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Film / The Dirty Dozen

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The original Suicide Squad movie.

"I reckon the folks'd be a sight happier if I died like a soldier. Can't say I would."
Samson Posey

Before the Basterds, and before the Expendables, there were the Dozen.

The Dirty Dozen is a 1967 British-American World War II action film adapted from the 1965 novel of the same name by E. M. Nathanson, directed by Robert Aldrich and starring (among many others) Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, George Kennedy, Robert Ryan, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas, and Clint Walker.

Set in March 1944, the film follows the tale of Major John Reisman (Marvin), a rebel in a uniform. He is assigned by his superiors to take twelve enlisted men convicted of capital offenses, and train them for an important mission. Their mission — whether they choose to accept it or not — is to parachute behind enemy lines and infiltrate a French mountain retreat for senior Wehrmacht officers on the eve of D-Day. There, they will kill those present, even if it costs them their own lives to do so.


Three sequels were made in the '80s. Director David Ayer (Fury) has signed on to direct a remake.

This work features examples of:

  • Actionized Adaptation: The novel is more of a character study, with the mission only taking place in the last thirty pages or so, much of that being devoted to an After-Action Report for General Worden, and only two German generals being killed in the attack. Several characters are either Adapted Out entirely (Reisman's love interest Tess, or Dozen members Odell and Smith) or rewritten significantly (Reisman's Judaism isn't mentioned in the film version, Maggott is a Composite Character of several book characters and Wladislaw is one of the novel's more chatty and outgoing characters, whereas in the movie he's sullen and unfriendly). Furthermore, the Dozen weren't being trained specifically for the raid on the chalet, but as a psychological study to see if training convicts for such missions was feasible, and Resiman had to argue hard to get them sent to the chalet rather than just being dumped on a front as cannon fodder.
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  • Actor Allusion: Jim Brown, an absurdly good, multiple record setting NFL Running back, has a scene where he outruns explosions in an extended take. Clearly, the guy's pretty good at running.
  • Adaptation Name Change: In the novel, the black character's name is Napoleon White. It was changed to Robert Jefferson for the movie at some point, although in the original trailer, he's called Napoleon Jefferson.
  • Age Lift: In the novel, Reisman (43 in the film) was thirty, and Wladislaw (45 in the film), Franko (37 in the film), Maggott (45 in the film), and Posey (40 in the film) were in their twenties.
  • Alliterative Title: With the exception of "The".
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Although never mentioned in the film, Major Reisman is Jewish. His real name is Jacob, John is just a nickname.
  • Anyone Can Die: And sadly, most of them do. Only Reisman, Wladislaw and Sgt. Bowren survive the assault.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Sergeant Bowren nicknames the twelve convicts 'the dirty dozen' after they refuse to bathe or shave as a protest regarding their poor living conditions. The name sticks.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: The dozen are all men who have been sentenced to death or long periods of hard labor in a military prison by a military tribunal for charges varying from murder, rape, and desertion.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Major Reisman uses a live machine gun to get the upper hand on Colonel Breed’s unit when they come on Reisman’s unit which even under the circumstances is highly reckless and justification enough to scuttle the whole mission and put Major Reisman on court-martial.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • Colonel Breed bullies his way onto a restricted military base he was not authorized to be in, in an effort to coerce members of a team training for a classified operation he was not cleared for to disclose their mission. This makes him a security risk at best and a spy at worst. By rights his actions at the camp would have had him sitting out the war games the following week in the stockade awaiting an interrogation by intelligence and possibly a court-martial. Instead, he is still in command of his unit, which is holding an important post in the war games, without any evidence that he was punished for his actions at all.
    • The wargame arc has the Dozen best Colonel Breed by ignoring the established rules of the exercise, first by switching the armbands indicating which side they're on to whatever is convenient at the moment (the equivalent of wearing a false uniform), and then by hijacking an ambulance that operated outside the parameters of the wargame. By repeatedly cheating, they invalidated the exercise (likely screwing over the work of several divisions of soldiers in the process), and arguably broke the terms of the bet as to whether or not their mission was to be scrubbed: their challenge was to capture Breed in the wargame, not to capture him through an unrelated Zany Scheme while he was participating in a wargame.
