Word has been floating around for what seems like years that Quentin Tarantino was going to remake this movie, yet all along he’s been talking as though this movie doesn’t exist and that his script, some monstrous many hudreds of pages (another Kill Bill in the making) is an original work. I figured that with all the hype surrounding his latest project, it might be a good idea to get down and talk about Severin’s recent release of Enzo Castellari’s badass war flick that serves as the inspiration for Tarantino’s latest project.
The truth is that Tarantino’s movie IS an original work bearing the title of Castellari’s movie. In a DVD supplement featuring Tarantino chatting away with Castellari, he explains that after seeing Inglorious Bastards, all similarly themed films came to be known by him and his friends as Inglorious Bastards no matter what the actual title was. Now I get it. I’m told that Tarantino’s Bastards are actually a crack unit of angry Jews out for some Nazi blood and given Tarantino’s track record and fundamental understanding of what makes these cult movies tick, it couldn’t possibly be anything but cool. Castellari would be proud, I’m sure. Living up to the original feature is a tall order.
A bunch of war criminals in World War 2 are being shipped out to their final destinations before executions for desertion and treason. En route, their convoy is attacked by a German plane and a handful of the entire truckload manage to escape with plans to make it through to the Swiss border where they’ll be free. However, this is occupied France and there’s a long way to go if they’re going to make it and a ton of Nazis between them and the border. Along the way, they’ll run into a German soldier on the run and the French resistance who, along with the Allies, are planning a daring raid on a train carrying an experimental V2 Rocket warhead. Because the Bastards accidentally killed the original infiltration team, it’s going to be up to them to improvise a new raid and go from bastards to heroes.
I feel like I’ve been watching a ton of shitty movies lately. It’s about time that I got down to something like Inglorious Bastards. I’m not as versed in Enzo Castellari as I should be. I saw After The Fall Of New York way back in the day and I was under the influence of certain chemistry so my memories of the movie are skewed, to say the least. I’m also a fan of 1990: Bronx Warriors which is goofy as hell. This was a breath of fresh air, though. Good acting from a good cast that includes Bo Svenson and Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson and a spaghetti war movie that doesn’t fuck around. You’re not here for the jingoistic posturing of John Wayne or an examination of the true cost of war. Chances are you’re sitting down to watch Inglorious Bastards with the express intention of seeing shit explode and watching Nazis get shot. You’ve come to the right place.
Inglorious Bastards wastes no time getting down to it. Five minutes doesn’t go by before guns go off and people start getting shot. As a matter of fact, nearly an hour of the 100 minute running time goes by before the Bastards even get down to their main objective. It is literally a movie about a bunch of court martialed soldiers on the run to Switzerland, running into wave after wave of German forces before the movie finds some purpose. While it occurred to me in progress that there didn’t seem to be much that qualified as a plot, it also occurred to me that the film didn’t let ten minutes pass without some kind of machine gun and grenade confrontation with enemy troops.
Williamson and Svenson are pretty much the stars of the show, having a good time and chewing on scenery. With the exception of the little Italian kleptomaniac the rest of the cast are practically worthless. A cowardly deserter, who goes into shock in every confrontation and a racist asshole who, unfortunately, never meets the satisfactory death that every viewer so badly wants to see. For a portion of the movie, they run with a German soldier on the run, as well, but he serves more or less as a long winded segue into the actual objective of the movie. Most of his dialog is spent looking off into the distance, troubled, with soliloquies about the futility of the Nazi effort.
Inglorious Bastards seems to take forever to get around to some kind of purpose and the back 9, where the A-Team style antics go down almost seem tacked on, leaves the viewer with the impression that they were making this movie up as they went along. Historically speaking, this isn’t unusual. Plenty of Italian productions were made on the fly and even though Inglorious Bastards lacks cohesion, it’s an ambitious movie with some outstanding action sequences and Sam Peckinpah styled violence. There are even a few special effects scenes involving model train mayhem and a V2 warhead set to self-destruct.
The end result is a tightly plotted buffet of better known, bigger budgeted war movies that is practically all you can eat. You have a mostly great cast, comic relief and relentless action. Half of the movie feels like it isn’t going anywhere but there’s great writing and dialog that keeps the feeling that you’re watching an aimless war movie away. The better half of the movie is exciting as hell and the characters are so well developed by this point that their particular heroics and ultimate fate have real impact. Simply put, Inglorious Bastards is awesome. The recently released Severin DVD is a fantastic package chock full of extras. A special 3-disc release includes the perfectly appropriate Francesco Di Masi score, as well.