The Inglorious Bastards

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Director

Enzo G. Castellari’s 1978 World War II adventure is probably most notable for

inspiring a new Quentin Tarantino screenplay. Its three-disc DVD release, from Severin Cinema, is a

surprisingly deluxe affair tied to the Tarantino remake, with Q.T.

himself showing up to interview Castellari and put the

film in some perspective (it was never released theatrically in the

U.S., so Tarantino discovered it on a TV screening). Some

extensive making-of features and a CD of soundtrack music (the third disc) round

out the package.


The film itself is a straightforward man’s-man adventure movie

about a motley group of Allied soldiers facing court martial who escape

from custody in the confusion of an enemy attack. For most of the

movie, they’re trying to evade re-capture by their countrymen and/or

slaughter by the Nazis as they make their way north across France

toward the safety of Switzerland — at one point, they inadvertently

gun down an elite American special-forces team and wind up taking their

place on a dangerous sabotage mission against the German army.

It’s

easy to see what appeals to Tarantino — following the relatively

female-friendly Kill Bill saga and Death Proof, this five-way buddy

movie is a testosterone-soaked framework for any number of Tarantino

trademarks, boasting plentiful violence, lots of chit-chat, and various

displays of stylish machismo. It’s also playfully, thumb-in-your-eye

pessimistic, with an ironic happy ending that sees the least savory of

these unsavory characters rewarded with the girl and the glory.

Most importantly, it’s a satisfying B-movie with a refreshing lack

of pretension (the film seems quite aware of and content with its

status as a Dirty Dozen retread), some effective special-effects work (the train-station finale is staged to

a large degree through nice miniature photography) and a humorous attitude toward race — the fact that a black man (Black Caesar star Fred Williamson) is among these bastards is a consistent threat to their incognito status. In one (awesome) scene, they stumble across a bevy of nude women bathing in a secluded lake. The girls frolic with the guys until Williamson is spotted on the shore, when they suddenly shout “Americans!”, scramble toward dry land and, still nude, pull out the automatic weapons.

That said, the cigar-chewing Williamson gets arguably the best role in the picture, eventually showing up co-star Bo Svenson by appearing in one of the film’s signature shots, facing camera, as he leaps off a bridge and onto the roof of the moving train below. No stuntmen or CG face replacement here — The Inglorious Bastards is just an entertaining lesson in old-school action and shoestring cinema. B-

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