The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (1987)

Telly Savalas leads another Dirty Dozen in an enjoyable made for TV sequel directed by Lee H. Katzin. MGM US R1 DVD.

The Film

Returning from an unsucessful operation with Italian Partisans, Major Wright (Telly Savalas) is given another behind the lines operation. With a group taken from a military prison, he has to attack a French monastery that is being used by the Nazis to store nerve gas for use in a missile that could reach North America. After training, the group are dispatched to occupied France...

One of the all time classic war films, The Dirty Dozen (1967) received a belated sequel in 1985 with the run-of-the-mill made-for-television production The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission. Like its predecessor, Deadly Mission was also made for MGM Television and is intended as a direct sequel while blatantly lifting big chunks of storyline - once again we get the opening prison cell interviews (with one of the inmates getting into a fight), the generic training camp (featuring the Major provoking the 'big guy' into a fight) and the visit to a brothel (to the chagrin of the extra crazy one). The operation itself is rather more interesting than that of Next Mission, although again it feels far too important to be in the hands of a convict team, particularly since they have been told that they will be sent back to death row if they mess up, presumably leaving the Nazis to launch their nerve gas attack at will.

Accordingly the opening chapter of the film covering the picking and training of the team feels rather repetitive but even ignoring the earlier films, these scenes are rather dull; there is not much charactersation of the Dozen and the training exercises all feel generic with no particular relation to the upcoming mission. The arrival in France is a little confused (although certainly never as bad as the horribly messy Next Mission) as the group simply arrive in occupied territory in their American uniforms from nowhere and have to hijack a river patrol boat for some poorly explained reason - it makes for an enjoyable action scene but then we don't even get an establishing shot of them on the boat before they are back on foot again. Fortunately from thereon in the film does start to pick up, with the development of the assault and a few unexpected twists, although the writers seem to largely forget about the titular 'dirty' in their dozen for most of the storyline, treating them like normal commandos. An attempted rape by one of the characters later on could have come across as a gratuitous attempt to remind us of their criminality, but is actually very well incorporated into the storyline. A fittingly explosive attack and tense escape provide an exciting climax to the film, with a neat ending.

Veteran television director Lee H. Katzin takes the reins for Deadly Mission (and returned for Fatal Mission). He never tries anything too fancy, but gives the production a real cinematic flavour and makes the most of the budget to give the action packed finale a genuinely epic feel. The equipment all feels suitably authentic and a fitting war movie soundtrack provides strong backing.

Oddly Telly Savalas who played a convict in the original film, returns to play the part vacated by Lee Marvin (although the character has a different name, he is clearly meant to be the same person). He does seem a little old at 65 to be convincingly leading a secret operation, although his inimitable presence certainly gives the film a real boost. Ernest Borgnine does return to continue playing his General Worden character, although again it is only a brief appearance. Gary Graham is well cast as the de facto leader of the convicts, while boxer Randall Cobb plays a good 'gentle giant'. Bo Svenson, best known now for his role in the heavily Dirty Dozen inspired cult favourite Inglorious Bastards (1978), has a very memorable part as the menacing Fontenac. Confusingly, German actor Wolf Kahler who played the targeted German General in the previous film, returns to play a different German officer here (and he would play yet another in the later television series).

While still feeling rather repetitive, The Deadly Mission improves enourmously on the half-hearted Next Mission and after a rather slow start, does become a solid action war film with an explosive climax. Fans of the original should enjoy this as it is the best of the sequels and it will appeal to fans of the more action packed genre titles (although the original is worth checking out first).

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Telly Savalas - best known as TV detective Kojak, he also appeared in a number of Eurocult films in the 70s.
Ernest Borgnine - a true Hollywood great with a wide selection of films, including classic The Vikings (1958)
Bo Svenson - a Swedish actor best known as the leader of the Inglorious Bastards (1978)
Directed by anyone interesting? Lee H. Katzin - an American director best known for helming Steve McQueen classic Le Mans (1971) but who spent most of his career working on television movies and episodes.
Any gore or violence ? A couple of bloody deaths, nothing vivid.
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Of interest to fans of the original and action packed war films in general.

Visuals Original aspect ratio - 1.33:1 academy. Colour
Picture quality is fine - the print is grainy but there are good colours and detail.
Shot for television premiere so the academy ratio is correct.
Audio English stereo - sounds fine.
French dub track.
Subtitles English and French
Extras None.
Region Region 1 (USA, North America)
Availability Available in a two-disc single amaray pack along with the sequel Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission (1988).
Other regions? Available in a single disc release in the UK and Europe with English, French and German audio. Available on Blu-Ray in Germany as 'Das Dreckige Dutzend III' with English and German audio.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Titles and credits are in English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 10th January 2015.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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