Armed and Deadly
Posted on: May 22, 2006
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A reflective look back at post World War II films, especially The Dirty Dozen.
An all-star cast energizes Robert Aldrich's classic World War II action drama about a group of 12 American military prisoners assembled by tacticians and ordered to perform a suicide mission: infiltrate a well-guarded chateau and kill the Nazi officials vacationing there. The incarcerated soldiers, most of whom are facing death sentences for a variety of violent crimes, jump at the chance to redeem themselves. Major Reisman (Lee Marvin), the noncriminal in charge of the group, whips the men into a crack unit, uses them to best the troops of his by-the-book superior officer, Colonel Breed (Robert Ryan), in war games, then leads the steely antiheroes on their perilous assault. The film is studded with standout performances, including Telly Savalas as a religious psychopath with a febrile animosity toward Germans and John Cassavetes in an Oscar-nominated portrayal as an insubordinate, poison-tongued hothead. Robert Aldrich scored a huge hit with this rousing thriller laced with a stinging cynicism perfectly in tune with the increasingly skeptical tenor of the times.