Inglorious Bastards (1978)
Quel Maledetto Treno Blindato
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari
Cast: Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson
San Francisco, Calif. ... Gently nestled among the hipster coffeehouses, overpriced hotels and streets teeming with homeless poets sits the Moscone Center, a stark-white building erected in 1981 that serves as geek Mecca over the course of three caffeine-and-comic-book-fueled days. Every year, thousands of eager collectors and fans gather here to worship at the feet of popular culture at the annual WonderCon, the smaller cousin to San Diego’s gigantic Comic-Con. During a visit to WonderCon in late February, I had the pleasure of meeting David Gregory, president of Severin films, a DVD label based out of the U.K. that specializes in the distribution of classic Euro-sleaze titles. Personally, I’ll take the softcore antics of Emmanuelle over a major studio crapfest any day of the week, so David was a pretty easy guy for me to get along with. And I was surprised to discover that Severin’s latest offering is the amazing three-disc set of Inglorious Bastards, a great WWII “men on a mission” flick from 1978.
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari (the brilliant exploitation flick hired gun responsible for films like The Last House Near the Lake and One Dollar Too Many), Inglorious Bastards opens with a group of Allied forces criminals being rounded up onto a truck and taken away for their trials. Notable among this motley crew of military misfits are Bo Svenson (star of the original Walking Tall films) as Lt. Robert Yeager and Black Ceasar himself, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, as the tough-as-nails brawler Fred Canfield. While en route to their respective legal destinies, their convoy is attacked by Germans. The prisoners make a break for it, taking a handful of losses before hightailing it into the woods. Our antiheroes on-the-run soon come across a bunch of Nazi uniforms and weapons and disguise themselves before trying to get to the Swiss border—and freedom.
Of course, nothing is ever easy (especially when fleeing a war zone), and their journey is sidelined by encounters with naked Nazi hotties and occasional skirmishes with Nazi troops. Things go from bad to worse when the bastards gun down a group of Nazi soldiers, only to find out they were actually U.S. forces sent on an ultra-secret suicide mission! Mistaken for the secret team, the bastards find themselves thrust into the suicide mission, lest they blow their precarious cover and reveal themselves to be thieves, killers and deserters.
It’s easy to dismiss Inglorious Bastards as a cheap knockoff of The Dirty Dozen, but Castellari delivers a solid and entertaining flick. The acting is top-notch, the action scenes are great, and the cast manages to gel together as a decent ensemble piece. In fact, exploitation guru Quentin Tarantino digs this film so much he is set to unleash his own version (Inglourious Basterds) into theaters this August.
As far as the three-disc set is concerned, Severin makes with the bonus materials and supplemental content. Disc one gives us a gorgeous restored print of the film. The colors pop, and the mono sound is more than enough to satisfy the eardrums. The first disc also includes an informative audio commentary track with the director. Disc two contains the bulk of the extras. There’s “Quentin Tarantino and Enzo Castellari in Conversation.” There’s a documentary with director Enzo Castellari; actors Fred Williamson, Bo Svenson and Massimo Vanni; special effects artist Gino De Rossi; producer Roberto Sbarigia; screenwriter Laura Toscano; and composer Francesco De Masi. You’ve also got U.S., Italian and German theatrical trailers, and a locations featurette with director Enzo Castellari and special effects artist Gino De Rossi. Rounding out the set with disc three is the previously unreleased soundtrack. With this jam-packed release, Severin proves it’s on the fast track to establishing itself as the Criterion Collection of trash cinema. And, boy, do we need one.
DVD Release Schedule:
“Andy Richter Controls the Universe: The Complete Series” (Paramount) Quantum of Solace (MGM)
“The Venture Brothers: Season 3” (Turner)
“Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter” (Warner Home)
Cat in the Brain (Grindhouse)
“The Real Ghostbusters, Vol. 1” (Time Life)
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox)
Tell No One (Music Box)
Tokyo Zombie (Anchor Bay)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (Fox)
Donkey Punch (Magnolia)
The Tale of Despereaux (Universal)