5 films, 1 TV show), Bronson and Borgnine (4 movies), Marvin and Borgnine (6 movies), Marvin and Ryan (4 movies, including Ryan's final film, The Iceman Cometh, 1973), Ryan and Borgnine (3 movies), Ryan and Bronson (2 movies). Aldrich also directed his stars multiple times: Marvin (3 movies), Bronson (4 movies, 3 TV shows), Borgnine (6 movies), Ralph Meeker (twice, including Meeker's starring role in what is often considered Aldrich's greatest film, Kiss Me Deadly, 1955). In the novel, the black character's name is Napoleon White. It was changed to Robert Jefferson for the movie at some point, although in the original trailer, he's called Napoleon Jefferson. In the "Last Supper" scene, Telly Savalas as Maggott is placed in the position of Judas, signaling his eventual betrayal of the mission. The opening credits don't occur until several minutes into the movie. Although a common practice today, it was considered unusual back in 1967. In the German release, audiences saw Jim Brown dropping the grenades into the chateau air shafts but not the gasoline being poured in and the people inside burning up. In Spain, the dubbed version changed the name of John Cassavetes's character from Franko to Franchi because the country's ruler at the time was Francisco Franco. If the soundtrack occasionally sounds like TV music, remember that Frank DeVol (billed here simply as DeVol) also wrote the theme songs for the sitcoms The Brady Bunch and My Three Sons. He had worked with Robert Aldrich on three of the director's best films of the 1950s as conductor on Kiss Me Deadly, The Big Knife, and Attack. He was nominated five times for Academy Awards, including his work on the Aldrich film Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte and the Western comedy Cat Ballou (1965), the movie for which Lee Marvin won his Best Actor Academy Award. Screenwriter Lukas Heller (1930-1988) won an Edgar Allan Poe Award (shared with Henry Farrell) for the script for Aldrich's gothic thriller Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte. He also wrote the scripts for two other earlier Aldrich films, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), and two later pictures, The Killing of Sister George and Too Late the Hero (1970). He also wrote the screenplay for the Lee Marvin western Monte Walsh (1970). Several vehicles and military insignia that appear in the movie have been flagged as being incorrect for the period in which it's set. By Rob Nixon

The Big Idea-The Dirty Dozen


In World War II, there was a sub-unit of the 101st Airborne Division that came to be known as the Filthy 13. Although unknown until many years after the war, the legendary group became famous (through a mix of rumor, myth, and fact) for their hard drinking and violent fighting skills. A photographer for the military publication Stars and Stripes saw some paratroopers stationed in England, heads shaved into Mohawks, applying paint to their faces; that look was later corroborated by one of the few surviving members of the group, Jake McNiece, one of the men who undertook a "suicide" mission, parachuting behind enemy lines just ahead of D-Day to destroy Nazi supply routes. The group, through which 30 men eventually passed as members became wounded or killed, was said to have carried out several brutal secret raids against the Nazis. They had a reputation for getting into a lot of trouble and spending significant amounts of time in the stockade. Another known survivor among the 13, Jack Agnew, later explained that he and his comrades "weren't murderers or anything, we just didn't do everything we were supposed to do in some ways and did a whole lot more than they wanted us to do in other ways."

The exploits of the 13 inspired newspaper and magazine writer E.M. Nathanson to write a novel fictionalizing their story as The Dirty Dozen.

Robert Aldrich was one of the most interesting directors working in American movies in the 1950s. His baroque, highly stylized noir style in such films as Kiss Me Deadly (1955), The Big Knife (1955), and Attack (1956) made him a favorite of auteur theorists, and his two gothic melodramas of the early 60s, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) and Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), garnered great commercial success. He was in a good position by the mid 1960s to expect success in his bid to purchase the rights to Nathanson's novel before it was published. MGM, however, beat him to it in 1963, two years before the book's publication date.

Aldrich was attracted to both the story's action elements and to its core irony, that the heroes were criminals and even psychopaths.

After several unsuccessful attempts by MGM to get a workable screenplay, Aldrich was brought on to the project. He was given a first pass of the script written by veteran Nunnally Johnson (The Grapes of Wrath, 1940; How to Marry a Millionaire, 1957). "This would have made a very good, very acceptable 1945 war picture," Aldrich said. "But I don't think that a 1945 war picture is necessarily a good 1967 war picture."

Aldrich brought in German-born writer Lukas Heller, with whom he had worked on What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and The Flight of the Phoenix (1965). Heller played up the anti-authoritarian tone and brought a certain black humor to the story.

Ken Hyman, the producer assigned by MGM to the project, did not like the fact that Heller had been hired by Aldrich and accused the writer of not letting him see the script. Hyman insisted on the credits reading "Screenplay by Nunnally Johnson." In the end, the Writers Guild ruled that Heller and Johnson would share screen credit.

Despite having cast approval, Aldrich was dismayed to find out that Hyman and MGM had offered the lead role of Major Reisman to John Wayne. Fortunately, Wayne dropped out due to demands on his time making The Green Berets (1968), a Vietnam war film he was directing and starring in.

Aldrich initially gave the part of the Southern bigot, Maggott, to Jack Palance, star of his scathing Hollywood drama The Big Knife. Palance thought the role failed to make a serious comment about bigotry and withdrew from the film.

By Rob Nixon

The Big Idea-The Dirty Dozen

In World War II, there was a sub-unit of the 101st Airborne Division that came to be known as the Filthy 13. Although unknown until many years after the war, the legendary group became famous (through a mix of rumor, myth, and fact) for their hard drinking and violent fighting skills. A photographer for the military publication Stars and Stripes saw some paratroopers stationed in England, heads shaved into Mohawks, applying paint to their faces; that look was later corroborated by one of the few surviving members of the group, Jake McNiece, one of the men who undertook a "suicide" mission, parachuting behind enemy lines just ahead of D-Day to destroy Nazi supply routes. The group, through which 30 men eventually passed as members became wounded or killed, was said to have carried out several brutal secret raids against the Nazis. They had a reputation for getting into a lot of trouble and spending significant amounts of time in the stockade. Another known survivor among the 13, Jack Agnew, later explained that he and his comrades "weren't murderers or anything, we just didn't do everything we were supposed to do in some ways and did a whole lot more than they wanted us to do in other ways." The exploits of the 13 inspired newspaper and magazine writer E.M. Nathanson to write a novel fictionalizing their story as The Dirty Dozen. Robert Aldrich was one of the most interesting directors working in American movies in the 1950s. His baroque, highly stylized noir style in such films as Kiss Me Deadly (1955), The Big Knife (1955), and Attack (1956) made him a favorite of auteur theorists, and his two gothic melodramas of the early 60s, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) and Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), garnered great commercial success. He was in a good position by the mid 1960s to expect success in his bid to purchase the rights to Nathanson's novel before it was published. MGM, however, beat him to it in 1963, two years before the book's publication date. Aldrich was attracted to both the story's action elements and to its core irony, that the heroes were criminals and even psychopaths. After several unsuccessful attempts by MGM to get a workable screenplay, Aldrich was brought on to the project. He was given a first pass of the script written by veteran Nunnally Johnson (The Grapes of Wrath, 1940; How to Marry a Millionaire, 1957). "This would have made a very good, very acceptable 1945 war picture," Aldrich said. "But I don't think that a 1945 war picture is necessarily a good 1967 war picture." Aldrich brought in German-born writer Lukas Heller, with whom he had worked on What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and The Flight of the Phoenix (1965). Heller played up the anti-authoritarian tone and brought a certain black humor to the story. Ken Hyman, the producer assigned by MGM to the project, did not like the fact that Heller had been hired by Aldrich and accused the writer of not letting him see the script. Hyman insisted on the credits reading "Screenplay by Nunnally Johnson." In the end, the Writers Guild ruled that Heller and Johnson would share screen credit. Despite having cast approval, Aldrich was dismayed to find out that Hyman and MGM had offered the lead role of Major Reisman to John Wayne. Fortunately, Wayne dropped out due to demands on his time making The Green Berets (1968), a Vietnam war film he was directing and starring in. Aldrich initially gave the part of the Southern bigot, Maggott, to Jack Palance, star of his scathing Hollywood drama The Big Knife. Palance thought the role failed to make a serious comment about bigotry and withdrew from the film. By Rob Nixon

