In 1944, twelve Death Row convicts are selected by Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) for a suicide mission. With the aid of his assistant, Sergeant Bowren (Richard Jaeckel), Reisman gradually moulds his gang of murderers, rapists, thieves and psychotics into a tough fighting unit. He leads them into occupied France in an attempt to infiltrate a chateau where the Nazi top brass are holding a summit. Telly Savalas, Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes and a then-unknown Donald Sutherland are among the dozen.
A model for dozens of action films to follow, this box-office hit from 1967 refined a die-hard formula that has become overly familiar, but it's rarely been handled better than it was in this action-packed World War II thriller. Lee Marvin is perfectly cast as a down-but-not-out army major who is offered a shot at personal and professional redemption. If he can successfully train and discipline a squad of army rejects, misfits, killers, prisoners, and psychopaths into a first-rate unit of specialised soldiers, they'll earn a second chance to make up for their woeful misdeeds. Of course, there's a catch: to obtain their pardons, Marvin's band of badmen must agree to a suicide mission that will parachute them into the danger zone of Nazi-occupied France. It's a hazardous path to glory, but the men have no other choice than to accept and regain their lost honor. What makes The Dirty Dozen special is its phenomenal cast including Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas, George Kennedy, Ernest Borgnine, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, Jim Brown, Clint Walker, Trini Lopez, Robert Ryan, and others. Cassavetes is the Oscar-nominated standout as one of Marvin's most rebellious yet heroic men, but it's the whole ensemble--combined with the hard-as-nails direction of Robert Aldrich--that makes this such a high-velocity crowd pleaser. The script by Nunnally Johnson and Lukas Heller (from the novel by E.M. Nathanson) is strong enough to support the all-star lineup with ample humour and military grit, so if you're in need of a mainline jolt of testosterone, The Dirty Dozen is the movie for you. --Jeff Shannon
Twelve jailbirds will earn their freedom...if they survive a suicide mission against the Nazi brass. Tough-as-nails Lee Marvin leads a nothing-to-lose convict squad of Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Trini Lopez, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, Clint Walker and more in the all-time action trendsetter.