The Inglorious Bastards (1978)
Directed by: Enzo G. Castelerri
Written by: Franco Marotta, Laura Toscani, Romano Pigloirini, Sandro Continenza, Sergio Grieco
Starring: Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson, Michael Pergolani, Peter Hooten
HCF may be one of the newest voices on the web for all things Horror and Cult, and while our aim is to bring you our best opinion of all the new and strange that hits the market, we still cannot forget about our old loves, the films that made us want to create the website to spread the word. So, now and again our official critics at the HCF headquarters have an urge to throw aside their new required copies of the week and dust down their old collection and bring them to the fore…. our aim, to make sure that you may have not missed the films that should be stood proud in your collection.
Rewind looks at not Quentin Tarantino’s film of almost the same name, but the 1978 Italian movie that it was supposedly inspired by, but is actually very different.
HCF REWIND NO.71. THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS AKA QUEL MALEDETTO TRENO BLINDATO [Italy, 1978]
AVAILABLE ON DVD AND BLU RAY
RUNNING TIME: 85 mins
In 1944, in France, five American soldiers are being transported to a military prison. They are deserters Lieutenant Robert Yeager and Private Fred Canfield, murderer Tony, thief Nick and coward Berle. However, a German airplane attacks the convoy and four of the five escape. They best a German unit and capture one guy alive so he can guide them to Switzerland, which is neutral and will be a haven from the fighting and killing. When they accidently kill off an American unit disguised as Germans on a mission, they volunteer for the same mission that the people they killed were attempting to carry out; to break into the most heavily guarded fortress in Germany and find the whereabouts of the proto type of Germany’s new deadly V2 missile…….
If you’ve been an avid reader of the stuff we write on this website, and especially if you read the article I wrote a few months ago entitled Whatever Happened To Quentin Tarantino, you’ll already know that yours truly is not a fan of the films that Tarantino he been churning out for quite some time now, and that, to me, the genius who made Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction is long gone. Therefore it had taken me until now to check out the 1978 flick that supposedly inspired his film Inglorious Basterds. This action-packed [no, this ain’t the Tarantino movie!] war movie actually began life in 1976 as an American-made film under the title Bastards Without Glory, but initial producer Ted V. Mikels rejected it so it ended up being made in Italy under the direction of Enzo G. Castelleri, mostly a copycat filmmaker who nonetheless had the odd good film to his name such as the intriguing Spaghetti Western Keoma. The Inglorious Bastards was not really a hit and was not only re-titled Hell’s Heroes, Counterfeit Commandos and Deadly Mission but was re-edited into G.I.Bro, a version for the Blaxploitation market that made Fred Williamson the main character, with the tagline: “if you’re a kraut, he’ll take you out”!
As you’ve probably guessed, in my opinion this is a much more enjoyable film than Tarantino’s tedious effort, which actually has very little in common with it. The original film is actually a Proper War Film, meaning that it features lots of gun-blazing action. It’s essentially two films in one; the first one detailing the escape of our guys and various incidents that occur to them as they head for Switzerland, the second a sort of cross between The Train and The Dirty Dozen as they head off on a deadly mission, much of it involving the progress of a Nazi train. The film throws in as much as it can, even including a wire-cutting scene towards the end. The action is reasonably convincing if seeming a little confined [perhaps to conceal the sets] and benefits from excellent editing which usually succeeds in disguising the fact that, for much of the time, the men are carrying home-made gun props because the Italian police confiscated the original fake guns due to a terrorist scare. Occasional slow motion works well too.
Oddly, The Inglorious Bastards is pretty tame in terms of brutality; yes, dozens of extras get mowed down but the most graphic stuff you see is a few close-up bullet wounds and neck-breakings. Occasionally it plays with viewer’s expectations, such as when our heroes see some naked German women swimming in a river, and, just as you’re expecting lots of frolicking, the girls pull out machine guns! Attempts to throw in some humour and romance don’t entirely work; one odd character called Nick seems to have been put in the film to create laughs, with his long hair, moustache and very camp mannerisms, and the romance between Tony and a pretty nurse is absurdly rushed and unconvincing. In just their second meeting, he’s declaring his love and talking about marriage and kids and she nods, as if in agreement. The script overall in very uneven, no surprise when it had five writers and some last-minute rewriting to give the film more action, but the dialogue is often very cool.
Nick: I’ve pissed my pants!
Tony: Then tie a knot in your dick”.
Performances are fair though the star is definitely third-billed Fred Williamson, a major cult star in the 70’s in pictures like Black Caeser and Hell Up In Harlem and an actor who is still working hard today at 74. Apart from From Dusk Till Dawn I don’t think I’d seen him in anything before The Inglorious Bastards, but I may check out more of his work, because this guy is a pure ‘bad-ass’, the kind of guy you know can kick anyone’s butt even before he speaks and acts, and he also exudes charisma. As usual for Italian films of this time, The Inglorious Bastards was shot silent though at least the majority of the cast dubbed their own lines this time. It’s also nice to see Germans actually speaking German. The sound mix for this movie is all over the place though, with some of the dialogue hard to hear and Francesco De Masi’s score, with its cheesy but undoubtedly rousing march theme, often being so loud it reveals the inadequacies of the recording technology employed. Though Tarantino has said that this is one of his favourite films, it isn’t really a classic, but it is never dull and highly entertaining while actually not really as silly as you might expect.