The operation count-off is as follows: - One: down to the road block we've just begun - Two: the guards are through - Three: the Major's men are on a spree - Four: Major and Wladislaw go through the door - Five: Pinkley stays out in the drive - Six: the Major gives the rope a fix - Seven: Wladislaw throws the hook to heaven - Eight: Jiminez has got a date - Nine: the other guys go up the line - Ten: Sawyer and Gilpin are in the pen - Eleven: Posey guards points Five and Seven - Twelve: Wladislaw and the Major go down to delve - Thirteen: Franko goes up without being seen - Fourteen: Zero hour, Jiminez cuts the cable Franko cuts the phone - Fifteen: Franko goes in where the others have been - Sixteen: we all come out like it's Halloween
The scene where one of the dozen pretends to be a general inspecting Robert Ryan's troops was initially written for Clint Walker's character. However, Walker was uncomfortable with this scene, so Robert Aldrich decided to use Donald Sutherland instead. The scene was directly responsible for Sutherland being cast in MASH (1970), which made him an international star.
Production on the film ran for so long that Jim Brown was in danger of missing training camp for the up-coming 1967-68 football season. As training camp and the NFL season approached, the NFL threatened to fine and suspend Brown if he did not leave filming and report to camp immediately. Not one to take threats, Brown simply held a press conference to announce his retirement from football. At the time of his retirement, Brown was considered to be one of the best in the game and even today is considered to be one of the NFL's all-time greats.
John Wayne was first offered the part of Maj. John Reisman, but he declined and went on to star in and direct another war film (The Green Berets (1968)). The part was then offered to Lee Marvin, who took it. Wayne's refusal was due to his disapproval of the original script where Reisman has a brief affair with a married woman whose husband is fighting overseas.
"The Dirty Dozen" author E.M. Nathanson may have gotten the idea for the title (if not the plot) of his best-selling novel from a real-life group of World War II 101st Airborne Division paratroopers nicknamed "The Filthy Thirteen." These men, demolitionists in Headquarters Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st, supposedly earned their nickname by not bathing or shaving for a long period of time during training prior to the Normandy invasion. Members of The Filthy Thirteen can be seen in famous vintage film footage and still photos, their faces painted with Indian "war paint," before boarding their planes for the D-Day jump.
Lee Marvin referred to this movie as "crap" and "just a dummy moneymaker", although he enjoyed the film. The movie has nothing to do with war, he stressed, and he was very pleased that he got to do The Big Red One (1980), which mirrored his own wartime experiences.
When Lee Marvin and Bronson ring the doorbell at the castle, the bell rings da da da dah (...-) 3 times in rapid succession. In Morse code this is the letter V (Victory) and the 4 notes represented by the code are the first notes of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, but again, even though by the German Beethoven, it was an Allied anthem signifying victory. Someone in dubbing the sound was having fun.
The sub-machine guns being used by most of the Dirty Dozen are M3, .45 ACP Cal., sub-machine guns know as the "Grease Gun". It came into use late in the war replacing Thompson sub-machine guns. It was not a general issue weapon to infantryman, normally it was the crew weapon on a tank. Many "found" their way to the frontline troops. This earlier model weapon had a charging lever on the side. Later models (M3A1) were charged by simply pulling back on the bolt by inserting your finger into a recess in the bolt. The M3A1 wire stock included a tab to help load magazines, the ends threaded to accept a cleaning brush to clean the barrel and was used as a wrench to unscrew the barrel for disassembly. The weapon, only manufactured during WWII by General Motors Headlight division, at a cost about $20 vs. the Thompsons at a few $100 each.
Construction of the faux chateau proved *too* good. The script called for it to be blown up, but the construction was so solid that 70 tons of explosives would have been needed to achieve the effect! Instead, a section was rebuilt from cork and plastic.
Although Robert Aldrich had tried to purchase the rights to E.M. Nathanson's novel "The Dirty Dozen" while it was still in outline form, it was MGM that successfully acquired the property in May 1963. The book became a best-seller upon its publication in 1965.
The French chateau that appears in the film was constructed especially for the production by art director William Hutchinson and his crew of 85. One of the largest sets ever built, it stood 240 feet across and 50 feet high. Gardeners surrounded the building with 5400 square yards of heather, 400 ferns, 450 shrubs, 30 spruce trees and 6 full-grown weeping willows.
One of the German guards killed at the checkpoint ended up with a promotion, Richard Marner is the guard saying he has leave. He went on to play Colonel Kurt Von Strohm in the British sitcom 'Allo 'Allo (1982).
This was the first commercially produced Hollywood film to open the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 1967 (the festival began in 1947 under the name of the First International Festival of Documentary Films).
Robert Aldrich was told that he could be in line for an Oscar as Best Director for the film if he cut out the scene of Jim Brown dropping hand grenades into the bomb shelter. The scene was considered controversial because the Germans (including women) were locked inside the bunker and had no chance to survive. Aldrich considered it but elected to leave the scene in to show that "war is hell".
As film production ran over-schedule, Frank Sinatra advised 'Trini López' to quit so that his recording career wouldn't lose it's momentum or popularity. So Lopez took Sinatra's advice and quit. (Or, according to another account, his agent unwisely demanded more money, which Robert Aldrich refused to grant. Originally, Lopez's character, Jimminez, was supposed to be one of the heroes. He was to be the one to ignite all of the dynamite that would destroy the entire chateau. But with Lopez's abrupt departure, his character was written off as being killed during the parachute jump.