The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission (1985)

Introduction

The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission is a made-for-TV film and sequel to the original Dirty Dozen, directed by Andrew V. McLaglen and reuniting Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Jaeckel 18 years after the original hit war film. Marvin returns to lead an all-new dirty dozen on a mission to assassinate an SS General played by Wolf Kahler.

Outline

In German occupied France in September 1944, Waffen-SS General Dietrich (Wolf Kahler) plots with other high-ranking Nazi officials to make a second attempt on Hitler’s life.

In England, Major General Worden (Ernest Borgnine) learns of the plot through the French Resistance. He and other Allied generals are worried that if Dietrich assassinates Hitler, capable Nazi commanders will continue the war beyond 1945. Worden considers Hitler “their best ally,” because his incompetence as a military commander is “paralyzing his own army.”

In the meantime, Major John Reisman (Lee Marvin) is on trial for hijacking a shipment of steaks intended for high-ranking American officers, when Worden summons him and tells him that he is to again train twelve convicted US soldiers for a suicide mission: namely, to assassinate General Dietrich before he can assassinate Hitler. Reisman considers the idea of stopping Dietrich ludicrous, but Worden leaves him little choice, threatening to send him right back to trial if he does not cooperate.

Reisman returns to Marston Tyne Military Prison to select a new Dirty Dozen, again with the help of MP Sergeant Clyde Bowren (Richard Jaeckel). He initially selects thirteen prisoners – a baker’s dozen: Sixkiller, Dregors, Deutsch, Valentine, Wright, Wells, Perkins, Le Clair, Rosen, Anderson, Baxley, Reynolds and Sanders.

Reisman and Bowren gather the selected soldiers together at a disused train station. Initially, there are thirteen of them but one volunteer is insubordinate and Reisman has him taken back to prison, bringing the number back down to twelve. He trains the group how to storm a train, assault the guards, and find and kill Dietrich. Initially they train only with wooden guns and rubber grenades but when General Worden informs Reisman that their schedule has been bumped up, Reisman gives the men real guns. There is mild strife when, during a German air raid, convict Louis Valentine (Ken Wahl) attempts to escape. However, Sixkiller and Wells capture him and beat him up, before bringing him back and explaining to Reisman he was merely sleepwalking.

Dressed as elite German soldiers, Reisman and the Dozen (this time without Sergeant Bowren, who remains behind) fly to a German-held French airfield and land, where they will take a bus. Realizing a Wehrmacht soldier who was black would give them away, Reisman has Dregors bandage his face as though wounded. However his hands are bare, and a Gestapo agent notices them and sounds an alarm, forcing the Dozen to escape in the bus. The Gestapo agent and several German soldiers pursue them.

During the chase, Wright attempts to murder Reisman but instead is shot and killed by Sixkiller. The bus driver is killed, causing a crash that claims the life of Anderson. However, they manage to fend off their pursuers with grenades. Hiking through the French countryside, they find a bullet-riddled Nazi staff car and get it running, though it later breaks down.

Because of the bus crash, they are behind schedule and Dietrich’s train has already left. All of the group (except Sixkiller and Wells) want to scrap the mission, Reisman however tells his men that there is a shipment of gold aboard the train, prompting them to change their minds. They agree to continue the mission, while resting in a cellar they encounter a German patrol that ends badly because, like the Gestapo agent at the airport, the lieutenant in command notices Dregors and a firefight starts, during which Perkins, Sanders and Baxley are wounded.

Aboard the train, Dietrich discovers that his longtime second-in-command Colonel Schmidt is suspicious of his motives. Fearing that Schmidt will out him as a traitor, Dietrich shoots and kills the other officer. The train arrives at a depot where it is met by hundreds of German troops. Arriving and taking shelter behind a stone wall, the Dozen watch in puzzlement. Reisman reveals he lied about the gold, angering his men. They wonder, then, if there is no treasure, why are there so many soldiers just to meet one general. They get their answer when a plane lands carrying none other than Adolf Hitler himself.

Dregors contemplates disobeying orders and shooting Hitler instead of Dietrich. Reisman however tells him if he kills Hitler, the war will just “go on and on.” So, Dregors follows orders and shoots Dietrich with a sniper rifle. Chaos follows as Nazi officers bundle Hitler into a car and escape, while the soldiers attack the Dozen, who, rather than flee, recklessly attack the train, believing it to indeed contain treasure. It does contain treasure of a sort – priceless paintings and Beethoven’s original piano – but these items are much too large to take with them amidst all the fighting.

They escape in the plane Hitler arrived in. During the run for the plane, everyone except for Reisman, Dregors, Perkins, Valentine and Wells (who’s piloting it) are killed, although Dregors is shot in the stomach. During the trip back, Dregors dies from his wounds, and Reisman finds a briefcase tucked under a seat, containing top-secret intelligence information as well as a bag of jewels, which he agrees to split with the three remaining men.

The plane develops engine problems as they approach England but Wells manages to land them safely. Still in their uniforms, they depart, and are held at gunpoint by a farmer who thinks they are Nazis, until Reisman speaks English. The farmer tells them of a good pub in the nearby town, and Reisman agrees to buy them all a round of drinks.

Film Inspiration

The original film is based on E. M. Nathanson’s novel of the same name that was inspired by a real-life group called the “Filthy Thirteen”.

Dirty Dozen Films

Trivia & Goofs

  • Three years after The Dirty Dozen was released, Too Late the Hero, a film also directed by Aldrich, was described as a “kind of sequel to The Dirty Dozen”.
  • The 1969 Michael Caine film Play Dirty follows a similar theme of convicts-recruited-as-soldiers.
  • The 1977 Italian war film The Inglorious Bastards is a loose remake of The Dirty Dozen.
  • Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 Inglourious Basterds was later derived from the English-language title of director Enzo G. Castellari’s 1977 war film The Inglorious Bastards.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director: Andrew V. McLaglen.
  • Producers: Harry R. Sherman.
  • Writer: Michael Kane.
  • Music: Richard Harvey.
  • Cinematography: John Stanier.
  • Editor: Alan Strachan.
  • Production: MGM/UA Television.
  • Distributor: NBC.
  • Release Date: 04 February 1985 (US).
  • Running Time: 95 Minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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