DVD Review: Inglorious Bastards (1978)

10 Apr

Ed: I had the hilarious idea of putting getting this review up in timely release for Tarantino’s 2009 film bearing the similar, but spell checked challenged title. Unfortunately the DVD sat in my apartment gathering dust for quite some time, much like Superteds discarded carcass. Until one day, Ala Spottyman, kindly Ben Buckingham (podcast wunderkind) offered to revive the matter. And he wrote something far cleverer than I ever would have.

Italian exploitation cinema traditionally rides the coat-tails of American hits, twisting and complicating the narratives in ways that the Coen Brothers can only dream of. These uniquely transnational films gleefully mash-up popular genres and stories from the west, infusing them with an Italian mentality that can range from joyously voyeuristic to the shattered void of nihilism. While Italian horror films and spaghetti westerns have long been popular in English-speaking countries, maccaroni action and Euro-crime films have never quite caught on. With the release of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, the spotlight has finally been pointed in the direction of these long denied films, well, this one at least: Enzo G. Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards. Tarantino’s remake stands more as an oblique reference and mash-up, just as many of the Italian “originals” stand in relation to their American precursors. Despite the lack of obvious plot connections, the same devil-may-care tone and desire to laugh in the face of war, along with the myriad cinematic references, makes these films corrupted blood brothers.

Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards takes a bit from The Dirty Dozen, adds a dash of The Great Escape and perhaps a splash of Kelly’s Heroes, to make a classic boy’s own adventure romp filled with humour and fun. However, these Inglorious Bastards aren’t fighting the war for anybody but themselves. As a matter of fact they aren’t fighting the Germans at all when the film opens. Instead they are being shipped off to court martials’ and firing squads for killing superiors, thieving, or ‘borrowing’ fighter jets to fly home to their girl in London, as in the case of Lieutenant Yeager (Bo Svenson), a towering blonde whose physique screams footballer but whose smile is a whole lot gentler. Among this ragtag group is the legendary Fred “The Hammer” Williamson as Private Fred Canfield, a real life ex-pro footballer and star of blaxploitation cinema, who chomps cigars in the face of death and makes his shirts wish the Hulk was wearing them instead. Thanks to the interjection of a nazi jet fighter they escape the vindictive military police and set off towards the border for Switzerland and greener, less bullet riddled pastures.

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The narrative is very episodic to begin with as the bastards become involved in random skirmishes, stumble upon nude Aryan women toting machine guns, and just generally get caught in the cross fire between axis and allies. The latter half of the film slips into a more traditional war narrative as they accidently become involved in a deadly mission to seize Nazi technology. Yes, Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards is a war film like they just don’t make anymore, when men were stunning and nazi killing was the most fun one could have at a Saturday matinée. Excess is the name of the game, Castellari crams as much entertainment in to 99 minutes as possible: shoot-outs with slow-motion deaths in the Peckinpah mould, high-flying stunts and one of the most explosive endings the world of miniatures has even seen. The nazis are all faceless cannon fodder, with the exception of one lone defector who wishes only for the violence to stop. But don’t worry, emotions and philosophical treatise on death and evil are nowhere to be found. These bastards prefer a good laugh, a hot French nurse and a thrilling time. With Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards, you’ll get two out of three of those every time (three out of three if you supply your own nurse).

Ben Buckingham


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One Response to “DVD Review: Inglorious Bastards (1978)”

  1. Transistor December 2, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    i like war movies and inglourious basterds is one of the movies that i really love ‘~-

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