Behind the Camera-The Dirty Dozen


The film was shot in various locations in England, primarily in Hertfordshire. The major part of it (the training sequence) was shot at Hendon Aerodrome, about 15 miles north of London, while the besieged chateau was built at MGM's British studios in Borehamwood.

The chateau set was built by a crew of 250 people over a period of four months. The production filmed there for 25 days before the climactic scene of the Dozen blowing it up. It was 240 feet wide and 50 feet high and reportedly built so solidly that it would have taken 70 tons of explosives to bring it down, so a cork and plastic section of the set was constructed to be destroyed on film.

The training segment of the story took two months to film.

The cast learned judo and commando techniques.

Lee Marvin later recalled how director Robert Aldrich instructed his cast to get their contemporary hair styles changed to ones more fitting for the time and setting. Marvin immediately got a crew cut, but many of the others merely got trims to their existing styles. After telling them twice their looks weren't acceptable, Aldrich finally told them they needed either to come in with their hair cut correctly or else call their lawyers.

Marvin had worked with Aldrich before, on the war movie Attack. He found the director "a tremendous man to work with. You knew when you went to work with him you were both going for the same object--a good final print."

Marvin also had high praise for all the men in the film, commenting that everyone was ideally cast "and even when they ad-libbed a scene, invariably it was in character, so all it could do was to help the film."

Jim Brown later recalled: "I loved my part. I was one of the Dozen, a quiet leader and my own man, at a time when Hollywood wasn't giving those roles to blacks. ... I've never had more fun making a movie. The male cast was incredible. I worked with some of the strongest, craziest guys in the business."

During production, Art Modell, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, the football team where Jim Brown had distinguished himself as the NFL's all-time leading rusher, told Brown he would have to choose between football and acting. Brown chose the movies and announced his retirement from the sport. Modell later admitted it was a mistake to make Brown choose.

Marvin related a joke Aldrich pulled on Charles Bronson, who was only about 5' 9" and wore low boxing shoes during rehearsal. When it came time to set up the first inspection scene, he placed Bronson between the 6' 6" Clint Walker and the 6' 4" Donald Sutherland. According to Marvin, Aldrich laughed for about ten minutes over Bronson's perturbed reaction.

As shooting ran over schedule, Trini Lopez left the production, whether it was because, as one story has it, Frank Sinatra advised him to quit so he could get back to promoting his recording and performing career or he was let go when his agent demanded more money. Aldrich had his character written out of the story by explaining he had been killed in the parachute jump behind enemy lines.

Commentary on a DVD release of the film claimed the fake inspection scene was originally to be played by Clint Walker, who objected that it was demeaning to his Native American character. It was then given to relative unknown Donald Sutherland.

By Rob Nixon

Behind the Camera-The Dirty Dozen

The film was shot in various locations in England, primarily in Hertfordshire. The major part of it (the training sequence) was shot at Hendon Aerodrome, about 15 miles north of London, while the besieged chateau was built at MGM's British studios in Borehamwood. The chateau set was built by a crew of 250 people over a period of four months. The production filmed there for 25 days before the climactic scene of the Dozen blowing it up. It was 240 feet wide and 50 feet high and reportedly built so solidly that it would have taken 70 tons of explosives to bring it down, so a cork and plastic section of the set was constructed to be destroyed on film. The training segment of the story took two months to film. The cast learned judo and commando techniques. Lee Marvin later recalled how director Robert Aldrich instructed his cast to get their contemporary hair styles changed to ones more fitting for the time and setting. Marvin immediately got a crew cut, but many of the others merely got trims to their existing styles. After telling them twice their looks weren't acceptable, Aldrich finally told them they needed either to come in with their hair cut correctly or else call their lawyers. Marvin had worked with Aldrich before, on the war movie Attack. He found the director "a tremendous man to work with. You knew when you went to work with him you were both going for the same object--a good final print." Marvin also had high praise for all the men in the film, commenting that everyone was ideally cast "and even when they ad-libbed a scene, invariably it was in character, so all it could do was to help the film." Jim Brown later recalled: "I loved my part. I was one of the Dozen, a quiet leader and my own man, at a time when Hollywood wasn't giving those roles to blacks. ... I've never had more fun making a movie. The male cast was incredible. I worked with some of the strongest, craziest guys in the business." During production, Art Modell, the owner of the Cleveland Browns, the football team where Jim Brown had distinguished himself as the NFL's all-time leading rusher, told Brown he would have to choose between football and acting. Brown chose the movies and announced his retirement from the sport. Modell later admitted it was a mistake to make Brown choose. Marvin related a joke Aldrich pulled on Charles Bronson, who was only about 5' 9" and wore low boxing shoes during rehearsal. When it came time to set up the first inspection scene, he placed Bronson between the 6' 6" Clint Walker and the 6' 4" Donald Sutherland. According to Marvin, Aldrich laughed for about ten minutes over Bronson's perturbed reaction. As shooting ran over schedule, Trini Lopez left the production, whether it was because, as one story has it, Frank Sinatra advised him to quit so he could get back to promoting his recording and performing career or he was let go when his agent demanded more money. Aldrich had his character written out of the story by explaining he had been killed in the parachute jump behind enemy lines. Commentary on a DVD release of the film claimed the fake inspection scene was originally to be played by Clint Walker, who objected that it was demeaning to his Native American character. It was then given to relative unknown Donald Sutherland. By Rob Nixon

The Dirty Dozen - The Dirty Dozen


The Dirty Dozen (1967) has been continually popular since it first exploded in 1967 as one of that year's biggest hits. Four Oscar® nominations (with one win for Best Sound Effects by John Poyner) certainly didn't hurt and it's so critically respected that the film has even been shown at the Museum of Modern Art. In fact it's captured imaginations across the world: there's even a Hong Kong remake starring Haing S. Ngor (The Killing Fields, 1984) and Samo Hung! One reason for the success is that despite its superficial appearance as yet another film about soldiers sent on a desperate mission behind enemy lines, The Dirty Dozen strikes the perfect balance between taut action and artistic integrity. Director Robert Aldrich said of this film, "The nature of war is dehumanizing. There's no such thing as a nice war."

