The Inglorious Bastards (1977) / War-Action
aka Quel maledetto treno blindato
aka Deadly Mission
aka G.I. Bro
aka Hell's Heroes
aka Counterfeit Commandos
aka Dirty 7
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, nudity and language
Running time: 99 min.
Cast: Bo Svenson, Peter Hooten, Fred Williamson, Michael Pergolani, Jackie Basehart, Michel Constantin, Debra Berger, Raimund Harmstorf, Ian Bannen
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Screenplay: Sandro Continenza, Sergio Grieco, Franco Marotta, Romano Migliorini, Laura Toscano
Review published July 30, 2008
Set in World War II France in 1944, Inglorious Bastards tells the tale of five U.S. soldiers facing court martial who make their escape and plan to high tail it through Nazi territory to make their way to neutral Switzerland. Bo Svenson (Kill Bill Vol. 2, Heartbreak Ridge) gets the starring nod as an American who happens to also speak German, making him the most appropriate leader for the group that includes a murderous Black private (Williamson, Starsky & Hutch), a murderous White bigot (Hooten, Orca), a deserter (Basehart, The Black Pirate), and a crafty thief/forgery expert (Pergolani, In the Pope's Eye). The group, once deemed a disgrace my the United States military, find themselves in a position to be some of the greatest heroes of the European theater on the Allied side in their wild odyssey to the Swiss border.
The Inglorious Bastards is one of the film's many alternate titles, including G.I. Bro, (chopped up to make it seem like Williamson was the main star) as its only marketable name in the home video era would be Fred Williamson. That will all change in 2009, when Quentin Tarantino will release his long-in-coming remake with the Inglorious Bastards name, and this original will forever be known henceforth by this title.
From the Spaghetti Western-esque opening title animation, you'll immediately guess correctly that The Inglorious Bastards is an Italian production. It's not as stylish as most of its brethren, but it is competently directed by veteran director Enzo Castellari (Keoma, Escape from the Bronx), and it definitely delivers on all of the action, stunts and gunfire you'd be expecting from a 1970s war flick.
Like many films of the late 1970s, there is a semi-comic and lackadaisical air about The Inglorious Bastards that makes for a fun view, though it suffers from a lack of adequate tension during the film's more serious moments in the second half, where the action begins to take over completely. The cast is certainly comfortable treading the line between sophomoric laughs and explosive action, and the fact that most performed their own stunts definitely makes the scenes on and around a fast-moving train all the more impressive. The explosive finale does look like what it is, i.e. miniatures being set ablaze and crackling with small explosives, but by this time, you'll already have gotten your fill of action, so it's hard to claim that we've been cheated, although the film feels like it's missing a good part of the epilogue (it ends with the semi-consummation of a romantic subplot that was far from fully developed), going instantly to end credits without showing us what happens to the characters and the consequences of their actions.
It feels a bit like Animal House meets The Dirty Dozen, though it won't likely please the biggest fans of either film. However, if you like that sort of personality-driven, action-packed b-movie "guy flick", it's worth a look, especially if you plan on catching the Tarantino remake.
©2008 Vince Leo