Movie Reviews 183 – The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

The Inglorious BastardsIf you came here looking for a review of Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” look elsewhere as this is not review of that film. It’s even better as its a review of The Inglorious Bastards, the properly titled movie that inspired Quentin to make his own homage.

A lot of people label Tarantino as a plagiarist and while it is true that many of his movies have been inspired by others as is the case here, I would hardly call them copies. They are often almost entirely different with only a ‘slice’ of the original that he build upon. In my minds eye he sculpts those lesser known movies or movie themes into superior products. And the gulf is so vast that I often wonder if I would even like the source of his inspiration at all, the usually being movies with far smaller budgets that were hardly a blip on the scene in their day. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I watched director Enzo G. Castellari’s “Inglorious Bastards”.

Most people don’t even know that the phenomena that spawned the “Spaghetti Western ” also  gave birth to its lesser known sibling, the “Macaroni combat”. Like the Spaghetti Westerns, these were Italian backed productions that featured some American B-grade actors as marquee names while most of the other crew were Italian. The Inglorious Bastards was just one of many such films.

The Inglorious Bastards is itself a knock off of the late 60’s and early 70’s wave of world war 2 misfit soldier movies like The Dirty Dozen and Kelly’s Heroes. In this case, a group of rebellious soldier are rounded up and put on a truck for a trip to a military prison when the convoy gets ambushed by Germans along the way. Springing into action in the melee, the group end up escaping but not until a few of their own are shot by their own forces. So they are now stuck in a war zone and their enemies are both Allied and Axis forces. Nice. At first the group head for neutral Switzerland but accidentally spoil an Allied covert mission to steal a V2 warhead. With a bit of guilt setting in, they volunteer to complete the mission they messed up by posing as the very guys they knocked off to the unsuspecting French underground.

Of course the mission is a next to impossible one and not everyone will survive. It’s part bravery, part loyalty, but most of all a lot of fighting action with plenty of explosives and combat gore. The rag tag crew makes judicious use of macho he-men of the day including Bo Svenson, Peter Hooten, and, my personal favorite, Fred Williamson. We even get French star Michel Constantin as the leader of the French resistance, but someone is going to have to explain to me why he goes by the name “Veronique” someday.

This is no tightly scripted,witty movie with a dead serious undertone like Inglorious Basterds. If you were in doubt, the scene where the guys happen to run into a dozen of German women who just happen to all be swimming buck naked will remind you that this was a movie had substantially lower goals in mind. An inglorious title, but a glorious movie if you can stand the stilted script and some sub par acting.

One of the extras on my DVD had an interview in which a disheveled (even more than usual) Quentin Tarantino has a nice long chat with fellow director Castellari. The interview was filmed as Tarantino was still writing Inglourious Basterds so the reverence he heaps on certain aspects of Castellari’s film are evident when viewing what he actually ended up filming for his version.


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