(director: Andre De Toth; screenwriters: Lotte Colin/Melvyn Bragg/from a story by George Marton; cinematographer: Edward Scaife; editor: Alan Osbiston; music: Michel Legrand; cast: Michael Caine (Capt. Douglas), Nigel Davenport (Capt. Cyril Leech), Nigel Green (Col. Masters), Harry Andrews (Brig. Blore), Bernard Archard (Col. Homerton), Daniel Pilon (Capt. Allwood), Patrick Jordan (Maj. Alan Watkins), Mohsen Ben Abdallah(Hassan), Bridget Espeet(Ann); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Harry Saltzman; MGM Home Entertainment; 1969-UK)
“The pic more than holds its own with The Dirty Dozen , in fact I enjoyed it more and found it more subversive.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Follows similar tract of Aldrich’s 1967 The Dirty Dozen. The pic more than holds its own with The Dirty Dozen , in fact I enjoyed it more and found it more subversive. Director Andre De Toth (“Dark Waters”/”Ramrod”/”Pitfall”)keeps it action-packed. WritersLotte Colin and Melvyn Bragg base it on a story by George Marton.
During Montgomery’s WWIINorth African campaign in the desert after the legendary Nazi General, The Desert Fox, Rommel, a Colonel Masters (Nigel Green) organizes unorthodox raids against a German supply fuel dump that’s far behind enemy lines in the desert. Unfortunately they all fail. His superior, Commander of Special Forces, Brigadier Blore (Harry Andrews), gives him one last chance to succeed in blowing up the enemy fuel depot and orders him to allow an inexperienced British officer, Captain Douglas (Michael Caine), in civilian life a British Petroleum worker, to lead in the mission seven other mercenary ex-cons of various countries. The hardened criminals were recruited into the Brit army for this mission. The real leader of the mission is the play dirty, crafty, cynical, ex-con, rogue Capt. Cyril Leech (Nigel Davenport), who is promised a bonus by Masters if he returns with Douglas alive. What these men under Masters don’t know, is that the duplicitous Blore has used Douglas’ crew as a diversion for a regular army unit, under Major Watkins (Patrick Jordan), which is to follow them to attempt the same mission. The thinking being that Masters crew is disposable, and if there’s trouble they will run into it first. Ironically the regular init under Watkins is slaughtered in an ambush by a German patrol and the diversionary unit becomes the sole unit to carry out the mission
The men must battle through mine fields, friction among themselves, an encounter with a native tribe loyal to the Germans, a blocked road, sandstorms and betrayal (radio communication is broken and so when there’s a change in the field orders to abort the mission, it cannot be transmitted. Masters is therefore ordered to give Nazi spies the attack info and not worry about the lives of men sent on the mission). The powerful ending has the fuel depot blown up and Brit soldiers attacking the Germans. When their mission is accomplished Douglas and Leech wave the white flag of surrender, but they are nevertheless mowed down in their German uniforms. Which becomes the pic’s damning anti-war statement indicating that there’s nothing clean, safe or holy about war.
REVIEWED ON 4/25/2011 GRADE: B+