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The Inglorious Bastards(1978)
In the Ardennes, near the end of World War II, a group of U.S. soldiers awaiting trial for various crimes, escapes thanks to the confusion caused by a bombing, and tries to win over Switzerland. After various adventures, the group is at odds with what it believes to be a German patrol, but in reality is a squad of U.S. soldiers led by Colonel Wagner for a special mission. Taken in by the partisans of Veronique, the fugitives are forced to remedy the incident replacing the men expected by Colonel Charles Thomas Buckner.
For more about The Inglorious Bastards and the The Inglorious Bastards Blu-ray release, see the The Inglorious Bastards Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on July 29, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson, Peter Hooten, Michael Pergolani, Jack Basehart, Raimund Harmstorf
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
» See full cast & crew
The Inglorious Bastards Blu-ray Review
Imagine the Dirty Dozen on steroids...
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, July 29, 2009
It's likely difficult at this point to find someone out there who hasn't heard of Quentin Tarantino's long-gestating film titled Inglourious Basterds. Given the similarity in title to Enzo G. Castellari's 1978 World War II film The Inglorious Bastards (which has undergone multiple name changes over the years), we'd expect Tarantino's upcoming release to simply be a remake of the original film. Knowing the general plot of the 2009 film, I sat down to view this thirty-year-old classic under the assumption that it would involve a group of allied soldiers pursuing a mission of murder and mayhem against the Nazi's (as Brad Pitt so eloquently laid out in the teaser trailer before my viewing of the Watchmen theatrical release). Instead, I was treated to a rousing 99 minute action-comedy, with a perfect blend of escapism and heroics. There's plenty of violence along the way, but I soon learned this film is far from a reflection of what we're about to witness in Tarantino's vision. If anything, this classic film is easily approachable by mainstream audiences, which is more than we can say of the polarizing effect the Pulp Fiction director tends to have on moviegoers.
As the film opens, we're introduced to a group of misfit soldiers who've been collected together in a convoy headed for a European military prison. Although their specific crimes aren't elaborated on, the men possess a general disregard for authority and a passion for causing trouble. Not far into their journey from trial to prison, the convoy is hit by Nazi warplanes passing overhead and a small band of prisoners set out for the freedom and peace of Switzerland. Along the way, they encounter several groups of German soldiers (including a bathing pool full of naked female soldiers) and employ tactics of deception or brute force with varying proficiency. Despite coming from different backgrounds and committing crimes that are deserving of military punishment, they are still American soldiers with a desire to do their part in bringing about the end of the war. Stumbling onto a plot to steal an important piece of Nazi technology, the disgraced soldiers jump at the chance to take on a role in the covert operation regardless of the dangers involved.
The Inglorious Bastards isn't what you'd call a historically accurate World War II film, but it never portrays itself as being anything more than a wild ride with plenty of dueling machine guns and explosions. The war is simply used as a backdrop for director Enzo G. Castellari to stage one rousing action sequence after another, ratcheting up the thrills, stunts and comedy as each minute passes. By the time The Inglorious Bastards was released to European theaters in 1978, the Italian-born Castellari had already racked up a fairly decent filmography dating back to 1966 (including a prior WWII entry titled Eagles Over London), but what remains interesting about this film is his blatant attempt to infuse spaghetti-western pacing with a touch of blaxploitation charm. The end product is a bit difficult to define in terms of film genre categorization, but most viewers with an appreciation for productions that teeter on the edge of exploitation will find plenty to grin about as the movie plays out. It certainly isn't difficult to figure out why Tarantino appreciated this classic enough to name his new film after it, since it almost serves as a precursor to his trademark directing method of combining genre's that don't seem to fit together.
Purely from a technical standpoint, the film is somewhat hit and miss. The performances turned in by the main stars resonate with a macho flare that almost borders on caricature, with Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson doing their best to establish themselves as the trunk of the acting tree. However, I found more to like in the supporting performances from Peter Hooten and Michael Pergolani (who rarely speaks in the film, yet still expresses more than most other characters). Given the low-budget nature of the production, the dubbed audio (recorded after-the-fact) doesn't exactly match up well with the spoken dialogue, but I rarely considered it a distraction and would almost go further in saying it adds to the cult feel of the film. I'd be doing a disservice if I didn't touch briefly on the action set-pieces, since that may ultimately be the deciding factor for most of you with an interest in the The Inglorious Bastards. If there's one thing Castellari managed to get right in the making of the film, it's the incorporation of various action sequences that elevate the film beyond its meager budget. In all seriousness, there's rarely 10 minutes that pass without a gun battle or firefight between our group of unlikely heroes and the German war machine. We never see much in the way of blood, so the violence is rather tame by modern standards (especially when you consider the actors have a tendency to shoot at the ground), but I was still impressed with the different locales used to stage the battles and the entire armored train sequence toward the end is highly entertaining.
