A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this classic WWII action movie from 1967 was considered extremely violent when released, though it's tamer than many PG-13-rated movies of today. It includes a hanging, fighting, kicking, shooting, and explosions (though there's very little blood), plus a man stabbing a woman to death. In one scene, the men spend an evening with some "hired girls," though nothing more than dancing is shown. Language is light, but includes some gateway words like "damn," "hell," "bitch," and "bastard. There is also some drinking and smoking.
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What's the story?
During WWII, General Worden (Ernest Borgnine) calls Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) into his office with a new assignment. He will attack a chateau filled with German officers. Unfortunately, his men will consist of 12 convicted criminals (played by Charles Bronson, John Cassavetes, Jim Brown, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, and others). Many of these murderers, rapists, and other scoundrels are condemned to death anyway. Reisman has the impossible task of training them but soon figures that he can use one thing to make them bond: their collective hatred of him. His ploy works, and before too long he has a platoon of tough, loyal, disciplined warriors. But will their raid on the chateau actually work?
Is it any good?
The Dirty Dozen is a classic, and it's great entertainment, though it's not generally considered a great movie. Director Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?) was one of Hollywood's most brutal, unruly directors, and his instincts sometimes led to huge flops, as well as to popular successes like this one. Certainly a 150-minute action movie could come across a bit sloppy and overstuffed. Today, however, the movie actually looks tighter and more focused -- and less violent -- than it might have when it first opened.
Aldrich manages to use his time well, focusing on character traits and never letting the pace become bogged down. It comes more from the gut, or by the seat of its pants, than it does from a place of thoughtfulness or artistry. Moreover, it seems to have a very low opinion of women, although that's not surprising given the genre and time period. Regardless of its place in cinematic heirarchy, watching The Dirty Dozen is a rite of passage for some teen boys and many successful movies have followed its format (see The Expendables.)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. How does it compare to the violence in contemporary movies? Would more intense violence serve the movie better, or does it work the way it is?
What does the movie have to say about authority figures?
How does the movie handle female characters? Does it portray a stereotypical view of women?
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