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July 30, 2008

Inglorious Bastards

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Quel maledetto treno blindato
Enzo G. Castellari - 1978
Severin Films Region 1 DVD

I should have known better by now. I've seen enough films touted by Quentin Tarantino to know that too many of the films he claims to love are not only not very good, but sometimes outright dull. What also is apparent is that Tarantino, a filmmaker whose career is based in part on plundering other peoples' films, would embrace films that are reworkings of other, usually better, movies. A case in point is Cat Burglar, William Witney's version of Pickup on South Street, moved from New York City to Los Angeles, leaving Samuel Fuller's snappy dialogue and visual punch behind. I viewed that film as part of a series of films Tarantino programmed on cable, only to wonder what if I was missing something. I love junk movies, but they have to be entertaining junk.

With a fraction of the budget, this is the Dirty Half Dozen, with nods along the way to The Train and The Great Escape, as well as Kelly's Heroes. Bo Svenson, fresh from filling Joe Don Baker's shoes in a couple of Walking Tall sequels, leads a band of criminal soldiers on an escape from Nazi occupied France to Switzerland, only to find himself involved in an impossible mission to foil the Nazi war machine. No cliche goes unturned in this would be epic that is surprisingly sloppy. How sloppy? In one scene, Svenson and his men are to be shot by some German soldiers, part of a much larger group that is marching off to battle with the orders not to take any prisoners. Our guys turn the tables on their executioners, overpowering them with guns and knives. Somehow the ruckus, including machine gun fire, is out of hearing range of the much larger army that would logically not be too far away.

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Similarly, two of the soldiers spy some women skinny dipping. Rather than listening and observing long enough to identify the nationality of the naked blondes, these guys just dive in. The women seem ready to play until Fred Williamson shows up, totally forgetting that the most conspicuous person in Hitler's Europe is going to be a person of African descent. Sure, the scene is an excuse to see a couple of nude women with machine guns, but it's also an indication of how dumb this movie can be. Additionally, little attempt was made to have the actors look like people in 1944 so that Williamson has his sideburns and Afro, while another actor, a Sonny Bono lookalike, has very long hair. The finale is sort of spectacular almost in spite the shots with obvious miniatures. The "dialogue" between Tarantino and Castellari, actually mostly Tarantino spouting off while Castellari listens, does nothing to convince me that I've missed an unsung masterpiece.

I'm not going to begrudge someone their cult films, but I'm getting annoyed when DVDs are produced of lesser films while too many better films are still unavailable, sometimes in any format. By critical standards at the very least, where is Deep End, Bachelor Flat. or The White Dog? How about rescuing the films by Ugo Gregoretti, the G in RoGoPaG, in other words, a guy good enough to be part of an omnibus film with Rossellini, Godard and Pasolini? How about a Region 1 DVD of Duccio Tessari's Tony Arzenta starring Alain Delon? Of course most people reading this will probably come up with their own list of films that would be more worthy of even a no frills DVD release. I can't even imagine what fills the three (!) DVD Inglorious Bastards set, nor could I imagine wanting to see the other two DVDs after seeing this film. Inglorious bastards, indeed.

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Posted by peter at July 30, 2008 12:32 AM


The only conceivable rationale behind the true insanity of a 3-disc 'Inglorious Bastards' . . . when I first saw it on Amazon, I thought it had to be either an error or a joke . . . may be no more complex than Severin Films' wish to link itself in the commercial imagination with the film Quentin Tarantino has been talking up for the last year (someone offered me a copy of Tarantino's screenplay, but after press accounts it sounds like one dolorous mash-up that I have neither time nor stomach for). The more cynical among us might also conclude that Severin is hoping there are enough saps out there who'll buy it, thinking that it is Tarantino's unmade opus.

But I can't believe a DVD company would stoop to a marketing strategy as sordid as that, can you?

Side note: I was thinking about starting an online petition for the DVD release of Fuller's White Dog . . . but I'm just not the activist type anymore.

Brilliant blog, as usual, Peter.

Posted by: Tom Sutpen at July 30, 2008 08:02 AM

Thanks for the compliment, Mr. Sutpen. Tarantino discusses in the DVD supplement that the original film is the basis for what he is describing as a two part epic, like the Kill Bill films, done with the blessings of Castellari. That some may think it is the new film, well, I am reminded of a review in Netflix by someone who seemed unaware that he was watching Andrew Marton's version of The Thin Red Line from 1964, thinking that this was the Malick version.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at July 30, 2008 11:44 AM

I had no idea that Tarantino's upcoming was a remake of anything - with a title like Inglorious Bastards one would think the original would have gained some ground among the interweb crowds looking for "cool" films - but the very fact that I didn't know about this until the DVD release was a clear indication that this original was not particularly good. I'm unsurprised to hear it was awful and that you suffered through it but, shamelessly, it saves me from watching it.

Posted by: Marina at August 1, 2008 05:02 PM