The premise is pretty simple: During World War II, the Allies need to destroy a chateau hosting a Nazi conference. The catch is that it's so far behind enemy lines and so well guarded that few soldiers making the attempt can be expected to survive. The solution is to recruit twelve prisoners and misfits with an unspecific promise of pardons if they survive. Since the twelve are a nasty assortment of murderers, psychopaths and other cultural offenders the mission isn't likely to be an easy or pleasant one.

The film is adapted from E.M. Nathanson's novel, which Aldrich had wanted to film even before it was published though rights were bought by MGM. Reportedly Aldrich wasn't happy with the original script, feeling it was too conventional. But bringing the dark cynicism he showed in Kiss Me Deadly and The Big Knife (both filmed in 1955), Aldrich transformed the action film into something more substantial. Shooting started April 25, 1966 in England (three studios were used there) and lasted about six months. Since England isn't the best place to find a French chateau one had to be built. Unfortunately construction was so successful that trying to explode it as planned would have been far too dangerous so a mock-up was used.

The cast apparently enjoyed England, spending a lot of time in what was then swinging London though Lee Marvin would occasionally disappear on one of his motorcycle outings. Clint Walker (who plays Posey) had an unusual experience. He was a well-known TV star for Cheyenne with some film roles under his belt. Walker visited Buckingham Palace and marveled at the famously immobile guards but as he started to walk away, one asked for an autograph out of the side of his mouth! Walker's role was originally meant to be an Indian and include a rain dance. However, some characters were scaled back and others built up such as the part of Robert T. Jefferson. When Cleveland Browns' fullback Jim Brown signed on as Jefferson, director Aldrich beefed up his part because he was such a big football fan. In fact, it was while making The Dirty Dozen that Brown announced his retirement from football. One of the biggest beneficiaries from the film was John Cassavetes who nabbed a Best Supporting Actor nomination. The fame helped him bankroll films as a director just as he was embarking on perhaps his most productive period. In 1998, Joe Dante made his sharp attack on militarism Small Soldiers and for voices of his model-animated characters reunited The Dirty Dozen actors Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, George Kennedy and Clint Walker.

The Dirty Dozen was released in June 1967 and proved to be a big hit, the year's highest grossing film. Aldrich was able to buy a studio with the money he made though it eventually closed a few years later. The actors found more offers coming their way. In the 1980s there would be three TV movie sequels and even a short-lived series. Of course the original is the best and still as exciting now as it was then.

Producer: Kenneth Hyman
Director: Robert Aldrich
Screenplay: Nunnally Johnson, Lukas Heller, based on the novel by E.M. Nathanson
Cinematography: Edward Scaife
Sound Effects: John Poyner
Film Editing: Michael Luciano
Original Music: De Vol
Principal Cast: Lee Marvin (Maj. John Reisman), Ernest Borgnine (Maj. Gen. Worden), Charles Bronson (Joseph T. Wladislaw), Jim Brown (Robert T. Jefferson), John Cassavetes (Victor R. Franko), Richael Jaeckel (Sgt. Bowren), George Kennedy (Major Max Armbruster), Telly Savalas (Maggott), Robert Ryan (Colonel Breed), Donald Sutherland (Vernon L. Pinkley), Trini Lopez (Pedro), Clint Walker (Samson Posey).
C-150m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.

by Lang Thompson

The Dirty Dozen - The Dirty Dozen

The Dirty Dozen (1967) has been continually popular since it first exploded in 1967 as one of that year's biggest hits. Four Oscar® nominations (with one win for Best Sound Effects by John Poyner) certainly didn't hurt and it's so critically respected that the film has even been shown at the Museum of Modern Art. In fact it's captured imaginations across the world: there's even a Hong Kong remake starring Haing S. Ngor (The Killing Fields, 1984) and Samo Hung! One reason for the success is that despite its superficial appearance as yet another film about soldiers sent on a desperate mission behind enemy lines, The Dirty Dozen strikes the perfect balance between taut action and artistic integrity. Director Robert Aldrich said of this film, "The nature of war is dehumanizing. There's no such thing as a nice war." The premise is pretty simple: During World War II, the Allies need to destroy a chateau hosting a Nazi conference. The catch is that it's so far behind enemy lines and so well guarded that few soldiers making the attempt can be expected to survive. The solution is to recruit twelve prisoners and misfits with an unspecific promise of pardons if they survive. Since the twelve are a nasty assortment of murderers, psychopaths and other cultural offenders the mission isn't likely to be an easy or pleasant one. The film is adapted from E.M. Nathanson's novel, which Aldrich had wanted to film even before it was published though rights were bought by MGM. Reportedly Aldrich wasn't happy with the original script, feeling it was too conventional. But bringing the dark cynicism he showed in Kiss Me Deadly and The Big Knife (both filmed in 1955), Aldrich transformed the action film into something more substantial. Shooting started April 25, 1966 in England (three studios were used there) and lasted about six months. Since England isn't the best place to find a French chateau one had to be built. Unfortunately construction was so successful that trying to explode it as planned would have been far too dangerous so a mock-up was used. The cast apparently enjoyed England, spending a lot of time in what was then swinging London though Lee Marvin would occasionally disappear on one of his motorcycle outings. Clint Walker (who plays Posey) had an unusual experience. He was a well-known TV star for Cheyenne with some film roles under his belt. Walker visited Buckingham Palace and marveled at the famously immobile guards but as he started to walk away, one asked for an autograph out of the side of his mouth! Walker's role was originally meant to be an Indian and include a rain dance. However, some characters were scaled back and others built up such as the part of Robert T. Jefferson. When Cleveland Browns' fullback Jim Brown signed on as Jefferson, director Aldrich beefed up his part because he was such a big football fan. In fact, it was while making The Dirty Dozen that Brown announced his retirement from football. One of the biggest beneficiaries from the film was John Cassavetes who nabbed a Best Supporting Actor nomination. The fame helped him bankroll films as a director just as he was embarking on perhaps his most productive period. In 1998, Joe Dante made his sharp attack on militarism Small Soldiers and for voices of his model-animated characters reunited The Dirty Dozen actors Ernest Borgnine, Jim Brown, George Kennedy and Clint Walker. The Dirty Dozen was released in June 1967 and proved to be a big hit, the year's highest grossing film. Aldrich was able to buy a studio with the money he made though it eventually closed a few years later. The actors found more offers coming their way. In the 1980s there would be three TV movie sequels and even a short-lived series. Of course the original is the best and still as exciting now as it was then. Producer: Kenneth Hyman Director: Robert Aldrich Screenplay: Nunnally Johnson, Lukas Heller, based on the novel by E.M. Nathanson Cinematography: Edward Scaife Sound Effects: John Poyner Film Editing: Michael Luciano Original Music: De Vol Principal Cast: Lee Marvin (Maj. John Reisman), Ernest Borgnine (Maj. Gen. Worden), Charles Bronson (Joseph T. Wladislaw), Jim Brown (Robert T. Jefferson), John Cassavetes (Victor R. Franko), Richael Jaeckel (Sgt. Bowren), George Kennedy (Major Max Armbruster), Telly Savalas (Maggott), Robert Ryan (Colonel Breed), Donald Sutherland (Vernon L. Pinkley), Trini Lopez (Pedro), Clint Walker (Samson Posey). C-150m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video. by Lang Thompson