    • The entire premise of the film is this. Per former officer Dale Dye on the DVD commentary: The military would indeed occasionally spring soldiers out of the brig if some were needed for a mission, as the brig was for relatively minor infractions like going AWOL, failing too many inspections, or back-talking a superior officer. However, they would never spring anyone out of an actual prison, to say nothing of Death Row; prisoners being held there have proven their inability to exist within the constraints of society, let alone an important military operation.
  • Ax-Crazy: Maggott. He tortures and kills a woman in the chateau for his own personal amusement and then fires at his own teammates, alerting the Germans to what's going on and basically ruining the entire plan. The Squad has to kill him first, and then improvise a way to salvage the operation.
  • Bald of Evil: Maggott is easily the most repulsive team member and possesses Telly Savalas' famous shiny dome.
  • Berserk Button: Don't push Posey. He killed a man who pushed him by hitting him hard enough that his jawbone pierced his brain.
  • Bilingual Bonus: a fair amount of German conversation, and the German officer's wife/mistress talking while looking for her husband/lover, is left unsubtitled (most of the latter obviously boiling down to "Wolfgang? Where are you?" even to a non-German speaker).
  • Bittersweet Ending: The chateau is successfully blown up, and the remaining survivors are shown to be recovering from their wounds. However, Wladislaw is the only surviving member of the Dozen, and the only surviving member of the attack besides Reisman and Bowren.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The bad guys are clearly Those Wacky Nazis. But the Dirty Dozen are mostly made up of sociopaths like Maggott and Franko, and what they do when they assault the chateau - killing everyone, Wermacht officer and prostitute alike - aren't the actions of traditional "good guys". Worse, the Allied officers who planned and signed off on the mission are so gleeful about the mission's success that Wladislaw's open desire at movie's end to kill himself some more Generals sounds justifiable.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted. Jefferson is one of the last members of the Dozen to die. The first one to die is Jiminez.
  • A Bloody Mess: During the wargame, the Dozen have one of their own impersonate an accidental casualty of an artillery barrage by wrapping him in bandages stained with ketchup.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Vladek is taken out this way by a German sniper.
  • Boxed Crook: If they don't like their new mission, there's always a nice warm noose or labor gang waiting for them back at the prison. And if any one of them tries to run, they all get sent back.
  • By Wall That Is Holey: Reversed in a shot when the inmates, while building a barracks cabin, raise a wall around Major Reisman.
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: Only one of the dozen survives the mission.
  • Chromosome Casting: As befitting the military setting, the major characters are all male. None of the female characters are named, and the most important of them (Whose primary purpose is to set off Maggott's psychotic misogyny and be murdered for being in the wrong place at the wrong time) is on-screen for less than five minutes.
  • Combat Pragmatist: When asked to prove their worth in a war games simulation, the dozen stage an accident and sneak into the enemy headquarters while wearing the opposing teams' armband color. Later, during the actual mission, they herd the German officers into the cellar, pour gasoline on them, and drop grenades down the vents.
  • Composite Character: Several of the dozen, but most notably Maggot, who takes up elements of no less than five members of the dozen from the book. His name and racism come from the book, but the Maggot from the book is a Professional Gambler and pimp. The Fundamentalist of the group from the book (who is Adapted Out) was Calvin Ezra Smith, whose religion is portrayed more positively despite having occasional elements of hypocrisy to it. Roscoe Lever was the one who broke cover and attacked a girl at the chalet in the book, but she killed him, and didn't raise the alarm due to the fact that (given his disguise) she thought she'd just killed a German Officer. Myron Odell (also Adapted Out) is the one who goes crazy and blows the alarm when, minutes after Lever is killed, a German and his mistress stumble across him, he's forced to kill them before they can reveal his cover, but doing so gives him flashbacks to the murder he was convicted of (the memory of which he had initially repressed) causing him to run through the halls, screaming and shooting. Finally Franko has some of Maggot's trouble-making role and is the member of the group who is shot by another member in the novel, after attempting to kill Reisman and escape.
