Originally titled Written in the Sand and sometimes also known as Deadly Patrol, Play Dirty is filmmaker Andre DeToth’s final film. Inspired by the actions and adventures of real military units such as the Long Range Desert Group, Popski’s Private Army and the SAS during the Second World War, this is a British war film with a great cast comprised of Michael Caine, Nigel Davenport, Nigel Green and Harry Andrews. Shot on location in the Tabernas Desert in the Spanish province of Almeria, Play Dirty was also supposed to have Richard Harris among the cast, but disappointed by the changes in the script, he quit production and sued the producers.
Even though it was a clear box office disappointment, this story about a group of British commandos traveling behind enemy lines to destroy a Nazi oil depot certainly has its moments. As a film about regular people thrust into a situation where they have the opportunity to do something for the history books, Play Dirty is a really fun war adventure in the veins of The Guns of Navarone. The most entertaining bit probably comes not from the film itself, but from Michael Caine’s experience of shooting in Almeria. As the location was used by more than one film crew and a western was shot simultaneously with Play Dirty, Caine said they “were forever shoveling up horse shit and wiping out hoof prints”. Caine had such a pleasant time that he incorporated a new clause in his future contracts, making sure he never shoots in Almeria again.