Daily Archives: January 19, 2019

BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – The Dirty Dozen (1967)

They’re dirty.  There’s twelve of them!

BQB here with a review of the WW2 classic, “The Dirty Dozen.”

abustany-movie-reel-800px

Killing Nazis is a tough job, but someone has to do it, 3.5 readers.

And when it comes to a suicide mission deep in the heart of Nazi-dom, only men with nothing left to lose will do.

Enter Major Reisman (Lee Marvin), the surly soldier who gets results, but instead of the accolades he deserves, gets nothing but disdain from the brass who wax chairs with their asses but don’t know the first thing about actual combat in the field.

There’s a mansion in Germany where Hitler’s top men meet, and General Worden (Ernest Borgnine) wants them dead.  The plan?  Twelve men will parachute into the territory and kill as many Nazis as they can, by any means necessary.

Only the worst of the worst will be willing.  Men beyond redemption facing either life in prison or a date with the noose.  Reisman is ordered to recruit his men from a military prison filled with lowlives, degenerates, killers, rapists, thieves and con men – ex-soldiers who have been drummed out of the service for betraying the trust once placed in them.

Most of them are, indeed, scum without question.  Perhaps one or two were just in the wrong place at the wrong time or have an understandable excuse.  By and large though, these are men who would just as soon stab their new commanding officer in the back as opposed to work with him.

Eventually, they come around.  The majority of the film (and it’s way too long) is spent on the training.  Slowly but surely, Reisman wins the respect of these dirtballs and eventually, convinces them that he’s offering them the one and only shot they’ll ever have at redemption so they’d better take it and not screw it up.  Resiman is a better man than these men, but as his superiors often remind him, it’s a miracle he hasn’t been court martialed himself, as his methods are extreme and on the battlefield, he walks right up to the “line” and occasionally, crosses it when no one is looking.

SPOILER ALERT (though you’ve had a really long time to watch it) – 3/4th of the film is spent on the training that when it finally comes time for the big battle royale with the Nazis, you’re like, “Finally!”

Oddly enough, this film makes me feel bad for the Nazis.  I know.  I know.  They were orchestrating the downfall of humanity.  But at this particular moment, they were at a party and something about all those defenseless Nazis, cowering in a bunker as Reisman’s goon squad pours in gas and grenades and blows them all to smithereens.  I don’t know.  Yes, OK.  They were Nazis but like…their wives and mistresses were there and they’re all crying and trying to claw their way out of what will become their tomb…look I’m glad we won the war but all I’m saying is that you have to be a real bastard to kill all those people (good or evil) in one sitting and not flinch and I suppose that’s where the Dirty Dozen comes in.

Is there a point to all this?  Maybe we need to take the bastards of the world and direct their skills at lying and cheating and so on and put them to work on saving the world instead of ruining it for once?

Maybe.

And maybe today, we’re all like those generals with their fancy brass, criticizing the military from our easy chairs while we don’t have one iota of what the hell of war is really like.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Sometimes nothing is a real cool hand.

BQB here with a review of the 1960’s classic, “Cool Hand Luke.”

abustany-movie-reel-800px

NOTE: You’ve had since the time period of the Vietnam War to watch this thing but if you haven’t yet, SPOILERS abound.  Go watch on Netflix, then come back here and discuss.

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate, 3.5 readers.”

It’s ironic that this iconic line is featured in a film that, from a writer’s perspective, is a veritable showcase of that age old art – “show, don’t tell.”

In fact, early on in the film, we meet a stoic guard who presides over the Southern hard labor prison camp, who hides behind a pair of mirrored aviator shades.  As the convicts toil under the hot Florida sun, he takes aim at a fast flying bird and blam!  He shoots it, causing it to drop dead right out of the sky.

QUOTE ONE CONVICT: “Why doesn’t he ever say anything?”

QUOTE ANOTHER CONVICT: “Oh, I think he just said something.”

(I may not have gotten that wording exact but close enough and I don’t have time to find the scene and get it one-hundred percent.)

Indeed, the guard had just said something.  To any felon who happened to be paying attention, the message was loud and clear.  Without speaking a word, the guard said, “If I can drop a tiny, moving target out of the sky, imagine how easily I could pop open one of your heads like a ripe casaba melon if you so much as think about running away.”

