Tuesday, June 13, 2006

THE DIRTY DOZEN: THE DEADLY MISSION / THE FATAL MISSION

To tie in with Warner Bros. recent special edition of the 1967 World War II movie classic, THE DIRTY DOZEN, MGM has dug into its vaults and unearthed a couple of late Eighties TV-movie sequels and issued them as a double feature, THE DIRTY DOZEN: THE DEADLY MISSION/THE FATAL MISSION (1987/1988).

In THE DEADLY MISSION, Major Wright (Telly Savalas, replacing Lee Marvin, who originated the role in the theatrical feature and one previous TV sequel) must assemble a new 12-man team of military convicts for a suicide mission behind enemy lines. In this case, the target is a secret nerve gas factory and their orders are to blow it up and extract the scientists working there so the Nazis can't try again. It's pretty much a retread of the theatrical film, but Savalas makes an acceptable lead (he played one of the convicts in the 1967 original, so there's at least a tenuous connection) and the new dozen includes such familiar faces as Randall "Tex" Cobb (RAISING ARIZONA), Gary Graham (TV's ALIEN NATION), Bo Svenson (WALKING TALL PART 2) and a couple of Van Pattens. With authentic-looking Yugoslavian locations, fairly high production values, and solid direction by Lee H. Katzin, DEADLY MISSION is a better-than-average TV adventure movie.

Set near the end of the war, THE FATAL MISSION requires Maj. Wright (Savalas again) to assemble one last team of convict commandos to take out a trainload of Nazis on their way to the Middle East to establish a new base of power for the continuation of the Third Reich. The titular dozen this time includes Erik Estrada (DO OR DIE, CHiPs), John Matusak (ONE MAN FORCE), Ernie Hudson (GHOSTBUSTERS), Jeff Conaway BABYLON 5), and – in a first for the franchise – Heather Thomas, the blonde bikini-clad babe from THE FALL GUY. The story, while following the established formula, is a bit different this time, with an enemy agent imbedded in the group and the presence of a woman on the team (Thomas is surprisingly good here). Katzin's direction is once again efficient and briskly paced.

MGM's two-disc package is bare bones but serviceable, with each movie on its own single-sided disc, presented in their original full screen TV aspect ratios. Sound is Dolby Digital stereo, and the movies are unrated. There are no extra features whatsoever.

If you're a fan of the franchise, it might be worth picking up: you get two decent DIRTY DOZEN teleflicks at a low retail price. If you're not a fan, well, you wouldn't want to see them anyway, right?

BUY: The Dirty Dozen Double Feature (The Dirty Dozen - The Deadly Mission / The Dirty Dozen - The Fatal Mission)