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.
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-