Monday, March 23, 2009

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)
starring: Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson, Peter Hooten, Michael Pergolani
written by: Sandro Continenza, Sergio Grieco, Franco Marotta, Romano Migliorini, & Laura Toscano (geeeeez!)
directed by: Enzo G. Castellari

It’s war-torn Europe during WWII and a group of American military prisoners are being shipped to prison for a variety of offences. En route, their convoy is attacked by German artillery, killing the MP’s and all but four of the transported (Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson, Peter Hooten and Michael Pergolani). They escape the attack and figure the best course of action is to get to neutral Switzerland to avoid both the fighting and prison. However, they end up joining a Commando mission to help the French Resistance steal a German warhead being transported on a train.

Okay, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes, Telly Savales, Jim Brown. Oh. Wait a minute...

I know I promised this review weeks ago, due largely to the fact that Quentin Tarantino’s next project is a remake of it. But after seeing this film, and after reading synopses on Tarantino’s version on IMDB, it’s looking like it’s a remake in title only. The mis-spelling not withstanding. Regardless, I offer apologies for my tardiness. Let me say that my enthusiasm was curbed after watching this Italian knock-off from director Enzo Castellari. Not that this is a bad movie, mind you. To the contrary, The Inglorious Bastards is a very ambitious production with commendable performances from Svenson and Williamson. No expense was spared as the props and costumes look very authentic, both American and German, and that includes the vehicles. Only the most stringent of military history enthusiasts will recognize the German Panzer tanks are actually American Pershings painted battle-grey, but other than that everything looks great. I could rave on how authentic the locations are, but the barest minimal of research shows that 70’s era Italy didn’t look unlike WWII era European countrysides. Nonetheless, the look and feel of Bastards is very authentic, for 70’s Italian exploitation film.

"Hi there. Exploit yourself much?"

The problem I have with The Inglorious Bastards is it’s too easy to see where the producers got their inspiration, and made no effort whatsoever to cover their tracks. And that’s all fine and dandy. This is, after all, an Italian knock off. But it’s frustrating to see that it could have been more. Ergo, a tangent, if I may…

1978 was the same year American International Pictures (AIP) and Columbia Pictures released Force Ten from Navarone, the eagerly anticipated sequel to the epic The Guns of Navarone, both of which were based on the acclaimed novels of the same titles by Alistair MacLean. Force Ten boasted big name talent in Robert Shaw, Harrison Ford, Carl Weathers, Barbara Bach, Richard Kiel and Franco Nero so it was obvious AIP was trying to replicate the success of The Dirty Dozen, whose popularity was still resonating a decade after its release.

"Shush, shush. Look over there. They're shooting 'Force Ten from Navarone.' Watch and learn..."

Films Concorde wanted to ride the wave AIP intended to make with Force Ten, so somebody read MacLean’s Force Ten novel, combined it with The Dirty Dozen, “borrowed” the motorcycle chase from The Great Escape and threw in the train sequence from the climax of Von Ryan’s Express for good measure. After that, it was only a matter of recruiting recognizable names to carry out the action onscreen. Enter Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson, two staples in exploitation cinema and Films Concorde had their military opus.

No, Steve McQueen did NOT do the stunts in this film.

Thus endeth the tangent. To end this review, I recommend The Inglorious Bastards to those who appreciate a good war picture because that’s what this is, a good war picture.