  • Cool Guns:
    • The Dozen use M3 submachine guns. Major Reisman even has his magazines taped together jungle style.
    • Major Reisman and Joseph Wladisaw use Walther P38s as their sidearms when they infiltrate the chateau.
  • Crime of Self-Defense: The black soldier Robert Jeffersen was sentenced to death row by military tribunal for killing two white racists who tried to castrate him.
    • Notably averted in the novel, where instead his counterpart was convicted of tracking one of the racists who beat him within an inch of his life down afterwards and murdering him in cold blood.
  • Cunning Linguist: One of the reasons that Joeseph Wladislaw (Charles Bronson) was picked for the squad was that he knew some German. He couldn't understand a word of what a couple soldiers he passed said, so it's clear Wladislaw isn't fluent. He did know at least enough to get by, though.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Repeated shenanigans are explained by a character saying "he slipped on a bar of soap." At one point, Sgt. Bowren complains that "Everybody's slipping on soap."
  • Cut Phone Lines: The Dozen do this as part of their assault. It's even mentioned in their mnemonic:
    "14. Zero hour: Jiminez cuts the cable; Franko cuts the phone."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Franko. Reisman has his moments, and Pinkley has a very funny one.
  • Dead Man's Trigger Finger: Happens by implication. Briefly, in a wide shot, you can see Posey - who is manning the heavy machine gun - jerk back as if he has been hit by the Nazi gunfire, then we cut to a shot of a German motorcycle being hit as if the machine gun went off as Posey slumped over, dead.
  • Death by Adaptation: Jiminez, Sawyer, Posey, Maggot, White -Jefferson's novel counterpart-, and Pinkley all survive the attack in the novel, although they are listed as Missing In Action due to not having made it back to Allied lines yet.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the film, Corporal Morgan is just the guard who has any (generally minor) dialogue that Bowren doesn't. In the book, his regular duties were as a hangman (something that unnerves the men when they find out), and he eventually becomes The Mole for Colonel Breed. A few of the dozen, like Sawyer and Jimenez, are also more chatty and important in the book.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the book, Franco doesn't believe he'll be pardoned, and tries to surrender to the Germans, and is therefore shot by Sergeant Bowren. In the film, he's shot by a random German soldier during the escape.
  • Dirty Coward: Franko. Justified in that he's smart enough to know the Dozen are getting sent on a Suicide Mission, and he doesn't want to die for nobody.
  • The Ditz: Pinkley, easily the most dim-witted member of the team.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A group of panicked men and women are herded into a sealed room and locked inside, then killed using a dangerous substance poured in through vents on the roof. But hey, they're Nazis.
  • Downer Beginning: The film starts with a hanging scene. An American GI is being hanged in a British military prison for robbery and murder.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Reisman, Wladislaw, and Pinkley in the Nazi chateau.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Although this one is a major (Reisman). The drill sergeant under his command — Bowren — is more Reisman's aide de camp to be nasty enough.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Jiminez is the first of the Dozen to die...offscreen and without getting the opportunity to kill any Germans.
  • Dub Name Change: In Spain, the dubbed version changed Franko's name to Franchi because the country's ruler at the time was Francisco Franco.
  • Dumb Is Good: Pinkley comes across as this—some of the time, at least. Posey isn't dumb, but he has a very innocent outlook on things.
  • During the War: The climactic operation even takes place in order to cripple as much of the German strategic capabilities as possible just a night or so prior to D-Day.
  • Dwindling Party: The first death happens right when they land with the parachutes, the last while leaving the scene. The others somewhere in between.
  • Enemy Mine: The Dozen and Reisman first come together as an actual unit when they find someone they all hate: Colonel Breed.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • Colonel Breed marches into the Dozen's barracks with intent to strong-arming them to tell him what's their mission (an act that breaks every confidentiality regulation in the United States Army's manual) and has two of his goons try to beat the information out of Wladislaw before that because he didn't liked the fact Reisman made him look like a fool (hell, he doesn't likes the fact Reisman was given an assignment, period).
