#296 The Dirty Dozen

Watched: December 21 2020

Director: Robert Aldrich

Starring: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, George Kennedy, Richard Jaeckel, Trini López, Ralph Meeker, Robert Ryan, Clint Walker, Robert Webber, Tom Busby

Year: 1967

Runtime: 2h 30min

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We continue our criminal-men-do-fun-but-risky-stuff-together-while-paying-an-inordinate-amount-of-attention-to-their-attire with The Dirty Dozen – a suspenseful war drama featuring a host of well-known tough guys.

“We have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass . . . and bubblegum is heavily rationed so our options are limited.”

During WWII, Major Reisman (Marvin) is tasked with blowing up a French château housing a bunch of important Germans. To help with this suicide mission he enlists not the best of the best, but rather the worst of the worst: conviced rapists, murderers and other assorted criminals who are promised freedom should they happen to survive. What could possibly go wrong with this scenario?

It’s all fun and games until…oh… Eh, yes. Carry on.

A lot, it turns out. For some reason, these condemned sociopaths have trouble working together and listening to authority. Luckily, the Major understands them and knows how to get them all on the same page (hint: liquor and prostitutes will go a long way..). So gradually, they learn to cooperate, have each other’s backs, and the greatest bonding exercise known to man: burning Germans alive. Yay!

“How do I reach these kiiiiids?”

The Dirty Dozen was our family’s big Christmas movie this year and while it didn’t necessarily give us a lot of Christmas spirit, it was very good entertainment. While it all leads up to the mission itself, most of the film shows the teambuilding and training the soldiers/convicts are put through, and how their comradery grows as they get ready.

Nothing strengthens friendships like blowing shit up together. Takes us right back to our university days. Such carnage… Such bliss…

We loved the base building, the military band gag, Pinkley’s impersonation of a General (can’t go wrong with a Sutherland!), the opposition of Franko, the practise maneuvers, and of course George Kennedy. The movie is funny, exciting, tense, brutal, dramatic, ultimately heartbreaking, and we really enjoyed it.

“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions and loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. Kamikaze soldier of the Allied Forces and proud owner of a pack of dental floss.”

What we learned: Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty. Also, don’t entrust religious fanatics with sensitive missions… Or misogynists with anything, really.

Next time: The Firemen’s Ball (1967)

#126 Bad Day at Black Rock

Watched: August 19 2017

Director: John Sturges

Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, John Ericson

Year: 1955

Runtime: 1h 21min

Bad day

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The tiny town of Black Rock is amazed to see the train actually stop for the first time in four years. Even more puzzled, and suspicious, are they to find a stranger getting off in search of a hotel room and a cab to take him to Adobe Flats.

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“I vote we just kill him now and get it over with. There’s no way we can share our one female resident with yet another man.”

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The stranger, John J. Macreedy (Tracy), is met with hostility from all sides, mainly led by Reno Smith (Ryan) who everyone seems to be afraid of. The hostility increases when Macreedy reveals he is looking for a Japanese-American farmer named Komoko, and he is served a story of Komoko being relocated in the wake of  Pearl Harbor.

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Pictured: tension. And not the homoerotic cowboy movie kind.

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As Macreedy is trapped in the town for the night and all lines of communication with the outside world are sabotaged by local followers of Smith, vet/undertaker Doc (Brennan) is the only one willing to help him. Doc reveals that Komoko is dead, although the details of his death are still unknown to our hero.

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Hint: there’s racism and bigotry at work. Thank God the world is not plagued by those kinds of outdated ideas anymore!

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Smith and his croonies, most notably Coley and Hector (Borgnine and Lee, respectively), no longer operate under any pretense of innocence, and the chances of Macreedy surviving the night grow smaller and smaller.

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It doesn’t help that our hero is a one-armed man trying to fight a pissed off Ernest Borgnine

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Bad Day at Black Rock is an exciting and tense murder-mystery-western with a crime at the centre of the plot which is strangely (and sadly) relevant to our own times and political climate. Macreedy is a stoic badass, yet you’re never sure things will go his way or who he can trust. The men in this one-woman-town must make some tough choices and decide whether or not to make up for the mistakes that were made four years ago.

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It’s hard to see how anything at all could happen in a town this small, let alone something horrible

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There’s nothing not to love about this film. It’s shot in Eastman Color and Cinemascope, and beautifully so. There are car chases, shoot-outs, bar fights, Dames (well – just the one dame, actually), murder, mystery, and mayhem, and we loved everything about it. Loved it!

What we learned: This is a local town for local people. There’s nothing for you here! Alternatively, they don’t take kindly to strangers round these there parts.

Next time: Blackboard Jungle (1955)