2012 Film Challenge #19 - The Dirty Dozen

No, I'd never seen The Dirty Dozen before.

A fine ensemble cast, the only women to be seen are to be slept with – this is one of those laddish manly films, isn't it? The sort all men everywhere are supposed to watch with their tops off – hands resting on bloated, sunburned bellies as they consider the notion of “real men”. Yeah.

Tom Hanks and Billy Crystal tearfully recollect the film in Sleepless & Seattle, don't they? Everything comes back to Sleepless & Seattle.

Well, it's true that Lee Marvin here is fantastic as exactly the sort of person you'd want leading you into battle – gritty, cool, and probably drunk – and Telly Savalas is terrifying as the racist religious nut with the penchant for murdering dames – but the rest of them are gruff and surly like the sort of men whose pubs I wouldn't dare enter – Franko in particular is a right arrogant prick – inspiring no small amount of eye rolling.

The Dirty Dozen are a group of condemned inmates with lax attitudes towards personal hygiene who're given a chance at salvation – pass training and undertake a deadly mission and that's it: you're forgiven. Yeah.

So we spend a few hours watching them go through training and then they go on their mission.

Now, it was at this point that the film became quite hard to take. Their mission is to kill a group of German officers. This they achieve, and it's a slaughter – they're unarmed and ensconced in a bunker, terrified, amongst a group of screaming innocent women.

And yet our heroes gleefully poured petrol and dropped hand grenades down their air-shafts as these trapped prisoners desperately scrabbled at the locked doors. And I thought – isn't this exactly the sort of atrocity we'd expect from the Nazis?

Reportedly, the director was informed that had he removed the above scene, then he might have been eligible for a best director Oscar. He apparently considered it, but decided to keep it in to show that “war is hell”.

Yeah. But it doesn't come across that way. The scene is framed as the satisfying conclusion to all that's come before – it's portrayed as heroic and just rather than savage and cowardly.

The best war films are those which cast all soldiers from either side as individuals caught up in something bigger than themselves which, ultimately, has nothing to do with them. The worst are those which consider that there are, in this world, “bad guys”.

This is the latter. The Germans (never “Nazis”, always "Germans") are the bad guys. As such, it's one of the worse war films and leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.

As a result, I'm once again quite pleased that I don't pass many of the “real man” tests. If being a man involves subscribing to stuff like this, then I'd rather be sneered at now and then, thanks.

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