    • Franko is on death row because he killed a man to steal his money... barely enough cash to cover a week's worth of regular work in the Army.
    • Maggott decides all of a sudden that torturing and stabbing a random woman to death is something worth sending the entire plan (and his survival chances) to hell.
  • False Flag Operation: The Dozen sneak around in the war games by acquiring two sets of team armbands and switching which ones they wore whenever they crossed the lines to territory controlled by the other team.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Jiminez (Trini Lopez) is trying to scale a rope onto a platform suspended about a hundred feet into the air. As Reisman and some of the men are talking about how it will be Jiminez's assignment to scale the actual Nazi chateau, Reisman casually remarks, "Say Jiminez gets killed before he can reach the top of the chateau?" Jiminez gets killed BEFORE the Dozen even reach the chateau by accidentally parachuting into an apple tree and getting his neck snagged on a branch.
    • The Dozen's last meal before the mission is reminiscent of The Last Supper. Also, the person sitting in the Judas Iscariot place is the one who betrays the group.
  • Genre Shift: The tone changes dramatically once the team actually starts their mission. The first two acts could almost be considered a comedy. The third ... not so much.
  • Gentle Giant: For a guy on death row for punching a man's jaw through his brain, 6' 6" Posey is surprisingly nice.
  • Got Volunteered: All of the Dozen were hauled out of prison where they were awaiting execution.
  • Hate Sink:
    • Colonel Breed is a perfectly good example of The Neidermeyer; elitist, constantly acting angry and chewing out everybody that he feels he can get away with chewing out, a Glory Hound that dislikes anybody that doesn't shows mindless discipline and is willing to undermine an operation classified as top-secret (a war crime) out of attempted ass-kissing and later sheer spite.
    • Within the Dozen, there is Maggot. As you can see everywhere else on this page, the man wears the "Token Evil Teammate" glove with (literally) religious zeal.
    • For the Dozen, there is also Franko, who nearly gets the entire Dozen killed by attempting to escape. He's on death row for killing someone in a mugging - for 2 and a half pounds (roughly $10 US). While Maggot may be worse, Franko is still a "Token Evil Teammate".
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Gilpen, his foot caught, sacrifices himself to blow up the chateau's radio tower.
  • Holier Than Thou: Maggott tries to justify his murder and alleged rape of women through his special interpretation of Holy Scripture. He's still the most evil character in the entire movie. And in a movie of Nazis vs. criminals, that's really saying something.
  • I Didn't Mean to Kill Him: Posey says this word for word when recounting the reason why he was locked up - he accidentally killed a man with his bare hands because he kept pushing him.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Disturbingly inverted. Maggot is surprised infiltrating the chateau by the lady friend of one of the German officers. She tries to seduce him, but unfortunately for her, Maggot is the resident crazy misogynist of the bunch. She screams, he stabs her slowly, every German soldier in the house hears... but they all assume someone's having fun and laugh about it.
  • Impossible Mission Collapse: Two-thirds of the movie follows the Dozen's training to fulfill the assignment, including memorizing the chateau's layout and step-by-step instructions. A large number of the deaths that happen during the third act occur because Maggot blows the Dozen's cover way too early by deciding out of the blue to indulge his murderous impulses, forcing them to try to salvage the mission.
  • Incessant Chorus: The brass band in the inspection scene, who happily burst into their piece whenever the impatient Colonel Breed comes out of his office, to his increasing annoyance.
  • Introdump: The opening credits has a roll call of all the "Dozen" as they stand before Major Reissman. Sgt. Bowren reads each members name and his prison sentence while his face is in closeup.
  • Just a Gangster: Franko. He was awaiting execution for murdering a man for his pocket money, which amounted to 2 pounds ten shillings, or roughly $10 US (One weeks' pay for a GI in WWII).
