World War II Marathon: The Dirty Dozen (1967)


Film #21 in the World War II Marathon!

Screenplay By: Lukas Heller & Nunnally Johnson
Directed By: Robert Aldrich

I love movies that make me think, movies that challenge the way I view cinema and my general outlook on the world. However, every once in a while I’m not looking for that type of movie. I’m not looking for ambiguity, thematic struggle or any sort of historical accuracy. What I am looking for is a straight kick in the teeth, a chance to watch men be men and blow shit up. The Dirty Dozen fulfills that need, it fulfills that need in spades, even if it is lacking a tad bit in the creative death department.

There honestly isn’t much more to The Dirty Dozen than straight up machismo action. I’m not going to launch into paragraphs breaking down why this character does that or the cinematography, or any cinematic virtues. That’s not a knock on the film, it just happens to be that simple and that easy to break down. There are good guys and there are bad guys, every man we see is a meat gnawing tough guy and the good guys will triumph in the end or at least have a glorious death. Simple isn’t it? Don’t let that fool you, The Dirty Dozen doesn’t need to be complicated, its greatness resides in its willingness to be simple and cater to the simple joys of good guys kicking ass.

I will admit that there were a few instances where I felt like the film took on too much of an incredulous tone. Foremost being the scene when Col. Breed invades the compound of the Dozen. I understand why that scene took place, but it felt too over the top in a movie that had plenty of over the top scenes. Maybe the problem isn’t in the idea behind the scene, but the execution. All I know is that scene didn’t work for me and there were a few other similar moments that didn’t work for me either.

I don’t want to sound like I am talking down to The Dirty Dozen when I call it a simple movie, but that’s really all it is and that simplicity is all that makes it great. People die, gun fights take place, explosions are to be found and laughs are all over the place. The Dirty Dozen isn’t so much an action movie as it is an old time tough guy movie, and The Dirty Dozen is one tough cookie of a movie.




7 responses to “World War II Marathon: The Dirty Dozen (1967)

  1. Well put, man. Pretty straightforward movie with a cast of total badasses. Might be Jim Brown’s best role, too.

  2. great picture Bill, fun movie

  3. Actually, the characters aren’t badasses or macho.
    They’re all former prisoners – rapists, murderers, etc. Not really the most stand-up citizens.
    It’s a movie about wartime atrocities. The final conflict isn’t much of a conflict – it’s a massacre.
    Yes, the massacre is committed against Nazis but if you know anything about how Nazis exterminated people in their concentration death camps – the means are vaguely familiar.
    Again, like in your Texas Chainsaw Massacre review, you miss the subtext of the film. This was released in 1967 – again, during Vietnam War. Another war full of atrocities on both sides.
    Who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy? That’s question that this film is raising.
    It’s not straightforward in the least.

    You really need to look at the subtext of the films and think about them before you write these reviews.

  4. And think about this…

    these are guys that are presumably going to be returning home after the war

    the same rapists, murderers, and men who were allowed to commit atrocities

    how will society deal with them and how will they deal with society?

    it’s another question the film is trying to make you ask yourself

    it’s not a macho film at all
    it’s an anti-war film if there ever was one

  5. Aiden – I haven’t seen a lot of Brown’s films, but he is good in this one.

    Ross – Yep, it’s a lot of fun.

    Fred – 1) You don’t have to like someone for them to be macho or bad ass, that’s not the way the world works, or those words. A person can be the biggest piece of shit alive, and still be as macho as all get out and the baddest of the bad asses.

    2) Once again, I was a history major, I know all about the era when the film was made. I’ve written entire dissertations on the Nazis and on Vietnam as well.

    3) Sometimes people search for subtext and miss the forest for the trees. That is what you are doing here, instead of seeing the film as the straight forward balls to the wall action film that it is you are attempting to apply subtext where there isn’t any. The Dirty Dozen isn’t a film with a message, much like The Great Escape it is a simple WWII action film, it just happens to be executed better than that film.

    4) I don’t think you understand how film criticism works. This isn’t a college level dissertation, it isn’t a novel on the film, it is a small snippet about the film. In some reviews I focus on subtext, theme and message, other reviews I focus on acting, or directing, or cinematography, and so on. Not every review is the same and not every review will cover every facet of the film being reviewed. Just because I don’t talk about the subtext doesn’t always mean that I didn’t recognize it, except in this case I believe you are applying subtext where none exists.

  6. Take it easy there, Fred. I’m with Bill on this one. This movie is about badasses killing nazis. Game. Set. Match.


  7. Thanks for the feedback Aiden.

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