The Devil’s Brigade, The (1968): Andrew McLaglen’s DeLuxe Color War Movie, Starring William Holden

Andrew McLaglen directed The Devil’s Brigade, a DeLuxe Color War film, based on the 1966 book of the same name co-written by American historian Robert H. Adleman and Col. George Walton, a member of the brigade.

The Devil’s Brigade

Original poster by Sandy Kossin

The film recounts the formation, training, and first mission of the 1st Special Service Force, a joint American-Canadian commando unit, known as the Devil’s Brigade.

The dramatic center depicts the Brigade’s first mission in the Italian Campaign, capturing an impregnable German mountain stronghold, Monte la Difensa.

In the summer of 1942, American Lieutenant Colonel Robert T. Frederick, a War Department staff officer with no prior combat or command experience, is summoned to Britain, selected by Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten to raise a commando force composed of both American and Canadian personnel for operations in German-occupied Norway.

Back in the U.S., Frederick arrives at the derelict Fort William Henry Harrison in Montana where his American troops are jailbirds, ne’er-do-wells, and misfits. When the hand-picked elite Canadian contingent arrives there is immediate friction with the Americans and chaos ensues.

Frederick manages to overcome the national differences and mold the First Special Service Force into a highly trained commando unit, only to be informed that the Allied High Command have offered the Norwegian missions to British troops.

Left without role, the brigade is ordered to be disbanded and its soldiers reassigned. Frederick, undeterred, manages to persuade Lieutenant General Mark Clark to give his men chance to prove themselves with new mission in Italy. In the process, they earn the nickname “Die Teufelsbrigade”–The Devil’s Brigade.

Convinced of the ability of Frederick’s men, Lieutenant General Clark promotes Frederick to full Colonel and gives them a task to capture Monte la Difensa. Facing severe obstacles, the Devil’s Brigade attacks the undefended eastern side of the mountain by scaling a cliff the Germans believed could not be climbed. Reaching the top as a unit, they take the stronghold despite losses, allowing the Allies to continue their advance north into Italy.

William Holden as Lt. Col./Col. Robert T. Frederick
Cliff Robertson as Maj. Alan Crown
Vince Edwards as Maj. Cliff Bricker
Andrew Prine as Pvt. Theodore Ransom
Jeremy Slate as Sgt. Patrick O’Neill
Claude Akins as Pvt./Cpl. Rockwell W. “Rocky” Rockman
Jack Watson as Cpl./Sgt. Peacock
Richard Jaeckel as Pvt./Cpl. Omar Greco
Bill Fletcher as Pvt. Billy ‘Bronc’ Guthrie
Richard Dawson as Pvt./Cpl. Hugh MacDonald
Tom Troupe as Pvt. Al Manella
Luke Askew as Pvt. Hubert Hixon
Jean-Paul Vignon as Pvt. Henri Laurent
Tom Stern as Capt. Cardwell, Garrison CO of Fort William Henry Harrison
Harry Carey Jr. as Capt. Rose
Michael Rennie as Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark, Commander of the U.S. Fifth Army
Carroll O’Connor as Maj. Gen. Maxwell Hunter
Dana Andrews as Brig. Gen. Walter Naylor
Gretchen Wyler as the Lady of Joy
Patric Knowles as Adm Lord Mountbatten
Wilhelm Von Homburg as Fritz
James Craig as Maj. Gen. Knapp
Richard Simmons as Gen. Bixby
Norman Alden as the M.P. Lieutenant


Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen
Produced by David L. Wolper
Screenplay by William Roberts, based on The Devil’s Brigade by Robert H. Adleman and George Walton
Music by Alex North
Cinematography William H. Clothier
Edited by William T. Cartwright

Production company: Wolper Pictures

Distributed by United Artists

Release date: May 14, 1968 (Premiere); May 15, 1968 (US)

Running time: 130 minutes
Box office $8,000,000


TCM showed the movie on May 30, 2021.