  • Killed Offscreen: Posey's death is not shown onscreen, although he is presumably shot whilst manning the machine gun. Only Bravos, who is firing alongside Posey, is shown dying in the ensuing carnage scenes. Briefly, in a wide shot, you can see Posey jerk back as if he has been hit by the Nazi gunfire, then we cut to a shot of a German motorcycle being hit as if the machine gun went off as Posey slumped over, dead, and what follows is the shot of Bravos dying.
  • Kill 'Em All: Eleven of the eponymous group die, and the last is badly injured. The two officers with them both survive, though.
  • "Last Supper" Steal: Early on the team gets a scene greatly resembling Da Vinci's The Last Supper, with Maggott sitting in the same position as Judas.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Jim Brown, a famous football player, rushing the bomb to the ventilation shaft like a football running play.
  • Leave No Survivors: The aim of the mission is to kill every German in sight. Reisman orders Vladek to summarily execute some German soldiers who survive the raid on the mansion. Technically, this is a war crime.
  • Letterbox Arson: The Dozen kill the Nazi bigwigs at the chateau by pouring fuel down the ventilator shaft into the bunker and then igniting it with grenades.
  • Locked in a Freezer: When Reisman's men start their attack, the Nazi officers and civilians retreat to a basement bomb shelter. Too bad for them that the Americans dump gasoline and dozens of grenades down the air vents, the outer gates don't unlock from the inside, and there's a whopping great stockpile of ammonium picrate down there as well.
  • Loophole Abuse: The dozen "cheat" at a war game by switching their armbands to the enemy side's. When another soldier points out that it's against the rules, Jefferson simply replies "We're traitors".
  • Loves the Sound of Screaming: Maggot demands a woman do this before he knifes her, nearly warning their targets.
  • Majorly Awesome: Reisman provides the page image.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Turns out the soldier by the name of "Maggott" is the biggest threat and liability to his team's mission.
    • Samson Posey is a Gentle Giant.
  • Military Maverick: Reisman's competency coupled with his ability to get results and tendency to exceed orders nets him a crappy, high-stakes, borderline suicidal assignment with a bunch of expendable convicts who hate his guts. Reisman even points out out loud to his superiors how batshit insane his mission is.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: When Colonel Breed tries to dry shave Franko.
  • Mission Briefing: The model house rehearsal is probably one of the oldest examples. Of course, because we hear it step by step, it doesn't go exactly as planned.
  • Model Planning: The plan is largely with a model (and a Donald Duck figure).
  • Murderers Are Rapists: Maggott, allegedly. He admits to the murder but denies the rape.
  • The Neidermeyer: Wladislaw is in prison awaiting execution for shooting his commanding officer, who, according to Wladislaw, was absconding over the hill with all of his unit's medical supplies.
  • N-Word Privileges: Maggott tries dropping the N-Word and Jefferson makes sure Maggott learns he doesn't have the privilege to do so.
  • The Notable Numeral: One of the most notable examples.
  • Old Soldier: Lee Marvin as an old major, then reprises his role 18 years later in The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission, which takes place in the same timeframe as the first movie.
  • Outranking Your Job: Major Reisman leads twelve convicts and a sergeant on the film's climactic raid.
  • Pain Mistaken for Sex: Maggot points his knife at a terrified woman and tells her "scream." When she does, the Nazi officers in the lounge have a good laugh about how much she is enjoying the moment.
  • Parachute in a Tree: Jiminez breaks his neck this way during a drop in France. (Caused by Creative Differences between the actor and director, from all accounts.)
  • The Pardon: A full pardon of their capital offenses was the incentive for the main characters volunteer for the film's mission. Wladislaw is the only one of the Dozen who doesn't get his posthumously.
  • Psycho Party Member: Maggot is clearly off-balance from the start, spouting off racist comments like nobody's business, but he really becomes a problem at the climax where he nearly foils the mission by stabbing a woman to death at the party... for no reason.
