Call Judge David Johnson cowardly, but he wouldn't eagerly volunteer for missions with the words "fatal" or "deadly" in the titles.
Telly Savalas: Nazi Slayer
This pair of made-for-TV expansions of the Dirty Dozen universe finds Telly Savalas assuming the role of commander of the titular squad of misfits. Each film details an impossible mission that Savalas's Major Wright must complete, using 12 hand-picked prisoners. His soldiers are a motley crew, made up of murderers, rapists, and generally bad eggs. With the odds stacked against him, and a seemingly unstoppable Nazi Wehrmacht ready to pounce, how, you may ask, can Wright and his delinquents succeed?
• The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission
Major Wright is called into service to recruit another "Dirty Dozen" to thwart a diabolical plot by the Nazis to produce virulent nerve gas and drop it Washington. The Nazis are developing the agent in a European monastery, and it falls to Savalas's crew to infiltrate the monastery, rescue the scientists, disable the project, and wipe out as many dirty National Socialists as they can. Thing is, there may be a leak in the higher levels of the government, and the unsavory dudes who comprise the Dirty Dozen could deep-six the operation with their own disregard for the rules. Can Wright turn them around to do their duty?
• The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission
Wright is summoned once again by General Worden (Ernest Borgnine, Airwolf) to work his magic and assemble a squad of prisoners to embark on a fool's mission that will likely end in death. Aided by his loyal sergeant (Jeff Conaway), he raids the military prison and comes up with a serious collection of stooges, one of whom is the smart-mouthed Carmine D'agostino (Eric Estrada). Their mission: to intercept a Nazi train carrying high-powered Germans to Istanbul where they will be used to plant the seeds of the Fourth Reich. But there are a couple of twists: a female soldier will accompany the squad and someone from the Dirty Dozen is a traitor, passing intel to the Nazis.
I've never seen the original Dirty Dozen so, there you go, whatever it's worth. However, taken as separate World War II action films, these two flicks deliver the goods in the machismo department. There's a lot of similarities between The Deadly Mission and The Fatal Mission, and those like-minded plot points are unavoidable. You know, for instance, that each film will feature 12 low-down dirty criminals, who piss and moan for a while, then eventually form into a moderately cohesive fighting unit, and ultimately take it to the Nazis. You can also count on some kind of leak emanating from nearby to make things more difficult for our heroes.
These movies were made-for-TV affairs, so the violence, while copious in that non-revealing broadcast-friendly kind of way, is never overly brutal. Lots and lots of people get shot, but there's rarely any blood. I think there was one guy who was riddled with bullets, and his death scene just featured a few bloody patches on his uniform. Plus, there was the requisite "bleeding from the mouth effect" that torments most every victim in these non-graphic affairs.
The storylines themselves are decent, and only exist to supply a backdrop for our hard-asses to kill Nazis and grip at Major Wright. Of the two films, I enjoyed The Fatal Mission's plot more. The train thing offered great opportunities for the Dirty Dozen to run around opening fire Goldeneye N64-style and feasting on Nazis. Both films culminate a flurry of gunfire and explosions.
As for the overall value of the set: it's pretty cheap, and lovers of WWII-inspired mayhem should squeeze some enjoyment out of the discs. It's not high art, but it is entertaining and Savalas is a bad ass.
On the technical end, we're talking coach class throughout. The full frame transfers are merely serviceable and the 2.0 tracks deliver the explosions suitably enough but with very little fanfare. Extras are AWOL.
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