The Devil's Brigade is a 1968 American war film based on the 1966 book of the same name co-written by American novelist and historian Robert H. Adleman and Col. George Walton, a member of the brigade.
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 film dramatizes the Brigade's first mission in the Italian Campaign, the task of capturing what had been an impregnable Nazi mountain stronghold, Monte la Difensa. (Via)
- The Devil's Brigrade actually existed (although the unit was actually known as "The Black Devils"). During World War II, the brigade suffered casualty rates of 39%. Following the end of WWII, the brigade was disbanded. Veterans of the Devil's Brigade have been meeting each year, since 1945, in Montana, at the former training facility depicted in the movie, although in the movie, filming took place in Utah, as a stand in for Montana.
- When O'Neill arrives his regiment patch on his shoulder reads PPCLI. This stands for the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, a real regiment, named for Princess Patricia of Connaught, originated in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in August 1914, later based in the area of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and which continues as an active unit as of 2015. The "Patricia's" celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2014.
- The Devil's Brigade as seen in this movie was based on the true story of the 1st Special Service Force, a joint American-Canadian commando unit.
- Robert T. Frederick, the commander of the Devil's Brigade, had a mustache in real life, but William Holden, who reportedly did not like his own image on film with a mustache, refused to grow or wear a false one, so the film's Frederick is clean lipped. Just one year later, Holden did agree to wear a mustache (a false one) in The Wild Bunch (1969) after several arguments with Sam Peckinpah.
- According to the DVD back cover, "The U.S. Department of Defense provided 300 members of the Utah National Guard to play soldiers in the mass battle scenes filmed on Wasatch Mountain."
- On February 5 2015, Surviving members of the "Black Devils" upon which this movie was based-all in their 90's-received the Congressional Gold Medal,the highest civilian award, for their service in WWII.
- The first of four films directed by Andrew V. McLaglen in which Jack Watson appeared.
- The two actors who play the senior Canadian officers had both previously played future Presidents of the United States in military service. Harry Carey Jr. played Dwight D. Eisenhower as a West Point cadet in The Long Gray Line (1955), and 'Cliff Robertson' played John F. Kennedy as a World War II Navy lieutenant in PT 109 (1963).
- William Holden was in Variety's list of Top 10 Overpriced Stars of 1968.
- Nearly all the actors were too old to play soldiers.
- On several of the movie posters, the American contingent is referred to as "Spit," contrasting with the Canadian contingent, which is referred to as "Polish". (Via)
The devil's brigade (1968) - Main titles (Music composed by Alex North)
- The Canadian flag shown in the ceremony near the end of the film wasn't adopted until 1964. At the time depicted in the movie, Canada still used a "modified Union Jack" type of flag called the Red Ensign.
- On Colonel Frederick's office map, Poland has its post-1945 borders and Germany is divided into the postwar East Germany and West Germany.
- At the birthday party in Italy, they are drinking 1960's Miller High Life Beer cans.
- In the barroom brawl sequence beer signs are plainly visible on the walls...Some are neon, some are not, all are out of place for that era. Until the late 80's/early 90's Coors beer was only available in Colorado and select places west of there, not in Montana...Also, that particular neon sign was strictly 1960s and would have been totally out of place then as well. The Lucky Lager sign was likewise 1960's in design - even though the beer would have been available then.
- The leather gear used by the Brigade in the film (boots, pistol holsters, etc.) is black; black leather gear wasn't adopted by the US Army until the late 1950s.
- All of the American officers, when wearing neckties are wearing Army Green neckties. They should be wearing khaki ties. Army Green did not come along until well after WW II. The enlisted men are all wearing the proper ties.
- One of the planes seen in the film is a Cessna L-19 Bird Dog, a post World War II plane.
- The dollar bills used by the gamblers are clearly green-sealed Federal Reserve Notes from after 1963.
- During the reconnaissance flight over Santa Lia, two 1960s vehicles (silver/white trucks) can be seen in a courtyard, and there are TV antennae on several rooftops.
- The entire movie apparently takes place in 1942, but they invade Italy, which did not happen until September 1943.
- At the beginning of the film Captain Cardwell draws a handgun and shoots a rattlesnake, then twirls the pistol before holstering it. An experienced gun-hand would never twirl a double action revolver for fear of an accidental discharge.
Crew or equipment visible
- On the 30 mile march when the men cross the river a camera crew on a dolly can be seen on the bridge at the left hand side for a few seconds.
- The U.S. enlisted personnel in the First Special Service Force were not criminals and the unwanted of other units. They were recruited from volunteers with "outdoors" backgrounds.
- Although the crossed-arrows insignia worn in the film by the First Special Service Force were fact, the red berets were pure fiction. All members of the Force eventually wore U.S. Army dress uniforms with U.S. paratrooper boots and distinctive red,white, and blue braided shoulder loops, overseas cap piping, and parachute wing backings.