Critics' Corner-The Dirty Dozen


The movie premiered in the US in June 1967 and became the fifth highest grossing of the year. It was also, for a time, one of MGM's top ten moneymakers in its history to that point.

The Dirty Dozen won an Academy Award for Best Sound Effects (John Poyner). Also nominated were John Cassavetes for Best Supporting Actor, Michael Luciano for film editing, and a third nod for Best Sound.

Cassavetes also received a Best Supporting Actor nomination from the Golden Globes.

Michael Luciano was awarded Best Edited Feature Film by the American Cinema Editors USA.

Robert Aldrich was nominated by the Directors Guild of America.

Given the film's success, it's no surprise it was recognized in the annual Laurel Awards presented by Motion Picture Exhibitor magazine: Best Action Performance (Lee Marvin), 2nd place Male Supporting Performance (Jim Brown), 3rd place in the overall Action-Drama category, and a nomination for John Cassavetes for his supporting performance.

The picture won a gold medal in the Photoplay awards presented by the fan magazine of that name.

The Dirty Dozen placed fifth in Film Daily's "Ten Best" list for the year.

With his appearance in this and John Boorman's Point Blank (1967), Lee Marvin became the year's top male box office star.

Robert Aldrich responded to criticism of the film's violence and anti-establishment attitudes: "You see, the Catholics did a strange thing. In their thirty years of running the Breen Office [Hollywood's self-censorship board], they substituted permissive violence for sex. So you could be as violent as you wanted for many, many years. It has only been in the past ten years that violence has been a problem. Now, what I was trying to do was say that under the circumstances, it's not only the Germans who do unkind and hideous, horrible things in the name of war but that the Americans do it and anybody does it. The whole nature of war is dehumanizing. There's no such thing as a nice war."

Lee Marvin also responded to criticism of the film's violence, particularly the scene in which the Nazis officers and the civilians with them are burned alive in the chateau: "Life is a violent situation. Let's not kid ourselves about that. It's not just the men in the chalet who were Nazis; the women were part of it, too. I liked the idea of the final scene because it was their job to destroy the whole group and maybe in some way speed up the demise of the Third Reich. We glorify the 8th Air Force for bombing cities where they killed 100,000 people in one night, but remember, there were a lot of women and children burned up in those raids."

"The Dirty Dozen is the definitive enlisted man's picture. In its view, World War II was a private affair in which officers were hypocritical, stupid or German, and only the dogfaced soldier was gutsy enough to be great. In this film, the lopsided interpretation works largely because of a fine cast and a taut plot that closes the credibility gap. ... Director Robert Aldrich gets convincingly raw, tough performances in even the smallest roles." - Time

"Robert Aldrich has turned The Dirty Dozen into one of the best and least compromising he-man adventure films. It's superbly cast. Everyone is excellent from Lee Marvin down. It's a slam-bang, grown-up adventure story, thumbing its nose at authority and morality and at the compromise that is Hollywood's war cliché. It is cruel and unpleasant on an intellectual level, but that, of course, is war." - Judith Crist, Today show, NBC

"The realization that authority not only has its uses but, for some men, fulfills an aching need is a bitter pill that Aldrich coats with bountiful action, robust humor, and a uniformly superb cast." - Arthur Knight, Saturday Review

"A raw and preposterous glorification of a group of criminal soldiers who are trained to kill and who then go about this brutal business with hot, sadistic zeal is advanced in The Dirty Dozen, an astonishingly wanton war film. ... It is not simply that this violent picture of an American military venture is based on a fictional supposition that is silly and irresponsible. Its thesis that a dozen military prisoners, condemned to death or long prison terms for murder, rape, and other crimes, would be hauled out of prison and secretly trained for a critical commando raid behind the German lines prior to D-Day might be acceptable as a frankly romantic supposition, if other factors were fairly plausible. ... One might wonder, at times, whether [Nunnally] Johnson and [Lukas] Heller were not attempting a subtle exposition of the hideousness and morbidity of war--that is, until [Robert] Aldrich sets the hoodlums to roaring and shooting guns. Then it is clear that the intent of this loud picture is just to delight and stimulate the easily moved." - Bosley Crowther, New York Times, June 16, 1967

"Marvin again delivers a top performance, probably because he seems at his best in a role as a sardonic authoritarian. Charles Bronson, a very capable actor, stands out as a Polish-American who, once affixing his loyalty, does not shift under even physical brutality." - Variety

The Dirty Dozen ... is the beneficiary of extensive advance publicity and excitement and has a strong, virile cast to deliver both the brutalizing violence and grotesque comedy.... It is overlong, uneven, and frequently obscure, but will succeed by virtue of its sustained action, even though what it attempts to say, if anything, remains elusive." - Hollywood Reporter

"The Dirty Dozen is so full of socially deleterious propaganda that everyone connected with it should be ashamed. ... Criminal and psychopathic forms of sadism are made to seem no different from those of war." - Gordon Drummond, Films in Review

"A box office smash despite the moviegoers' growing aversion to the genre in light of Vietnam. That's because it managed to stage exciting, brutal war sequences while simultaneously celebrating misfits, putting down authority figures and the military, and showing war to be a madman's game that can only be fought down and dirty." - Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic (Simon & Schuster, 1986)

"Apart from the values of team spirit, cudgeled by Marvin into his dropout group, Aldrich appears to be against everything: anti-military, anti-Establishment, anti-women, anti-religion, anti-culture, anti-life. Overriding such nihilism is the super-crudity of Aldrich's energy and his humour, sufficiently cynical to suggest that the whole thing is a game anyway, a spectacle that demands an audience." - Time Out Film Guide

