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The Dirty Dozen(1967)
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.
For more about The Dirty Dozen and the The Dirty Dozen Blu-ray release, see the The Dirty Dozen Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 19, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Robert Aldrich (I)
Writers: Lukas Heller, Nunnally Johnson
Starring: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel
» See full cast & crew
The Dirty Dozen Blu-ray Review
Packed with supplements, Warner Home Video delivers a classic movie to Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 19, 2007
You're still the dirtiest soldiers in this man's army and you're getting filthier everyday.
One of the best things about classic films is the casting. You rarely see a film nowadays chock-full of A-list actors (The Departed comes to mind as a recent one). The Dirty Dozen really is a "who's-who" of the top actors of 1967. The film stars Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine (one of my all-time favorite actors), George Kennedy, Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, Jim Brown (the Cleveland Brown's Hall of Fame running back), and John Cassavetes, just to name a few. It's an All- Star cast, and they are all at the top of their game in this movie.
I love war movies, and this is one of the better ones. Lee Marvin plays Major Reisman (the role was originally offered to John Wayne who turned it down to star instead in The Green Berets), a man ordered to train a dozen criminals, many awaiting death sentences, to infiltrate a Nazi-occupied chateau in France prior to D-Day. Their objective: kill as many German officers as possible and attempt escape when the job is done. Before the mission, Reisman must turn this unruly rabble into a fine-tuned fighting force that is good enough to accomplish their mission. One of Reisman's ploys to get this group to form a cohesive unit is to deny them the privilege of shaving and bathing, hence the moniker "dirty" dozen. The film takes a while to get off and running, but when it does it's quite enjoyable. There is plenty of humor leading up to the mission, and once deployed to France, the action is tense and nonstop. Director Robert Aldrich does a wonderful job in every aspect of this story. Even at 2 1/2 hours in length, we get to know each of the dozen and care for the well-being of each and every one of them by the time they are ready to head to France. The action is well-played and this movie proves you don't need to see all the blood and guts to get a sense of what war is really like (though that type of war movie filmmaking certainly has its place and significance as well). The Dirty Dozen makes a great Saturday afternoon action movie and holds up very well today and to repeat viewings.
The Dirty Dozen was nominated for four Academy Awards and won one for Sound Effects. Of note is the fact that Aldrich was told he would be in contention for a directing Oscar if he would cut a controversial scene near the end of the film (I don't like spoilers in my reviews, but there is plenty of information about this in the supplements. Ernest Borgnine's introduction spells it out pretty well). Aldrich didn't budge and the movie is better for it. War is a terrible, deadly thing and there is no sense in hiding that fact. Kudos to him for sticking to his guns, so to speak. There are plenty of World War II flicks out there, and make no mistake about it, this one ranks among the best of the best.
The Dirty Dozen Blu-ray, Video Quality
"Inconsistent" is the first word that comes to mind when I started thinking about what to say regarding this 1.78:1, VC-1 encoded transfer I recently screened. Many parts of the movie were grainy with obvious speckles and dirt. Many close-up shots of the actors, especially early on in the film, looked atrocious. On the other hand, close-ups in the final act of the film faired much better. I noticed several instances of video noise throughout, though often minimal and not distracting. Many shots were overly sharp and edge enhancement was a problem in certain scenes. There were also some very soft scenes. Most of the bad scenes exhibit just about every one of these problems. Despite these troubles, this film at times looked pretty good considering its age. At other times it looks almost immaculate. The funny thing is that the film is just about evenly split--about a third looks awful, a third looks all right, and a third looks great. One minute you are seeing a downright bad transfer, and the next minute you'd think this movie came out only a few years ago. A very mixed bag, but for the age of the movie, it was acceptable. The film was originally mastered in "Metrocolor," a proprietary film processing method at MGM studios. Analyzing the better scenes, colors appeared fairly accurate, flesh tones looked natural, and black levels were solid. Taken on the whole, it's a mediocre transfer. I don't know if these were simply the best prints available or how much work could be done to do a total restoration, but problems aside, this is the best you are going to see The Dirty Dozen look on your home theater right now.
The Dirty Dozen Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The primary audio track on the Blu-ray disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Warner has not included a lossless soundtrack with this film. I enjoyed the track, but was disappointed that the rear speakers were hardly--if at all--utilized on this track. Had I not known better, I would have thought this to be a DD 2.0 soundtrack. Nevertheless, parts of it were very impressive. This has one of the best LFE tracks I have heard on an older film, thanks in large part to the excellent score by Frank De Vol. During the opening credits, the thumping of drums is quite impressive. Dialogue comes through fine, but at many times it's as if this is a mono soundtrack. Most ambient sounds are front heavy (as is vast majority of the film), ranging form the mundane (birds chirping) to the aggressive (thunderstorms, rain, and gunfire). It would have been nice to have some of this come from the rear to create a more enveloping experience. I also noticed a few instances of unexplained hissing over the soundtrack but this only lasted a few moments.
The Dirty Dozen Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The feature supplement here is the 1985 full-length made for TV sequel, The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission. Now that's what I call a great extra! I had no idea this was on the disc beforehand. The movie itself isn't very good, though some of the cast returns including Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine. Presented in 480p, this film has an original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. I was able to switch between several modes on my television. I sampled the standard aspect ratio and I also ran it through several stretch modes. All looked presentable, but the correct way to watch this film is, of course, in it's OAR with black bars at the sides of your widescreen set. The picture quality is merely passable as is the DD 2.0 soundtrack, but it is a free movie! The film runs an hour and thirty- five minutes. Don't go into it expecting any kind of quality presentation and you'll be fine. When you get a full-length movie as a bonus, regardless of the quality, that garners you a top-notch supplement rating right there. Warner didn't stop there, however. This disc is absolutely packed!
There is a feature commentary track with E.M. Nathanson, David J. Schow, and Capt. Dale Dye (the well-know military technical advisor who has worked on Platoon and Saving Private Ryan, among others). Also making an appearance on the track are Jim Brown, Trini Lopez, Kenneth Hyman, Stuart Cooper, and Colin Maitland.
The disc includes four feature documentaries: Armed and Deadly: The Making of The Dirty Dozen, Operation Dirty Dozen, The Filthy Thirteen: Real Stories From Behind the Lines, and Marine Corps. Combat Leadership Skills. These documentaries have a combined running time of around 2 hours. They are all presented in 480p and the source material is dated, but there is more than enough here to satisfy even the biggest Dirty Dozen fan.
Also included is an introduction by Ernest Borgnine (480p) and the film's theatrical trailer (480p).
Kudos to Warner here. This is what supplements are all about. None of them are filler material either. I wish I could rate the supplements higher. They are that good.
The Dirty Dozen Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you like action movies at all, you should see The Dirty Dozen at least once in your life. It's one of the definitive "guy" movies of all time. The movie is exciting, funny, and has an All-Star cast. You can't go wrong with this movie. While the video presentation isn't the best I've seen, even for a movie of its age, it does its job admirably enough. The audio is also adequate, and the supplements are top notch. Upgrading form a previous generation format is a no-brainer if you like this movie at all, especially if you have the old, non-anamorphic disc like I did. Recommended for fans of the movie and fans of action movies in general.
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