- Although the Union Jack was the official flag of Canada prior to 1965, during World War II it was the Red Ensign that was the flag carried into battle by Canadian troops. Given the nature of the unit it is very likely that the Red Ensign would have been flown at this ceremony.
- The actual assault on Monte La Defensa took place at night in the dark, not in early morning daylight.
- At the "graduation ceremony" the national flags used are the US Flag and the British Union Jack. The Canadians would have used the "Red Ensign", a field of red with a Canadian shield, and the "Union Jack" (as Canada is a member of the Commonwealth) in the left corner.
- When the Canadian contingent arrives at the training centre (to use normal Canadian spelling), they are marching to bagpipes, but at far too fast a pace. Most pipe marches have a maximum pace of no more than about 90 paces per minute, but the pace in this scene appears to upwards of 140 paces or so. Also marching at that pace using the traditional British style of swinging each arm to shoulder height (which is the Canadian custom), is very difficult and awkward looking. It is highly unlikely to have been done at that speed in the Canadian Army, either then or today.
- The movie's opening credits shows the copyright date to be MCMXLVIII in Roman numerals, the meaning of which is 1948. The correct copyright in Roman numerals should read MCMLXVIII, meaning the actual copyright date of 1968.
Incorrectly regarded as goofs
- Canadians do not consider the term "Canuck" to be disparaging. If they did, there would not have been an aircraft flown by the RCAF called the CF-100 Canuck nor would there be an NHL Hockey team called the Vancouver Canucks. However, many Americans do consider Canuck to be a derogatory term, and use it as such.
- Throughout the movie, Rocky wears the stripes of a sergeant, but when he is being questioned by the Germans, he calls himself a corporal, perhaps as a show of defiance to the information-seeking enemy.
- As with all such movies of its time, all of the German heavy equipment (tanks, artillery, etc.) are actually American equipment.
- When the Germans from the shower are captured and brought out wearing towels, the camera angles that ensue reveal that they are actually wearing underwear under the towels. (Via)
HISTORY AND HISTIWOOD:
- The unit was originally created to conduct commando raids in Norway. HISTORY: The unit was the brainchild of an eccentric British genius named Pyke who also developed a special armored snow vehicle for its use. It was to be paradropped into Norway to conduct commando operations.
- Col. Frederick was against the Norway idea, but was forced to take command of the unit. HISTYWOOD: Frederick was put in charge and from within he sidetracked the Norway / snow vehicle idea because he doubted its practicability.
- The American half of the unit was comprised of men who were taken from stockades. HISTYWOOD: The unit was filled by “advertising” for” lumberjacks, game wardens, prospectors, and explorers.” Some post commanders “volunteered” men from their stockades and other trouble makers. I found no evidence that the fact there were misfits in the unit effected training or performance.
- The Americans and the Canadians took an instant disliking for each other and competed throughout training. HOLLYWOOD: The movie undoubtedly exaggerated this for dramatic and comedic purposes. All of the enlisted in the movie and their squabbles are fictional.
- Col. Frederick was lenient about his men’s off base activities. HISTORY: The movie gets that part of his command philosophy right. It also shows him leading attacks which he was famous for. Holden does not catch his charisma and recklessness, however. He would go on one man recon missions and was wounded nine times. His men loved him. On the second night on Mount La Difensa, he had whiskey delivered to his men.
- Frederick brought in a hand-to-hand expert to train the men. HISTORY: “Pat” O’Neill taught them his mix of jujitsu, karate, and other martial arts. It is highly unlikely he participated in any attacks.
- The Americans and the Canadians bonded after a bar room brawl with some lumberjacks. HISTORY: The incident occurred when some miners were clowning the Canadian uniforms (especially the kilts) and the Americans waded into them.
- The unit was almost disbanded until Gen. Clark decided to use it in Italy. HOLLYWOOD: When the Norway mission was scrubbed, it was Eisenhower who saved the unit to be used for future missions that needed an elite unit.
- The first action was the capture of an Italian town. HOLLYWOOD: The unit did not have to pull off a stunt to prove itself. It actually first saw action in the reconquest of Kiska Island! There was no fighting since the Japanese had already evacuated. After this Clark requested the brigade for Italy.
- The unit climbed a cliff to take Mount La Difensa. HISTORY: The three thousand foot high plateau had withstood twelve days of assaults. The movie assault is fairly accurate except it was done in a freezing rain and in darkness (at first). The climbing was pretty accurate. There was a diversionary artillery barrage. The attack lasted two hours with the Germans retreating to a nearby hill and then hitting the brigade with artillery fire which continued through the second day. Supplies had to be packed up the mount by the men not involved in the assault. (An action reported by Ernie Pyle.) Then a brutal, screaming assault captured two local hills with no prisoners being taken.
- Maj. Crown was killed by Germans pretending to surrender. HOLLYWOOD: The man Crown was based on, Maj. McQueen, broke a leg on a parachute drop and was not in the battle. There was an incident where a Canadian Capt. Rothlin was killed by Germans pretending to surrender. (Via)