By Rob Nixon

Critics' Corner-The Dirty Dozen

The movie premiered in the US in June 1967 and became the fifth highest grossing of the year. It was also, for a time, one of MGM's top ten moneymakers in its history to that point. The Dirty Dozen won an Academy Award for Best Sound Effects (John Poyner). Also nominated were John Cassavetes for Best Supporting Actor, Michael Luciano for film editing, and a third nod for Best Sound. Cassavetes also received a Best Supporting Actor nomination from the Golden Globes. Michael Luciano was awarded Best Edited Feature Film by the American Cinema Editors USA. Robert Aldrich was nominated by the Directors Guild of America. Given the film's success, it's no surprise it was recognized in the annual Laurel Awards presented by Motion Picture Exhibitor magazine: Best Action Performance (Lee Marvin), 2nd place Male Supporting Performance (Jim Brown), 3rd place in the overall Action-Drama category, and a nomination for John Cassavetes for his supporting performance. The picture won a gold medal in the Photoplay awards presented by the fan magazine of that name. The Dirty Dozen placed fifth in Film Daily's "Ten Best" list for the year. With his appearance in this and John Boorman's Point Blank (1967), Lee Marvin became the year's top male box office star. Robert Aldrich responded to criticism of the film's violence and anti-establishment attitudes: "You see, the Catholics did a strange thing. In their thirty years of running the Breen Office [Hollywood's self-censorship board], they substituted permissive violence for sex. So you could be as violent as you wanted for many, many years. It has only been in the past ten years that violence has been a problem. Now, what I was trying to do was say that under the circumstances, it's not only the Germans who do unkind and hideous, horrible things in the name of war but that the Americans do it and anybody does it. The whole nature of war is dehumanizing. There's no such thing as a nice war." Lee Marvin also responded to criticism of the film's violence, particularly the scene in which the Nazis officers and the civilians with them are burned alive in the chateau: "Life is a violent situation. Let's not kid ourselves about that. It's not just the men in the chalet who were Nazis; the women were part of it, too. I liked the idea of the final scene because it was their job to destroy the whole group and maybe in some way speed up the demise of the Third Reich. We glorify the 8th Air Force for bombing cities where they killed 100,000 people in one night, but remember, there were a lot of women and children burned up in those raids." "The Dirty Dozen is the definitive enlisted man's picture. In its view, World War II was a private affair in which officers were hypocritical, stupid or German, and only the dogfaced soldier was gutsy enough to be great. In this film, the lopsided interpretation works largely because of a fine cast and a taut plot that closes the credibility gap. ... Director Robert Aldrich gets convincingly raw, tough performances in even the smallest roles." - Time "Robert Aldrich has turned The Dirty Dozen into one of the best and least compromising he-man adventure films. It's superbly cast. Everyone is excellent from Lee Marvin down. It's a slam-bang, grown-up adventure story, thumbing its nose at authority and morality and at the compromise that is Hollywood's war cliché. It is cruel and unpleasant on an intellectual level, but that, of course, is war." - Judith Crist, Today show, NBC "The realization that authority not only has its uses but, for some men, fulfills an aching need is a bitter pill that Aldrich coats with bountiful action, robust humor, and a uniformly superb cast." - Arthur Knight, Saturday Review "A raw and preposterous glorification of a group of criminal soldiers who are trained to kill and who then go about this brutal business with hot, sadistic zeal is advanced in The Dirty Dozen, an astonishingly wanton war film. ... It is not simply that this violent picture of an American military venture is based on a fictional supposition that is silly and irresponsible. Its thesis that a dozen military prisoners, condemned to death or long prison terms for murder, rape, and other crimes, would be hauled out of prison and secretly trained for a critical commando raid behind the German lines prior to D-Day might be acceptable as a frankly romantic supposition, if other factors were fairly plausible. ... One might wonder, at times, whether [Nunnally] Johnson and [Lukas] Heller were not attempting a subtle exposition of the hideousness and morbidity of war--that is, until [Robert] Aldrich sets the hoodlums to roaring and shooting guns. Then it is clear that the intent of this loud picture is just to delight and stimulate the easily moved." - Bosley Crowther, New York Times, June 16, 1967 "Marvin again delivers a top performance, probably because he seems at his best in a role as a sardonic authoritarian. Charles Bronson, a very capable actor, stands out as a Polish-American who, once affixing his loyalty, does not shift under even physical brutality." - Variety The Dirty Dozen ... is the beneficiary of extensive advance publicity and excitement and has a strong, virile cast to deliver both the brutalizing violence and grotesque comedy.... It is overlong, uneven, and frequently obscure, but will succeed by virtue of its sustained action, even though what it attempts to say, if anything, remains elusive." - Hollywood Reporter "The Dirty Dozen is so full of socially deleterious propaganda that everyone connected with it should be ashamed. ... Criminal and psychopathic forms of sadism are made to seem no different from those of war." - Gordon Drummond, Films in Review "A box office smash despite the moviegoers' growing aversion to the genre in light of Vietnam. That's because it managed to stage exciting, brutal war sequences while simultaneously celebrating misfits, putting down authority figures and the military, and showing war to be a madman's game that can only be fought down and dirty." - Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic (Simon & Schuster, 1986) "Apart from the values of team spirit, cudgeled by Marvin into his dropout group, Aldrich appears to be against everything: anti-military, anti-Establishment, anti-women, anti-religion, anti-culture, anti-life. Overriding such nihilism is the super-crudity of Aldrich's energy and his humour, sufficiently cynical to suggest that the whole thing is a game anyway, a spectacle that demands an audience." - Time Out Film Guide By Rob Nixon

The Dirty Dozen - Lee Marvin, Jim Brown and Charles Bronson star in THE DIRTY DOZEN (Special Edition) on DVD


It's hard to go wrong with Robert Aldrich. By the time he made 1967's The Dirty Dozen, he'd already made one of the most hard-edged private eye movies (Kiss Me Deadly), another essential film noir in which the violence is all mental (The Big Knife), one of the great anti-war movies (Attack!) and a dandy western (Vera Cruz). Aldrich generally avoided the bloated spectacles many veteran directors indulged in during the 1960s, recovering from his lone foray, Sodom and Gomorrah, by making the enjoyably garish What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. The Dirty Dozen is certainly an overextended late-1960s big budget movie, and its 150-minute running time could have benefited from a trim. But while capable contemporaries were turning out big-budget fluff like Doctor Dolittle, Darling Lili and Star!, Aldrich's big-budget World War II action-thriller has bite.

