The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission (1988)

Telly Savalas takes the Dirty Dozen out for the final time in a made for TV sequel directed by Lee H. Katzin. MGM US R1 DVD.

The Film

Major Wright (Telly Savalas) meets a German contact behind enemy lines and learns about a German plan to send a group of party members to Turkey to establish a Fourth Reich which would take over in the event of the war in Europe being lost. Wright is sent to assemble another dozen criminals, travel to Jugoslavia and intercept the train conveying the Nazi elite before they reach immunity in nuteral Turkey, but Wright suspects there might be a German informant somewhere in the dozen...

Following hot on the heels of Deadly Mission (1987), this final television movie sequel to the classic 1967 war movie again follows the same formula as all three of its predecessors, although a lot of things early on seem rushed over - the character developing prison cell interviews are all but absent and the dozen itself is even less defined than in the previous two films (except for the token black guy and token gentle giant) while the training scenes too are hurredly skipped over. The idea of a traitor in the group is nothing new in the war movie genre but is at least new in this series and is well used by the script, he introduction of a woman into the dozen is also new but just feels rather generic as she doesn't actually get much to do in the assault. The group's arrival into occupied Europe makes a lot more sense than it did in the previous sequels (Next Mission in particular was a strangely messy affair that made no sense) and the action scenes feel better integrated into the script, pacing is pretty decent throughout as the film builds to an explosive climax.

The biggest flaw in the script is that the mission itself simply makes no sense and is certainly the weakest of the entire series - there was no reason why in 1943 Hitler would envision anything but total victory and would likely see no reason to establish a 'back-up Reich', certainly not in Turkey, far away from his genetically pure homeland. Nor is there any particular reason why the Allies would consider this small group of Nazi party members to pose enough threat for them to warrant sending troops (dirty or otherwise) across Europe to assault the train - an air strike apparently is out of the question as there is a risk not all of the passengers would be killed but there is no reason that the local partisans could not do the job and as usual if the mission is as important as it seems to be, then surely proper commandos would be a better choice.

Director Lee Katzin returns from Deadly Mission and again gives the film a cinematic feel that belies its television roots, particularly in the explosive climax. Filmed largely in Croatia, the locations all feel authentic as does the train in use in the assault (although the supposedly British train used in the practice scenes is clearly East European).

Telly Savalas returns in the Major Wright role, he still looks rather too old to be leading an assault team but his enthusiasm for the part and authority as a commander means that this is quickly forgotten. Ernest Borgnine makes his usual cameos as the General in charge of the operation. A few familiar faces appear in the dozen including Erik Estrada (CHiPs (1977-83) and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters (1984)), while pin-up and television star Heather Thomas looks very nice in uniform but never gets much chance to show off in the later action scenes as the only female member of the group.

The final outing of the Dirty Dozen follows the usual formula - Telly Savalas is on good form, Katzin's cinematic direction and an explosive climax being real highlights - unfortunately the dozen themselves are even more curtly characterised than usual and the mission itself simply makes no sense. Not as bad as the abysmal Next Mission but certainly stuck in third place. Of interest only to fans of the series.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Telly Savalas - as well as playing TV detective Kojak he also appeared in several Euro-cult films.
Ernest Borgnine - a true Hollywood great with a wide selection of films, including Ice Station Zebra (1968)
Directed by anyone interesting? Lee H. Katzin - an American director best known for helming Steve McQueen classic Le Mans (1971) and spy drama The Salzburg Connection (1972).
Any gore or violence ? Some blood, nothing vivid.
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Of interest to fans of the original.

Visuals Original aspect ratio - 1.33:1 academy. Colour
Picture quality is fine - colours and detail are good.
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 Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (1987).
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 IV' 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 - 18th January 2015.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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