  • The Radio Dies First: Technically the sentries at the roadblock are killed earlier, but a key part of the plan is to cut communications to and from the chateau before the assault. As soon as the shooting starts, Wladislaw and Major Reisman move to neutralize the radio room, while other members of the Dozen are assigned to cut the phone lines and blow up the comm tower on the roof.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Trope Codifier. The team sent in to blow up the Nazi R&R chateau is made up entirely of men facing either execution or life sentences in military prisons. Except for Magotnote , though, most of them are implied to be not-such-bad guys who simply were pushed too far, or never should have been allowed in the military at all.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Maggott was on Death Row for raping and killing women (though he personally denies the rape charges). Once the Dirty Dozen assault the chateau, Maggott sabotages the entire mission when he kills a prostitute and fires on his teammates when they try to stop him.
  • Rated M for Manly: This film was pretty much the Trope Codifier for the "Commando" craze that hit war movies (and TV shows, and comics) for the next decade or so.
  • Recruiting the Criminal: The titular group is either sentenced to death or a decade-plus time doing forced labor in max security. Reisman makes it very clear from the get-go that the assignment is a Suicide Mission and the brass doesn't expect them to return.
  • Retirony: One of the guards manning the checkpoint outside the chateau mentions that he's going on leave in another week or so. He and the person he's talking to are the first people to die.
  • Screaming Woman: Fortunately it's mistaken for The Immodest Orgasm. Until someone starts shooting.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying!:
    • The Nazi chateau is filled with ranking Nazis and their mistresses, enjoying a decadent party amidst the hell of World War II.
    • The Dozen themselves also party with prostitutes at the end of their training. This leads to problems with high command for the major and leads to the "War Games" plot detour.
    • Not to mention, this line:
    Captain Kinder:...then you don't deny the fact that on the night of April 14-15, a US Military installation was the scene of a drunken party in which no less than 7 civilian women played an active part!?
    Reisman: Oh yes sir, they played an active part alright.
  • Sexophone: Heard when Reisman has a truckload of London hookers brought to the camp for the Dozen. It's implied this is the reason Reisman put Maggot on guard tower duty that particular night.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Franko. There's also Maggott, who's just a sociopath.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Maggot is perhaps one of the better pre-Vietnam examples in film. He's a fundamentalist, misogynistic rapist and killer of women who turns on his own team when he can't control his urges during the mission.
  • So Much for Stealth: During the mission, insane serial killer Maggot goes off mission and kills a prostitute with his knife. Fortunately her dying scream is mistaken for The Immodest Orgasm by the Nazi officers partying below. When Maggot starts shooting however, they lose the initiative.
  • Sole Survivor: Wladislaw is the only one of the Boxed Crook dozen to survive the mission (Reisman and Sergeant Bowren also make it).
  • Sound-Only Death: Vladek executes some surrendered German troops offscreen.
  • Southern-Fried Private: Pinkley. There's also Maggot, but he's a genuine full-blown psychopath, not just an ignorant, insular hick.
  • Spill Stain Sabotage: Wladislaw spills a bottle of ink over the guestbook rather than sign a name.
  • Straw Misogynist: Maggott is basically a serial killer who targets women of loose morals (in his view).
  • Stupid Evil: The Dozen are proceeding with the infiltration of the German-occupied chateau in France, staffed by dozens of soldiers and generals and more reinforcements waiting nearby. Maggot, the most murderous member of the group, purposely sabotages the mission to take the opportunity to kill a German woman and tries to kill the rest of his team. He even urges the woman to scream in fear, alerting the Germans to his presence.
  • Suicide Mission: Only three members of the team survive the assault on the chateau.
  • Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder: This is what the Dozen are as far as the brass is concerned. If they succeed, they have struck a significant blow against the Nazis. If they fail, they have saved the army the cost of an execution.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Major Reisman is tasked with turning a group of crazy, disobedient military prisoners into an elite fighting unit. This works during a training exercise but when they try it in real life things quickly start falling apart. The biggest setback is caused by Maggot going Ax-Crazy - what did they expect?
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Wladislaw. He was an officer on the front lines who shot a soldier for cravenly abandoning his post and running away from the battle. Reisman has no objection to Wladislaw's actions, but remarks that he should have done the deed when no one could see him do it.
