The Dirty Dozen ★★★½

A perfect blending of seemingly at-odds late ‘60s values, a movie for counter-culture and silent majority alike, with its mix of misfit radicalism, fuzzy wartime nostalgia and big spectacle, sort of a Stalag 17 with the rough edges sanded down. Mostly plays as a sports picture, the outsiders fighting to do things their own way, and it’s significant that the war games scenario is the second biggest set piece. This part of the film isn’t great, the humor is clunky and seems hopelessly fusty next to MASH, which appeared three years after and seems like a different genre altogether, despite similar black-humor approaches to wartime folly. Yet this all comes together in that dazzling final siege; I was thrilled to see there were still 40 minutes left when they approached the castle, and 98% of that time ends up solely devoted to the procedure. Here Aldrich’s patience pays off, the slow build drawing out a great deal of impressive tension, even if most of the characters haven’t been established enough to make their loss affecting.