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The Devil's Brigade

One year after MGM had a massive hit with "The Dirty Dozen", producer David L. Wolper and United Artists came out with their own spin called THE DEVILS BRIGADE.

Wolper (Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, LA Confidential) wrangled a great action director and one hell of a lead for the project.

William Holden (Stalag 17, Sunset Boulevard) is terrific considering he's got the underwritten role of Lt. Col. Frederick, in charge of bringing together a ragtag bunch of rejects into a formidable fighting force. (Sound familiar?)

The other half of his squad is a buttoned up Canadian Army unit led by Cliff Robertson (Brainstorm) sporting one of the worst accents in modern film.

Vince Edwards, Andrew Prine and Richard Jaeckel are all veterans of many WW2 movies and contribute well, as does Claude Akins as an aging private with no sense fo the rules and Family Feud's Richard Dawson as a kilt wearing bad ass fighting man.

Carroll O'Conner turns in a loud, bombastic performance just before he launched into stardom as Archie Bunker in "All in the Family".

The first half is pretty predictable as the finely tuned Canadian force basically lays waste to the American misfits, but it hits 60's war movie heaven as the brigade bonds and takes on dangerous missions behind enemy lines.

Director Andrew V. McLaglen helmed classics like "McClintock!", "The Wild Geese" and "Hellfighters" and he brings the same macho swagger here, staging a 20 minute takeover of a Nazi occupied town that's suspenseful, violent and hilariously enjoyable.

The cast is probably too old, the story is likely too predictable, but McLaglen, Holden and cast sell the action and Alex North (Spartacus, Dragonslayer, Cleopatra) delivers an all-time great war movie score to alongside the troops as they power on against the Nazis.

Probably influenced by great memories of seeing this with my Dad back in the late 60's, THE DEVIL'S BRIGADE earns its stripes and a B-.

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