(1978) dir. Enzo G. Castellari
Not to be confused with Quentin Tarantino’s new film Inglourious Basterds (2009), The Inglorious Bastards is the 1978 Italian-made War film that Tarantino set out to re-make into his new film, though from what I understand, it’s now more of a touchstone than source material. Still, I thought it would make interesting viewing. Tarantino, for his many short-comings, annoyances, and drawbacks, had an eye for the quality B-movie of the 1970’s, or at least movies that had value raised above others of their ilk. And though the last couple of films that I’ve watched based on his “recommendations” have been weaker, it’s still not a bad thing to see what interested him in his video store days.
Frankly, The Inglorious Bastards is the equivalent to an extent of a “Spaghetti War Movie”. Though director Enzo G. Castellari is no Sergio Leone, he adds the characteristics that make the Italian genre films have an “outside” perspective, different than a film that would have been made in the U.S., in Hollywood or independently. In this case, it’s an interesting narrative concept, a group of condemned court martialed U.S. soldiers in WWII escape on their way to prison, and try to make a run for the Swiss border. They are wanted by the U.S. and still hunted by the Germans, a no-win situation. And they are a true motley crew of small time thieves, absconders, and cowards. But of course, their route for survival turns them into war heroes.
The characters are quite a bit of fun, especially the Italian thief collector who seems to have just about everything up his sleeve. There is also an African-American guy, a racist thug, and a character that I read throughout to be gay, though later narrative turns made this perhaps a misreading. The characters don’t at all seem like they belong in a WWII film, but rather are very much elements of their era, rebels, individualistic anti-heroes. And eventually, as they are pulled into a military maneuver to destroy a Nazi train with a warhead on it, they become ennobled and heroic. Apparently, this film is influenced heavily by The Dirty Dozen (1967) as well as Sam Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron (1977). Neither of which I have seen.
The film has charm, certainly, but it’s on the cheap, looking occasionally like the production values didn’t rise to M*A*S*H (television show) quality and even the artistry at the helm is very derivitive. So, it’s not some true diamond in the rough, but perhaps more like a $100 bill in the rough. Though I have very mixed to negative feelings toward Tarantino himself, I have liked the trailer for Inglourious Basterds even if I don’t imagine that I will like the movie. I’m still game for it.
More to come on that.