The Directorty Dozen is an exciting Second World War pre-D-Day drama about 12 condemned soldier-prisoners who are rehabilitated to serve with distinction. Lee Marvin heads a very strong, nearly all-male cast in an excellent performance.
E.M. Nathanson’s novel was careful to disclaim any truth to the basic plot, for, if ever pressed, the US Army apparently can claim that no records exist on the subject. Still, Nathanson’s book, as well as the very good screenplay, has a ring of authenticity to it.
Marvin delivers a top performance probably because he seems at his best in a role as a sardonic authoritarian. Herein, he is a major, handed the task of selecting 12 hardened, stockaded punks, training them for a guerrilla mission with just faintest hope of amnesty. Seeds of official conflict are sewn into plot: Marvin and Robert Ryan do not get along – but later they must.
John Cassavetes is firstrate as the tough Chicago hood who meets his match in Marvin. Charles Bronson stands out as a Polish-American who, once affixing his loyalty, does not shift under even physical brutality.
1967: Best Sound Effects.
Nomination: Best Supp. Actor (John Cassavetes)