Major John Reisman (Lee Marvin) is offered a chance to escape from a court martial as General Worden (Ernest Borgnine) offers him the chance to lead another 'dirty dozen' behind the enemy lines in occupied France to assassinate a German General who is planning to kill Hitler (the death of whom might allow the German forces to re-organise and provide a more effective resistance to the Allies). Reuniting with Sgt. Bowden, Reisman has to lead the group in an assault on the general's train...
Nearly two decades after the release of the acclaimed classic war movie, MGM television decided to put together a belated sequel. Although written by Michael Kane who was behind the erudite and dark Southern Comfort (1981), The Next Mission continually feels phoned in, never coming close to the flair of the original or even providing a particularly good story on its own. Perhaps unsurprisingly the opening scenes are a near carbon copy of those from the 1967 film as Reisman interviews his new charges in their cells, although these scenes, along with the inevitable training sequences that form most of the first third of the film, never do much to define the characters and there is never any real distinction between any of the soldiers. Plot holes start to tear the script apart from early on - the Allies attempted to kill Hitler on many occasions and certainly in 1943 the idea of them keeping him alive for their benefit does not ring true (in fact British intelligence assisted the later July 20th plotters), yet given the importance the script puts upon stopping the rogue Nazi, the mission feels too important to be left in the charge of a convict gang - while massacring officers in a mansion might be suitable work, the train assault seems far too complex for a 'dirty dozen' team.
The arrival in France is simply stupid - because they have not had a chance to learn parachute techniques, the troops fly-in pretending to be a scheduled German flight somehow, but seem completely unprepared (they are discovered because they have a black soldier with them that we have to assumed no-one had realised might be a problem) leading to a lengthy chase sequence that feels tacked on just to provide an explosive action scene. There then follows a pointless muddle to try and catch the train that just feels like padding since the soldiers somehow get back into a plane to parachute into France anyway (the details of how they do this are completely ignored) making about twenty minutes of the film completely skippable. The story does finally pick up for its climax, although the deaths of some of the team are rather meaningless given the lack of characterisation and the post-action ending is horribly drawn out in what can only be a desperate attempt to drag the runtime out to the required television length.
Director Andrew V. McLaglen had war film experience in The Devil's Brigade (1968) and The Wild Geese (1978) but presumably limited by the production's budget, he can never lift this film above its made for TV roots. Although there is some attempt at historical accuracy in the training scenes, like the script, the film falls apart with the arrival in France as the troops arrive in a Dakota into what is clearly a modern airport and it never really feels authentic from then on. A generic but fitting war movie orchestral soundtrack from Richard Harvey suits the film fine.
The key selling point of this sequel is the return of the main players from the 1967 original to play the same parts (although of course the illusion is somewhat muted by their considerable aging in what can only have been a few months between the storylines). Ernest Borgnine reprises his brief role from the original in what is essentially an extended cameo, while Richard Jaeckel also reappears as the officer in charge of training. Lee Marvin again takes the lead role but never conveys the genuine power and threat that he conveyed the first time around and like the film as a whole, he seems disinterested in the project.
Feeling rushed and half-assed both in the writing and production, even allowing for the inevitable aging of the actors and the low budgets of a television production, The Next Mission is watchable and does have a decent enough climax, but the storyline is poorly written, sacrificing characterisation for padding and the detail of the mission never really makes any sense. Even the two later television sequels were able to top this - a curiosity at best, for fans of the original, it is certainly not generally recommendable.
|Anyone famous in it?||Lee Marvin - Hollywood legend who starred in grim depression era Emperor of the North (1973)
Ernest Borgnine - versatile Hollywood actor who played a memorable role in Escape from New York (1981)
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Andrew V. McLaglen - a British born director who worked extensively on action and Western films, including John Wayne's Chisum (1970) and Roger Moore actioner North Sea Hijack (1979)|
|Any gore or violence ?||Some blood in the death scenes, nothing vivid.|
|Any sex or nudity?||None|
|Who is it for?||Perhaps of interest to fans of the original but not generally worth watching.|
|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.|
|Extras||None specific to this film.|
|Availability||Included as a standard definition special feature on the WB US Blu-Ray special edition of The Dirty Dozen.|
|Other regions?||Also available on the WB UK DVD special edition of The Dirty Dozen.|
|Cuts?||Believed to be fully uncut. Titles and credits are in English.|