The Inglorious Bastards Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 32Mbps), The Inglorious Bastards offers a surprisingly impressive visual experience. Considering the age of the film, and the questionable storage methods utilized at the time of its original release (during the late 70's, Italian movie producers were financing 400-450 films per year), I didn't expect the source material to look this good. The level of detail on display never approaches the proficiency of a vintage film that's undergone an extensive restoration and there are a number of scenes that appear significantly softer than the rest of the film, but you'll still have no problem identifying this as a 1080p release. Coloring doesn't hold up nearly as well, resulting in a general washed-out look to the film. Most scenes take place in the scorching daylight, so it's understandable if there's a slight boost in brightness, but the lack of depth in the color spectrum still seemed a bit offputting. The brightness also affected black levels and contrast to a marginal degree, but I still felt contrast offered sufficient differentiation to give the picture reasonable depth. If you have an aversion to grain, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the knowledge that grain is kept to a minimum (without the noticeable use of DNR) and specks or scratches are a rare occurrence that never becomes obtrusive.
Overall, I have to hand it to Severin on their impressive transfer of an aging, low-budget production, and I hope to see this level of effort consistently displayed in their future titles.
The Inglorious Bastards Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Unfortunately, matters deteriorate substantially with the dismal audio offerings on the disc. The primary track is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track dubbed in English. Regardless of your feelings on dubs matching up with the lip movements of the actors, most viewers will be disappointed in the quiet, muffled dialogue that plagues the audio track. Effects rarely measure up any better, with almost every element coming across hollow or tinny, and a complete lack of surround use aside from the blaring musical numbers. Even after adjusting the volume level on my receiver several times, I had to throw my hands up and accept my fate with this underwhelming audio experience. If you're looking for something to show off your audio equipment, stay far away from this Blu-ray option.
The Inglorious Bastards Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Back to the War Zone (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 13:00 min): A cameraman follows director Enzo Castellari as he visits various locations utilized in the film. His dialogue is subtitled and a bit sparse, but it's still interesting (though a little sad) to see the overgrown remains of landscapes.
Train Kept A-Rollin' (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 1:15:21 min): It's not every day you get a making-of documentary that runs nearly as long as the main feature, but that's exactly what Severin provides in this excellent retrospective created for the special edition DVD release that preceded this Blu-ray production. If you're interested in Italian filmmaking during the 70's, or curious about the rivalry between Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson, you'll have no problem sitting through the hour plus running time (which mostly consists of interviews with actors and the film crew). Of note, Fred Williamson doesn't look like he's aged a day in the past thirty years.
Conversation with Enzo Castellari & Quentin Tarantino (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 38:23 min): You'll need to be a big fan of Tarantino to make it through this entire interview. The guy has an uncanny ability to make anyone he's with feel uncomfortable (he simply cannot stop moving), yet Castellari does a fantastic job remaining focused and drawing him back to the table when necessary.
Enzo's 70th Birthday in Los Angeles (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 7:15 min): Fred Williamson, Bo Svenson and Enzo Castellari are asked a number of questions about the creation of the film during Enzo's 70th birthday celebration.
Inglorious Reunion at the New Beverly (1080i, Dolby Digital 2.0, 11:24 min): video footage is taken at a recent screening that was attended by Enzo Castellari, Fred Williamson and Bo Svenson. Castellari provides a brief introduction prior to the film and the three men conduct a Q&A session following the feature.
Rounding out the supplements, we have two high-definition trailers for The Inglorious Bastards (one in Italian and one in English), a high-definition trailer for Eagles Over London (another upcoming release from Severin), and an interviewed audio commentary by Enzo Castellari (who does quite well despite his strong accent).
The Inglorious Bastards Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Inglorious Bastards isn't the type of film that everyone will appreciate, so my recommendation is restricted to those of you with an appreciation for low-budget action cinema of the 1970's. If you're not sure you fall into that limited category, I'd recommend you consider a rental prior to a purchase, since your expectations could exceed the realistic achievements of the film. There's a reason this film hasn't earned greater recognition over the years, but it certainly isn't due to a lack of entertainment value.
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The Inglorious Bastards Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Original Inglorious Bastards and More BDs from Severin - May 26, 2009
Severin Films, the self-proclaimed 'Criterion of Smut', are soon entering the Blu-ray arena. True to form, the studio has announced two war movies for July 28: 'Eagles Over London' and the macaroni-combat classic 'The Inglorious Bastards', which will be followed ...
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