Alas, this communique is lost on Luke (Paul Newman), as are most attempts by the camp to instill in him a sense of order.

Yes, there are many rules at the prison camp.  As another guard barks in the beginning, there are rules about what to do with your soda bottles, rules about how you can smoke, rules about what time to go to bed, rules about this and that.  As an audience member, you lose track of all the rules and start to think if you were there, you might want to check with someone to find out what the rule is on sneezing before you sneeze.

On top of that, the prisoners have their own rules and codes on how to deal with one another.  Once the guards leave them on their own for the evening, Dragline (a young, lean George Kennedy who really surprised me because as a Gen Xer, I thought his life started as Frank’s sidekick in “The Naked Gun,” the top dog in camp until Luke comes along, lays out all the rules he expects to be followed.

It’s never outwardly said, and amazingly, most core themes in this film are not openly said, but it’s clear just from the look on Luke’s face that he is laughing at these rubes for living such a sad, boring, highly regulated life.

From the start of the film, it’s also clear that Luke has no plan in life.  Perhaps that’s just as well as God tends to laugh at people who do.  At any rate, when he’s caught twisting the heads off of parking meters with a wrench for no apparent reason other than when he was drunk, it seemed like a fun thing to do, he doesn’t cower when the police come, but laughs and smiles and he continues to smile in the face of authority for much of the film, unable to take their attempts to bark commands at him seriously.

No, Luke doesn’t have a plan and as one scene communicates, if life is a card game then Luke’s hand is nothing.  Even so, Luke plays that hand well as he is a master bluffer., convincing his fellow inmates that he’s got four aces when in reality, he’s got zilch.

Dragline, who goes from being Luke’s biggest critic to his almost slavishly devoted lapdog, learns this when, during a boxing match, he pounds away on Luke.  Luke, near death, has zero boxing ability and no plan to win, but based purely on sheer will, keeps getting up again, only to keep getting pounded back to the ground again.

Will you ever serve time in a prison labor camp?  Hopefully not, but the lesson is easily transferred to normal life.  We’re all told to have a plan.  Plan this.  Plan that.  We can’t plan for the unexpected curveballs that punch us with the force of Dragline’s fist.  All we can do is take the beating, fall down, and get back up again.  Hell, Dragline was teaching us this before Rocky did.  Who knew?

Indeed, the incarcerated mooks live downtrodden lives, and Luke’s various acts of insubordination bring them great joy, so much so that they start to live vicariously through him.  When he eats 50 eggs on a dare, he wins the challenge but then falls into a Jesus pose with his arms stretched out on the table.  Heavy handed imagery to be sure, but the point is that Luke could just as easily keep his nose down, do his time and be out in two years, but instead, he’s becoming a martyring himself, ruining his body and chance for freedom just so these dopes can have fun watching him doing things they are too frightened to do.

If you think about it, we all like to pretend that we are virtuous, moral people but truth be told, the best of us would descend into savagery if it weren’t for the legal system.  The majority of us get the picture early on.  We know police, courts and jails exist, so we’d better walk the straight and narrow path to avoid them.  Then there are people like Dragline, who do what they want until they get caught, get sent to the prison and then faced with a world filled with rules and rifle toting guards ready to enforce them, become obedient lap dogs.  The rules they refused to follow in civilian life are now stuffed down their throat with righteous fury.

Then there’s the rare case of Luke, who doesn’t get the message.  SPOILER ALERT: he escapes.  Again and again.  And after one attempt, the hard nosed warden famously laments, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

Yes, the civilians on the outside just needed to see that cop car driving down the street to get the message that breaking the law is a bad idea.  The convicts had to get their wills broken to realize that getting on a guard’s bad side is a bad idea.  But Luke, as the warden notes, will need additional convincing.

I won’t go into detail but suffice to say, after each escape attempt, the warden and company go out of their way to communicate to Luke that he needs to follow the rules and well, can even the most strong willed of men be broken?  I’ll let that be a surprise for you when you watch it.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

Tagged , , ,
Advertisements