The protagonist hated the filming so much that he left it several times to go on drunken days until another of the actors threatened to kill him. You have until the end of the month to enjoy this gritty and legendary war movie

The films of the war genre are ones that they go from one extreme to another: o they extol the best virtues of their protagonists, sometimes even ignoring their most obvious defects; or they show us characters without the slightest scruple, despicable, and with which any spectator with a modicum of morality will not feel identified. Well looked at, they respond a lot to the cliché that wars sometimes bring out the worst, but also the best, in human beings.

And there is a film that, of course, seems to have followed the verbatim this axiom, to the point of bringing together examples of both extremes in its list: the gallows twelve (The Dirty Dozen), by Robert Aldrich. Premiered in 1967 by Metro Goldwyn–Mayer It’s one of the cruder exponents of the war film genre of the time. It presents us with the story of twelve inmates sentenced to death or long sentences (more than 20 years in most cases) for crimes committed while they were soldiers in the US Army in World War II.

These twelve “little angels” -incarnated by actors of the stature of charles bronson (the Battle of the Bulge), telly savalas (Kojak), donald sutherland (M*W*S*H), or John Cassavetes (Where the city ends) – are forcibly recruited by Major John Reisman (Lee Marvin) to perform a command operation prior to the invasion of the allied forces on D-Day, with the aim of disrupting the German chain of command and undermining their morale during the landing. Reisman’s task is to train them into disciplined and capable soldiers, after promising them that their sentences will be reviewed.

Actors behaving like real inmates

The film has enough elements to make the viewer uncomfortable

In essence, it is a redemption story, but not an exalting or heroic one, just nasty and raw. The recruitment, training and execution of the mission that has been entrusted to the inmates has enough elements to make the viewer uncomfortable; not in a visceral or shocking way like today, but it was rare to see in the war movies of the 60s to a cast made up of antiheroes and witness their actions. And even if they were not the Devil (not all of them, at least), in addition to the crimes that are accused of them, their acts are far from what they usually want. catch the eye of the beholder.

Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Some acts that it seems that some actor wanted ”soak” Too many of them for their roles. And the choice of this word is not random. Lee Marvin did not trust that the film was going to be successful or was a good production. In a scene where he had to drive a armored halftrack with Charles Bronson manning a machine gun, he did not show up for the shoot. He was drunk in a bar near the production. After putting several cups of coffee down his throat to calm him down, in the first take he fell out of the vehicle. The frustration Bronson (who also did not believe the film was a quality production) for this fact and Marvin’s main co-star, caused him to grab Marvin at that moment and threatened to kill him In front of everyone; something that, yes, is perfectly observable in the most violent inmate camps.

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The movie that put Donald Sutherland on the map

Even so, the film also has its moments of humorshown above all by the mischief of the one that Reisman and “his Twelve” had to use to avoid that the high commands of the army did not consider the inmates valid to complete the mission and put them back in jail to serve their sentences. However, the ability of the actors to continue to emanate an aura of rude violence even when carrying out everyday actions is amazing. Telly Savalas does a phenomenal role in this film as a true religious psychopathbut it is not the one that benefits the most from the film at an interpretative level.

The Dirty Dozen 3

Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

If you dare to see the film, you will discover that it is not easy to play a role like Sutherland’s

Although today the trajectory by Donald Sutherland is well known by all self-respecting film fans, in 1967 he had not had any great role on celluloid. As luck would have it, the original actor appointed to play his character had a burst of haughtiness and said that the role was below what he could offer.

Sutherland was brought to the set “in extremis” for the scene in question, and looking at his work, I can say that I do not share the claim of the original actor. If you dare to see the film, you will discover that it is not easy to play a character like Sutherland’s; both to level of expression and body language. It is not surprising that from this film more offers began to fall for this Canadian dean of cinema and that, to this day, he is one of the most prolific actors in Hollywood.

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A sample of what the movies would be the next 10 years

Curiosities and somewhat “amusing” problems aside, the film was far from a failure (achievement 7.5 million dollars in its first week; a lot for the time), as all the main cast said it would be. The harshness and humanity of the situations, although somewhat exaggerated, are a pretty good sample of where was it evolving the way of making Hollywood movies; It was one of the first films in the genre (and cinema in general) with a cast made up entirely of anti-heroes or unsavory characters. A trend that would continue for a decade with films like Taxi Driver with robert deniro to the orders of Martin Scorsese.

For sample, the dramatis personae of the film. eldest reisman he was no saint -both on and off screen as seen-, and their superiors, such as Ernest Borginine (Zebra Polar Station; The Poseidon Adventure), they are not model officers either, because despite being entrusted with the mission, they did not make a great effort to make things easy for him despite the importance Of the same.

The Dirty Twelve [DVD]

The Dirty Dozen 2

Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The film can currently be enjoyed on HBO Max, however, if you are fans of the genre like me, I would not be very entertained. The next March 31st it will leave the platform’s catalog, and it will only be possible to see it if you find a copy of the movie on DVD or Blu-Ray. The fact is that as a story of redemption you will not find one that make you feel just as bad looking at your credits.

Bad not in the sense that it is not a good movie (quite the contrary, it is considered a classic by many fans) but because, not to give you any “spoilers”, it is one of those in which you realize the futility of wars, and the nauseating what can be the treatment of the condemned and the prisoners; how, no matter what is at stake for an inmate, they are able to real atrocities (as seen in the final stretch of the film) although at the same time capable of developing camaraderie between them, and generating empathy on the viewer.

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The protagonist hated the filming so much that he left it several times to go on drunken days until another of the actors threatened to kill him. You have until the end of the month to enjoy this gritty and legendary war movie