The Dirty Dozen definitely springs from the 1960s group-of-guys action genre that had included The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and The Professionals. But it also is clearly made by the man who gave us Attack!, which is at least as anti-authoritarian and was made 11 years before. Lee Marvin's Major John Reisman in The Dirty Dozen is very similar to Jack Palance's Lieutenant Joe Costa in Attack!. They're both very capable soldiers and very suspicious of higher-ups. The disgusted sneer Reisman perpetually wears on his face immediately sets the tone for The Dirty Dozen. He's disgusted when the generals played by Ernest Borgnine and Robert Webber assign him to lead a squad of military convicts on a near-suicide mission, disgusted when he meets the troublemakers he has to whip into shape (characters played by John Cassavetes, Jim Brown, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland among them), disgusted when the officer he's feuding with (Robert Ryan) makes it difficult for the squad and disgusted when he has to masquerade as a Nazi as part of the plan whereby the squad will kill as many German officers as possible at a French chateau the Nazis use for luxurious R & R.

In finding honor in a group of transgressive criminals that the Army brass have given up on, The Dirty Dozen toyed with notions of heroism and patriotism in ways that were very timely for 1967, when the number of people questioning our purpose in the Vietnam War was increasing. The new special edition DVD of The Dirty Dozen includes an audio commentary cobbled together from clips with surviving cast members such as Brown, Trini Lopez, Clint Walker and Stuart Cooper (who later directed the outstanding indie WWII movie, Overlord). But the best thing in the commentary is a letter written by Aldrich to producer Kenneth Hyman, when the movie was still in pre-production, read by film historian David Schow. Aldrich totally nails the importance of the movie's attitude and complains that the existing script plays like a rah-rah 1950 movie, not a 1967 movie (Aldrich ultimately had frequent collaborator Lukas Heller polish Nunnally Johnson's existing script before cameras rolled). A very interesting fact that comes out is that Hyman had offered the role of Reisman to John Wayne, who fortunately turned it down (and went off to make the anachronistic The Green Berets instead). You know Aldrich heaved a sigh of relief when he could cast Marvin as Reisman. Dale Dye, the former Marine and frequent military advisor of movies who also chips in on the audio commentary, says it best when summing up what's usually in Reisman's head: "This is all Bravo Sierra." Clearly, The Dirty Dozen paved the way for Robert Altman's even more irreverent M*A*S*H, while Aldrich returned to a similar premise in 1974 with The Longest Yard.

In a rare gaffe from Warner Home Video, which normally does a smart job of organizing its DVDs, the packaging fails to list which extras are on which disc. The only way to find out is to pop the discs in your player. The vintage promo short Operation Dirty Dozen, filmed during the movie's English shoot (and, which, if I recall, is on disc one), is an amusingly dated look at, as it calls them, "action guys" in swinging London. On disc two, the new Armed and Deadly: The Making of the Dirty Dozen is an engaging half-hour collection of surviving cast member's anecdotes (Sutherland tells of how he was supposed to have only one line in the movie, but ended up getting more and getting cast in M*A*S*H because of his performance). Less interesting is the initially involving The Filthy Thirteen: Real Stories from Behind the Lines, which starts as a look at any possible relation between the fiction of The Dirty Dozen and real incidents in World War II. It veers into a chronicle of paratrooper Jake McNiece, whose combat exploits are amazing, but this drags on for 47 minutes. Save it for the Military Channel.

The new The Dirty Dozen special edition DVD also includes The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission, the first of three mid-1980s TV sequels (coincidentally, the other two have come out together on another DVD). Even though this is the one Marvin appears in (he died before the others), it's small consolation. These TV movies were less of an attempt to live up to the original as they were an attempt to cash in on the success of TV's The A Team, in some ways a Dirty Dozen knock-off. Another project Marvin completed shortly before his death, the training film Marine Combat Leadership Skills, adds to the cheesy side of disc two.

For more information about the special edition of The Dirty Dozen, visit Warner Video. To order The Dirty Dozen, go to TCM Shopping.

by Paul Sherman

The Dirty Dozen - Lee Marvin, Jim Brown and Charles Bronson star in THE DIRTY DOZEN (Special Edition) on DVD

It's hard to go wrong with Robert Aldrich. By the time he made 1967's The Dirty Dozen, he'd already made one of the most hard-edged private eye movies (Kiss Me Deadly), another essential film noir in which the violence is all mental (The Big Knife), one of the great anti-war movies (Attack!) and a dandy western (Vera Cruz). Aldrich generally avoided the bloated spectacles many veteran directors indulged in during the 1960s, recovering from his lone foray, Sodom and Gomorrah, by making the enjoyably garish What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. The Dirty Dozen is certainly an overextended late-1960s big budget movie, and its 150-minute running time could have benefited from a trim. But while capable contemporaries were turning out big-budget fluff like Doctor Dolittle, Darling Lili and Star!, Aldrich's big-budget World War II action-thriller has bite. The Dirty Dozen definitely springs from the 1960s group-of-guys action genre that had included The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and The Professionals. But it also is clearly made by the man who gave us Attack!, which is at least as anti-authoritarian and was made 11 years before. Lee Marvin's Major John Reisman in The Dirty Dozen is very similar to Jack Palance's Lieutenant Joe Costa in Attack!. They're both very capable soldiers and very suspicious of higher-ups. The disgusted sneer Reisman perpetually wears on his face immediately sets the tone for The Dirty Dozen. He's disgusted when the generals played by Ernest Borgnine and Robert Webber assign him to lead a squad of military convicts on a near-suicide mission, disgusted when he meets the troublemakers he has to whip into shape (characters played by John Cassavetes, Jim Brown, Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas and Donald Sutherland among them), disgusted when the officer he's feuding with (Robert Ryan) makes it difficult for the squad and disgusted when he has to masquerade as a Nazi as part of the plan whereby the squad will kill as many German officers as possible at a French chateau the Nazis use for luxurious R & R. In finding honor in a group of transgressive criminals that the Army brass have given up on, The Dirty Dozen toyed with notions of heroism and patriotism in ways that were very timely for 1967, when the number of people questioning our purpose in the Vietnam War was increasing. The new special edition DVD of The Dirty Dozen includes an audio commentary cobbled together from clips with surviving cast members such as Brown, Trini Lopez, Clint Walker and Stuart Cooper (who later directed the outstanding indie WWII movie, Overlord). But the best thing in the commentary is a letter written by Aldrich to producer Kenneth Hyman, when the movie was still in pre-production, read by film historian David Schow. Aldrich totally nails the importance of the movie's attitude and complains that the existing script plays like a rah-rah 1950 movie, not a 1967 movie (Aldrich ultimately had frequent collaborator Lukas Heller polish Nunnally Johnson's existing script before cameras rolled). A very interesting fact that comes out is that Hyman had offered the role of Reisman to John Wayne, who fortunately turned it down (and went off to make the anachronistic The Green Berets instead). You know Aldrich heaved a sigh of relief when he could cast Marvin as Reisman. Dale Dye, the former Marine and frequent military advisor of movies who also chips in on the audio commentary, says it best when summing up what's usually in Reisman's head: "This is all Bravo Sierra." Clearly, The Dirty Dozen paved the way for Robert Altman's even more irreverent M*A*S*H, while Aldrich returned to a similar premise in 1974 with The Longest Yard. In a rare gaffe from Warner Home Video, which normally does a smart job of organizing its DVDs, the packaging fails to list which extras are on which disc. The only way to find out is to pop the discs in your player. The vintage promo short Operation Dirty Dozen, filmed during the movie's English shoot (and, which, if I recall, is on disc one), is an amusingly dated look at, as it calls them, "action guys" in swinging London. On disc two, the new Armed and Deadly: The Making of the Dirty Dozen is an engaging half-hour collection of surviving cast member's anecdotes (Sutherland tells of how he was supposed to have only one line in the movie, but ended up getting more and getting cast in M*A*S*H because of his performance). Less interesting is the initially involving The Filthy Thirteen: Real Stories from Behind the Lines, which starts as a look at any possible relation between the fiction of The Dirty Dozen and real incidents in World War II. It veers into a chronicle of paratrooper Jake McNiece, whose combat exploits are amazing, but this drags on for 47 minutes. Save it for the Military Channel. The new The Dirty Dozen special edition DVD also includes The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission, the first of three mid-1980s TV sequels (coincidentally, the other two have come out together on another DVD). Even though this is the one Marvin appears in (he died before the others), it's small consolation. These TV movies were less of an attempt to live up to the original as they were an attempt to cash in on the success of TV's The A Team, in some ways a Dirty Dozen knock-off. Another project Marvin completed shortly before his death, the training film Marine Combat Leadership Skills, adds to the cheesy side of disc two. For more information about the special edition of The Dirty Dozen, visit Warner Video. To order The Dirty Dozen, go to TCM Shopping. by Paul Sherman

