The daddy of men-on-a-mission movies, Robert Aldrich's gleefully nasty, wilfully daft action adventure is ageing well. A great film? Probably not. A top-notch guilty pleasure flick? Definitely. Apparently, John Wayne was offered but turned down the role of Major Reisman before Lee Marvin. Thank God for that. The Duke's got a lot going for him, but it's difficult to see him matching Marvin's flinty cool as the military hardnut drafted in to turn 12 convicts into a crack unit for a suicide mission behind enemy lines. Viciously funny, Marvin's the top turn in a cast riddled with scene-stealers like Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland and John Cassavetes.
Assembling as many survivors as they could find for the chat-track and pulling together a respectable Making Of doc, this is a solid two-discer. It still feels Marvin-light (his presence on a bizarre flag-waving Join The Marines! recruitment film notwithstanding), but pretty much everyone else supplements new talking heads with vintage material.
It's cute that they include the shonky 1985 sequel (hell, no one's going to buy it on its lonesome...), but the best extra is the Filthy Thirteen doc looking at the real-life men who might have inspired the legend of a Dirty Dozen unit. Largely focusing on one Jake McNiece, now a softly spoken OAP, it uncorks stories of hellraising do-or-die missions from his days as the bad boy of the US airborne regiments that'll make your hair stand on end.