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Inglorious Bastards
3-Disc Explosive Edition

Inglorious Bastards
1978 / Color / 1:85 anamorphic widescreen / 99 min. / Quel maledetto treno blindato / Street Date July 29, 2008 / 29.95
Starring Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson, Peter Hooten, Ian Bannen
Cinematography Giovanni Bergamini
Original Music Francesco de Masi
Written by Sondro Continenza, Sergio Grieco, Romano Migliorini, Laura Toscano, Franco Marotta
Produced by Roberto Sbarigia
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

A Dirty Dozen- style war fantasy from Italian director Enzo G. Castellari, Inglorious Bastards is an unchallenging thriller enlivened by an enthusiastic cast having great fun with the script's wall-to-wall machine-gun violence. The Italian production is bursting with impressive production values and fairly dangerous-looking set pieces. The script conflates Kelly's Heroes (campy anachronisms), The Secret Invasion (criminals turned commandos) and Von Ryan's Express (plenty of runaway train action) into a Grindhouse-friendly exploitation pic that delivers the goods.


Rebel AAC pilot Bob Yeager (Bo Svenson) and surly private Fred Canfield (Fred Williamson) are among a dozen soldiers being sent away from the front lines for court-martial. But when German aircraft strafe their truck the pack of ex-crooks, loafers and misfits decide to fight their way to freedom in Switzerland. They pick up a German deserter and eventually team up with partisan fighters. After the massacre of a German patrol, they discover that the men were Americans on a secret mission for Colonel Buckner (Ian Bannen). The rude, crude fighters volunteer to replace the commandos, running an amazing scam on the retreating Germans -- hijacking a train with a hi-tech lab containing a top-secret V-2 warhead!

We know exactly what kind of war movie we're in for when Fred Williamson gives the camera his meanest Jim Brown glare, and a 'funny' Italian prisoner takes off his helmet to reveal shoulder length hair. The comic-book anti-heroes of Inglorious Bastards smile as they kill and occasionally trade quips and smirks as they gun down scores of unlucky Germans. One young coward soon regains his courage battling through impossible skirmishes. Another is an authentic Chicago wiseguy, always ready with an angle. The misfits naturally form a can't-miss fighting force. As the tag line puts it, "Whatever the Dirty Dozen did, they do it dirtier!"

1978 was the lean end of the Italian filmmaking boom. Prestigious productions had mostly given way to exploitation thrillers that resembled sexier, more violent versions of American TV fare. Inglorious Bastards puts action filmmaker Enzo G. Castellari at the helm of a rather large-scale production. Sure, the same 30 or so German extras probably each die five or six times, but the show has trucks, trains, tanks and plenty of uniforms at its disposal, and the second-unit direction isn't bad. What the action lacks in originality, it makes up for in gusto. Svenson, Williamson and company strike macho poses while shooting thousands of rounds of machine gun bullets, making us wonder where the carefree renegades are getting all that ammo.

The Germans must have bubble gum stuck to the triggers of their guns, for they get shot by the bushel. The hundreds of actors abandoned by the demise of the Spaghetti Western must have ended up here, playing Germans eating machine gun bullets. Getting shot in Inglorious Bastards doesn't mean falling down. The stuntmen jerk upright and throw their arms wildly into the air. A gymnastic leg kick and backwards spin follow, completing the effect. This particular gag must be repeated 150 times! Castellari even uses a hi-con animation of one of these pirouette-deaths for the film's Leone-like animated main titles.

Just when we think Inglorious Bastards might become repetitious, the last act comes on with a rather clever commando caper. Suddenly converted into dedicated warrior heroes, our steadfast bastards free a highly guarded prisoner, steal a train and sidetrack it to a convenient spur line to freedom across the frontier. When the plan breaks down the men fight their way to various violent fates. The script even raids The Great Escape for some exciting motorcycle action. Ambitious matte paintings and special effect miniatures add to the explosive ending. Compared to a late 70s turnip like Force Ten From Navarone, Castellari's movie is an overachieving matinee winner.

Bo Svenson shows just enough charisma to play the rebellious pilot-turned-guerilla fighter. As the resident action star, Fred Williamson seems to be saying "watch me, I'm shootin' guns" in every scene. But he also performs several very impressive action stunts, like jumping onto a moving train from a bridge overpass. Ian Bannen adds a bit of class to the train caper; he may be dubbed into "Yankee" English for the movie. American actor Peter Hooten and others mug impressively during the lighter scenes. In true exploitation form, they happily chase after a dozen German nurses found swimming in a river. I tell ya, if A Bridge Too Far and Saving Private Ryan had the guts to show WW2 like it was, a combat playground overrun with skinny-dipping babes, they might have been more realistic!

Severin's 3-Disc "Explosive Edition" of Inglorious Bastards has a solid enhanced transfer with strong audio. The good source color is subdued but consistent. The class presentation is reminiscent of the dormant NoShame label, but with better extras. Disc producer David Gregory scores a coup by locking director Castellari in a room with a gushing Quentin Tarantino. The American director excitedly lauds the cinematic splendors of this movie, which he originally caught up with on an early VHS release. Other docus cover the film's genesis and production with in-depth interviews with nearly every surviving crewmember. Castellari speaks in good English on his commentary, happy to share memories about his action moneymaker.

The third disc is a CD of Francesco de Masi's energetic score, a good genre effort dominated by marches. Severin has given the exploitable Inglorious Bastards a first-rate send-off.  1

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Inglorious Bastards rates:
Movie: Good
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Interview featurette Quentin Tarantino and Enzo Castellari in Conversation, featurette Train-Kept-A-Rollin with the director, stars Fred Williamson, Bo Svenson and Massimo Vanni, special effects artist Gino de Rossi, producer Roberto Sbarigia, screenwriter Laura Toscano and Filippo De Masi; locations featurette Back to the War Zone, three international trailers, commentary with director Castellari, PLUS a bonus soundtrack CD containing the previously unreleased music score.
Packaging: Three discs in Keep case
Reviewed: July 23, 2008


1. I can't help but be reminded of the old Saturday Night Live segment featuring John Belushi and others in a parody of tough-guy war movies. The skit lampooned the use of the word 'bastards', as if hard-bitten soldiers can't talk without using it. I'm sure it was an obscure joke to many in the audience, but anybody who's seen Inglorious Bastards will smile.

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2008 Glenn Erickson

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