TCM Remembers Charles Bronson - Sept. 13th - TCM Remembers Charles Bronson this Saturday, Sept. 13th 2003.


Turner Classic Movies will honor the passing of Hollywood action star Charles Bronson on Saturday, Sept. 13, with a four-film tribute.

After years of playing supporting roles in numerous Western, action and war films, including THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960, 8 p.m.) and THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967, 1:15 a.m.), Bronson finally achieved worldwide stardom as a leading man during the late 1960s and early 1970s. TCM's tribute will also include THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963, 10:15 p.m.), Bronson's second teaming with Steve McQueen and James Coburn, and will conclude with FROM NOON TILL THREE (1976, 4 a.m.), co-starring Jill Ireland.

TCM will alter it's prime-time schedule this Saturday, Sept. 13th. The following changes will take place:

8:00 PM - The Magnificent Seven (1960)
10:15 PM - The Great Escape (1963)
1:15 AM - The Dirty Dozen (1967)
4:00 AM - From Noon Till Three (1976)

Charles Bronson, 1921-2003

Charles Bronson, the tough, stony-faced actor who was one of the most recognizable action heroes in cinema, died on August 30 in Los Angeles from complications from pneumonia. He was 81.

He was born Charles Buchinsky on November 3, 1921 in Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, one of fifteen children born to Lithuanian immigrant parents. Although he was the only child to have graduated high school, he worked in the coalmines to support his family until he joined the army to serve as a tail gunner during World War II. He used his money from the G.I. Bill to study art in Philadelphia, but while working as a set designer for a Philadelphia theater troupe, he landed a few small roles in some productions and immediately found acting to be the craft for him.

Bronson took his new career turn seriously, moved to California, and enrolled for acting classes at The Pasadena Playhouse. An instructor there recommended him to director Henry Hathaway for a movie role and the result was his debut in Hathaway's You're in the Navy Now (1951). He secured more bit parts in films like John Sturges' drama The People Against O'Hara (1951), and Joseph Newman's Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952). More substantial roles came in George Cukor's Pat and Mike (1952, where he is beaten up by Katharine Hepburn!); Andre de Toth's classic 3-D thriller House of Wax (1953, as Vincent Price's mute assistant, Igor); and De Toth's fine low-budget noir Crime Wave (1954).

Despite his formidable presence, his leads were confined to a string of B pictures like Gene Fowler's Gang War; and Roger Corman's tight Machine Gun Kelly (both 1958). Following his own television series, Man With a Camera (1958-60), Bronson had his first taste of film stardom when director Sturges casted him as Bernardo, one of the The Magnificent Seven (1960). Bronson displayed a powerful charisma, comfortably holding his own in a high-powered cast that included Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. A few more solid roles followed in Sturges' The Great Escape (1963), and Robert Aldrich's classic war picture The Dirty Dozen (1967), before Bronson made the decision to follow the European trail of other American actors like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. It was there that his hard, taciturn screen personae exploded in full force. In 1968 alone, he had four hit films: Henri Verneuil's Guns for San Sebastian, Buzz Kulik's Villa Rides, Jean Herman's Adieu l'ami which was a smash in France; and the classic Sergio Leone spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West.

These films established Bronson as a huge box-office draw in Europe, and with some more stylish hits like Rene Clement's Rider on the Rain (1969), and Terence Young's Cold Sweat (1971) he soon became one of the most popular film stars in the world. It wasn't easy for Bronson to translate that success back in his homeland. In fact, his first few films on his return stateside: Michael Winners' Chato's Land, and The Mechanic (both 1972), and Richard Fleischer's Mr. Majestyk (1973), were surprisingly routine pictures. It wasn't until he collaborated with Winner again for the controversial Death Wish (1974), an urban revenge thriller about an architect who turns vigilante when his wife and daughter are raped, did he notch his first stateside hit. The next few years would be a fruitful period for Bronson as he rode on a wave of fine films and commercial success: a depression era streetfighter in Walter Hill's terrific, if underrated Hard Times (1975); Frank Gilroy's charming offbeat black comedy From Noon Till Three (1976, the best of many teamings with his second wife, Jill Ireland); Tom Gries tense Breakheart Pass; and Don Siegel's cold-war thriller Telefon (1977).

Sadly, Bronson could not keep up the momentum of good movies, and by the '80s he was starring in a string of forgettable films like Ten to Midnight (1983), The Evil That Men Do (1984), and Murphy's Law (1986, all directed by J. Lee Thompson). A notable exception to all that tripe was John Mackenzie's fine telefilm Act of Vengeance (1986), where he earned critical acclaim in the role of United Mine Workers official Jack Yablonski. Although he more or less fell into semi-retirement in the '90s, his performances in Sean Penn's The Indian Runner (1991); and the title role of Michael Anderson's The Sea Wolf (1993) proved to many that Bronson had the makings of a fine character actor. He was married to actress Jill Ireland from 1968 until her death from breast cancer in 1990. He is survived by his third wife Kim Weeks, six children, and two grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

TCM Remembers Charles Bronson - Sept. 13th - TCM Remembers Charles Bronson this Saturday, Sept. 13th 2003.

