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The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

Severin Films
Blu-ray Disc released: 7/28/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/2/2009

I recently reviewed Valkyrie and Defiance, and in both of those reviews I mentioned that I'm not a big fan of war movies, especially World War II movies. Why? I guess it's because of my age. I'm of a generation which was removed from World War II and I don't have any strong feelings about it, save for the fact that I'm glad that the Allies won. More importantly for this discussion, as I actually have pre-cable TV memories (the horror!), I can remember flipping around the 4 or 5 channels that we got on a Saturday afternoon and often seeing nothing but World War II movies...and having no interest in them. However, as implied above, there has been a recent resurgence in World War II movies, which means that we're going to be seeing more older ones hit home video. Thus, we have the 1978 Italian production, The Inglorious Bastards.

The Inglorious Bastards takes place in France, 1944. As the film opens, we are introduced to a rag-tag group of soldiers who are being herded by the MPs. Lieutenant Robert Yeager (Bo Svenson), Fred Canfield (Fred Williamson), Tony (Peter Hooten), Nick (Michael Pergolani) and Berle (Jackie Basehart) have all committed crimes and are part of a military convoy which will take them to their court-martials. Along the way, trucks are attacked by a German plane and only those five prisoners survive. They decide to make their way to the Switzerland border and freedom. However, their trip won't be easy. Along with German patrols, they run into a group of American soldiers and French freedom fighters who mistake them for a special group commandos. Suddenly, these military outlaws find themselves on a suicide mission to stop the Nazis.

If the title The Inglorious Bastards sound familiar to you even if you don't know anything about 1970s era Italian World War II movies (I know that I don't), it's because it shares a name with Quentin Tarantino's latest project, although his movie is called Inglorious Basterds for some reason. Based on what I've heard, Tarantino's film, which features Jewish soldiers hunting Nazis, isn't so much a remake of Director Enzo G. Castellari's film, as it is a project which was inspired by the spirit of the older movie. Storylines aside, it seems odd that Tarantino would want to remake/jump off of The Inglorious Bastards, as it's not a very good movie.

Well, that's a harsh assessment. Let me rephrase that by saying, most of The Inglorious Bastards isn't very good. Let's give it a break by focusing on the positive aspects first. To be fair, the idea of a group of misfit soldiers suddenly finding themselves on a dangerous mission is a good one, and in the right hands, it could make for an exciting movie. In theory, on top of the danger involved, we would always wonder when one of the soldiers is going to desert. Once the mission gets underway, The Inglorious Bastards becomes a full-on action film. There are numerous stunts, which involve fist-fights, gun-fights, zip-wires, and leaping from trains. Exciting would be a very strong word to describe the last 1/3 of the film, but it's certainly interesting and somewhat fast-paced. If this is the part of The Inglorious Bastards that Tarantino remembers, it's no wonder that he was inspired by it.

Of course, that's assuming that he forgot the first hour or so of the movie. The first two acts of The Inglorious Bastards have no idea what they want to be. Is it a an action/war movie? Is it a drama? Is it a comedy? The movie tries to mesh all of these, but it never works. Scenes simply happen and they fall into one of three genres. There is no character development other than shallow stereotypes -- Berle is the coward, Tony is the smooth-talker, Nick is the joker, Fred is the Black guy (I'm serious...that's it), and Yeager is the leader. Nick is meant to provide comic relief, but his ribald jokes feel out of place here. Some of the action scenes in the first half feel very amateurish and rushed. The pacing is slack and Castellair comes from the Italian filmmaking school of unmotivated zooms. In short, despite some big set-pieces, the whole thing feels cheap.

So, here's the skinny on The Inglorious Bastards. If you are a fan of World War II movies, especially ones which lean towards playing fast and loose with history instead of being serious and somber, than this is for you. And again, the finale kicks into action mode and shows off some good stunt work. However, if you don't have a predilection towards war movies, and you simply want to check this out because of Tarantino's film, then you may be disappointed. In the end, most of The Inglorious Bastards reminded me of what was being spoofed in Top Secret!.

The Inglorious Bastards gets attacked by naked women on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Severin Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 33 Mbps. For a 30-year old low budget foreign film, this transfer looks pretty good. The image is sharp and clear, showing a surprising lack of grain or major defects. The image is slightly washed out, but otherwise the colors are good. The level of detail is good and the image is never too dark or bright. The Disc sports both a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a Dolby Surround 2.0 track, both of which are disappointing. The dynamic range on the 5.1 track is all over the place. The sound effects are much louder than the dialogue and the whole thing sounds tinny. I didn't detect any notable surround or subwoofer effects. Out of frustration, I switched over to the 2.0 track, which actually sounds better. Again, there are no great audio effects, but I could actually hear what the characters were saying.

The Inglorious Bastards Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Enzo G. Castellari which is moderated by David Gregory. "Back to the War Zone" (13 minutes) has Castellari touring key locations from the film and describing what it was like to shoot there and how they are different today. "Train Kept A-Rollin'" (75 minutes) is an incredibly detailed "making of" which explores many facets of the movie. We get interivews with the actors, director, producers, and writers. Within discussions of the film's production, there are examinations and comments on the primary actors and characters. "A Conversation with Quentin Tarantino & Enzo G. Castellari" (38 minutes) has the spastic director chatting with the Italian filmmaker and gushing on about how much he loves the movie. "Enzo's 70th Birthday in Los Angeles" (7 minutes) shows the party with Svenson and Williamson as guests. We get footage from a special screening of the film in Los Angeles in "Inglorious Reunion at The New Beverly" (11 minutes).

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long