Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dirty Not-Quite Dozen: The Inglorious Bastards (1978 edition)

I'm such a Quentin Tarantino loyalist that I fully intend to plunk down my sawbucks for opening weekend of Inglourious Basterds--this despite the presence of one of the least skilled A-list actors in history, and a deliberate misspelling that just drives me nuts (I'm far from anal about grammatical flouting, except when it comes to cuss words. Cuss words should never be writ with anything but the most pinpoint precision).

But Tarantino's mega-budget event flick'll have to go a long way to be as entertaining as the first movie (sort of) bearing the title.

The original Inglorious Bastards (now THAT'S how you spell 'bastards'!) hit international screens in 1978 with little fanfare. At its modest core lives a classic Dirty Dozen set-up: A group of condemned military miscreants--deserters, thieves, murderers--are accidentally sprung free when their convoy gets massacred by German fighter planes in France; then they spend the rest of the movie on the run from German and Allied Forces until a twist of fate offers them redemption.

No, the wheel ain't reinvented here. But does it really need to be? Director Enzo Castellari delivers vivid pulp characters and thrills aplenty on a shoestring budget, the action scenes fly fast and furious, and two of the most entertaining tough guys of the 1970's--Bo Svenson and Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson--stand at the forefront of this cinematic pissing contest. It's the kind of movie that my curmudgeony ex-army sergeant dad would've eaten up back when he still went to the movies: No-bull characterizations; lotsa stuff blowing up; no kung fu or fussy pretentions to art; and ten skinny-dipping machine-gun-packing Nazi women. The enclosed trailer summarizes things nicely:

Tarantino's revisionist opus, incidentally, has nothing to do with the original, but the auteur's influence encouraged Severin Films to put out an impressive '3-Disc Explosive Edition' of The Inglorious Bastards. Included: a pretty terrific transfer of the movie; an amusing conversation between Castellari and Tarantino in which the latter allots the former maybe six sentences edgewise; A making-of documentary almost as long as the movie itself; A CD of the original soundtrack; and most importantly, a tour with Castellari of the movie's scenic European locations...Just in case you were wondering what the river with all those skinny-dipping machine-gun-packing Nazi women looks like today.

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