Turner Classic Movies will honor the passing of Hollywood action star Charles Bronson on Saturday, Sept. 13, with a four-film tribute. After years of playing supporting roles in numerous Western, action and war films, including THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960, 8 p.m.) and THE DIRTY DOZEN (1967, 1:15 a.m.), Bronson finally achieved worldwide stardom as a leading man during the late 1960s and early 1970s. TCM's tribute will also include THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963, 10:15 p.m.), Bronson's second teaming with Steve McQueen and James Coburn, and will conclude with FROM NOON TILL THREE (1976, 4 a.m.), co-starring Jill Ireland. TCM will alter it's prime-time schedule this Saturday, Sept. 13th. The following changes will take place: 8:00 PM - The Magnificent Seven (1960) 10:15 PM - The Great Escape (1963) 1:15 AM - The Dirty Dozen (1967) 4:00 AM - From Noon Till Three (1976) Charles Bronson, 1921-2003 Charles Bronson, the tough, stony-faced actor who was one of the most recognizable action heroes in cinema, died on August 30 in Los Angeles from complications from pneumonia. He was 81. He was born Charles Buchinsky on November 3, 1921 in Ehrenfeld, Pennsylvania, one of fifteen children born to Lithuanian immigrant parents. Although he was the only child to have graduated high school, he worked in the coalmines to support his family until he joined the army to serve as a tail gunner during World War II. He used his money from the G.I. Bill to study art in Philadelphia, but while working as a set designer for a Philadelphia theater troupe, he landed a few small roles in some productions and immediately found acting to be the craft for him. Bronson took his new career turn seriously, moved to California, and enrolled for acting classes at The Pasadena Playhouse. An instructor there recommended him to director Henry Hathaway for a movie role and the result was his debut in Hathaway's You're in the Navy Now (1951). He secured more bit parts in films like John Sturges' drama The People Against O'Hara (1951), and Joseph Newman's Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952). More substantial roles came in George Cukor's Pat and Mike (1952, where he is beaten up by Katharine Hepburn!); Andre de Toth's classic 3-D thriller House of Wax (1953, as Vincent Price's mute assistant, Igor); and De Toth's fine low-budget noir Crime Wave (1954). Despite his formidable presence, his leads were confined to a string of B pictures like Gene Fowler's Gang War; and Roger Corman's tight Machine Gun Kelly (both 1958). Following his own television series, Man With a Camera (1958-60), Bronson had his first taste of film stardom when director Sturges casted him as Bernardo, one of the The Magnificent Seven (1960). Bronson displayed a powerful charisma, comfortably holding his own in a high-powered cast that included Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. A few more solid roles followed in Sturges' The Great Escape (1963), and Robert Aldrich's classic war picture The Dirty Dozen (1967), before Bronson made the decision to follow the European trail of other American actors like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef. It was there that his hard, taciturn screen personae exploded in full force. In 1968 alone, he had four hit films: Henri Verneuil's Guns for San Sebastian, Buzz Kulik's Villa Rides, Jean Herman's Adieu l'ami which was a smash in France; and the classic Sergio Leone spaghetti Western Once Upon a Time in the West. These films established Bronson as a huge box-office draw in Europe, and with some more stylish hits like Rene Clement's Rider on the Rain (1969), and Terence Young's Cold Sweat (1971) he soon became one of the most popular film stars in the world. It wasn't easy for Bronson to translate that success back in his homeland. In fact, his first few films on his return stateside: Michael Winners' Chato's Land, and The Mechanic (both 1972), and Richard Fleischer's Mr. Majestyk (1973), were surprisingly routine pictures. It wasn't until he collaborated with Winner again for the controversial Death Wish (1974), an urban revenge thriller about an architect who turns vigilante when his wife and daughter are raped, did he notch his first stateside hit. The next few years would be a fruitful period for Bronson as he rode on a wave of fine films and commercial success: a depression era streetfighter in Walter Hill's terrific, if underrated Hard Times (1975); Frank Gilroy's charming offbeat black comedy From Noon Till Three (1976, the best of many teamings with his second wife, Jill Ireland); Tom Gries tense Breakheart Pass; and Don Siegel's cold-war thriller Telefon (1977). Sadly, Bronson could not keep up the momentum of good movies, and by the '80s he was starring in a string of forgettable films like Ten to Midnight (1983), The Evil That Men Do (1984), and Murphy's Law (1986, all directed by J. Lee Thompson). A notable exception to all that tripe was John Mackenzie's fine telefilm Act of Vengeance (1986), where he earned critical acclaim in the role of United Mine Workers official Jack Yablonski. Although he more or less fell into semi-retirement in the '90s, his performances in Sean Penn's The Indian Runner (1991); and the title role of Michael Anderson's The Sea Wolf (1993) proved to many that Bronson had the makings of a fine character actor. He was married to actress Jill Ireland from 1968 until her death from breast cancer in 1990. He is survived by his third wife Kim Weeks, six children, and two grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

I reckon the folks'd be a sight happier if I died like a soldier. Can't say I would.
- Samson Posey
Killin' generals could get to be a habit with me.
- Joseph T. Wladislaw
You've seen a general inspecting troops before haven't you? Just walk slow, act dumb and look stupid!
- Major John Reisman
Hey! What's the matter with you? You think I'm going to die? Ha! If you think that then you don't know Victor Franko.
- Victor R. Franko
How come you speak German?
- Major John Reisman
My old man came from Silesia. He didn't speak German, he didn't dig coal. p He didn't dig coal, he didn't eat.
- Joseph T. Wladislaw

Trivia

Although Aldrich had tried to purchase the rights to E.M. Nathanson's novel, The Dirty Dozen, while it was still in outline form, it was MGM that successfully acquired the property in May 1963. The book became a bestseller upon its publication in 1965.

The French chateau, that appears in the film was constructed especially for the production by art director Bill Hutchinson and his crew of 85. One of the largest sets ever built, it stood 240 feet across and 50 high. Gardeners surrounded the building with 5400 square yards of heather, 400 ferns, 450 shrubs, 30 spruce trees and 6 full-grown weeping willows.

Construction of the faux chateau proved *too* good. The script called for it to be blown up, but the construction was so solid that 70 tons of explosives would have been needed to achieve the effect! Instead, a section was rebuilt from cork and plastic.

'Wayne, John' was the first selected to portray Major. John Reisman, but instead went on to star and direct another war film The Green Berets. Then later Lee Marvin was chosen for the part.

During the "Last Supper" scene, Maggot (Telly Salvalas) is in the Judas position of the Da'Vinci painting, before betraying the team during their mission.

Notes

Filmed in England. Print blown up to 70mm for some engagements.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer June 1967

Released in United States on Video December 6, 1988

Released in United States 1994

Scope

Released in United States Summer June 1967

Released in United States on Video December 6, 1988

Released in United States 1994 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade) as part of program "Apocalypse Anytime! The Films of Robert Aldrich" March 11 - April 8, 1994.)