  • Team Title: The titular twelve men (that end up going for a long time without getting clean out of rebelling that they have no hot water). Some other markets also called the film stuff like "Los Doce Del Patibulo" ('The Twelve Men From The Gallows/Death Row', Latin America).
  • Tempting Fate: Franko. As the remaining Dozen are getting away, he starts crowing that he's gonna survive after all... just as a German soldier crawls out of the woodwork and opens fire on the truck, killing him.
  • Title Drop: The prisoner-soldiers refuse to shave with cold water, so Major Reissman orders the MPs to stop issuing shaving kit and soap. One of the MPs says, "So now if you... you Dirty Dozen have no objections, we will get our equipment, and we will start in right now."
  • Token Evil Teammate: Archer Maggott is a bigoted, psychotic, woman-hating, murdering rapist, and Major Reisman knows it. But given that Maggott is also a trained G.I., and the operation needs all the help it can get, Reisman retains his services. Maggott doesn't mind volunteering for the mission once he realizes it could save him from the hangman. Ultimately he goes completely insane, attempts to kill his teammates, and almost sabotages the entire operation, but for a while at least he was a warm body with a machine gun.
    • Victor Franko is a gangster who murdered a man over $10 and nearly gets the entire group killed because he tries to escape.
  • Token Good Teammate:
  • Token Minority: Jefferson and Jiminez, an African-American and a Latin, respectively. Racism inside the 1940s Army is even an important part of Jefferson'a backstory (he killed some bigots who tried to castrate him).
  • Unbuilt Trope: The film simultaneously popularised and deconstructed the Trading Bars for Stripes and Boxed Crook tropes, showing that, sure you can send a band of violent criminals on a highly dangerous mission, and they may even succeed, but it won't go smoothly or end well.
    • The eponymous Dozen are the worst convicts in the military prison system and almost half were on death row. They’re not selected because their criminal histories give them an edge or specialist skills over everyday troops, they have been chosen because the operation is a Suicide Mission and they’re the only ones desperate enough (and expendable enough) to take it.
    • When they are sent to a military base to begin their training, they immediately antagonize everyone, and get into open fights with the regular troops, culminating in an outright brawl with actual shots fired, which almost gets the mission cancelled and all of them sent back to prison.
    • Although the Dozen manage to gel fairly well while stateside, and perform well in their training exercises, once they get deployed it all quickly goes to Hell. Because they have barely any actual paratrooper experience, one of them botches his landing and dies before the mission even starts; the Psycho Party Member goes rogue, murders a civilian and starts indiscriminately shooting everybody, and has to be killed just to make him stop; his rampage alerts the Germans to their presence and the mission turns into a bloody shooting battle rather than the stealthy commando mission they planned; and, while the mission is ultimately a success, only one of the Dozen manages to escape with his life.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Shows up as the Dozen go over their infiltration plan multiple times, including a mnemonic for memorizing all 16 steps. Of course, the plan starts breaking down almost immediately but they have enough redundancy to compensate. When halfway through the mission things really go wrong, the plan falls apart and they have to improvise the rest of the way.
  • Use Your Head: Justified. When you're wearing a steel helmet and your opponent isn't, headbutts and blocking punches with your forehead suddenly become beautifully viable.
  • War Is Hell: Neither the Allies nor the Axis brass come as nice guys by the end, one side being perfectly willing to toss soldiers around as cannon fodder for the sake of seeking glory (and getting giddy about the good results obtained over the corpses of said soldiers), attempting to break ordered operational secrecy out of sheer spite, being brutal racists and full of soldiers halfway to sociopathy (if not already there)... and the other side are the Nazis.
  • Word Association Test: Played with. Wladislaw's responses are all about baseball.
  • You All Meet in a Cell: The dozen are all in prison for various crimes. That's why they are picked for the suicide mission, since it's their only hope to avoid a long prison term or death sentence. They don't meet each other there, but we are introduced to them there, as the commander offers each one the mission.