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The Inglorious Bastards
(1978)

Director: Enzo G. Castellari   
Cast:
Ian Bannen, Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson


He's been deceiving the public and his fellow filmmakers for years. All of his work is just a ruse for what his real aim is, and I am going to expose it right here and right now. And that is... WOODY ALLEN IS TRYING TO KILL HOLLYWOOD! You think I'm joking? Let's take a look at Allen's career as a writer/director. The first movie he wrote and directed was Take The Money And Run, released by Cinerama. Several years later, Cinerama closed its tents and went out of business forever. Then he moved to United Artists and made several movies there. What happened to United Artists? They declared bankruptcy several years later, and were absorbed by another studio. Allen then moved to Orion Pictures and made several movies there. I'll tell you what happened several years after he arrived: Orion declared bankruptcy. Allen then moved to Tri-Star and made a couple of movies. Not long afterwards, Tri-Star was finished as a studio and was turned into a brand that Sony uses to release movies they don't have confidence in. And look at the studios writer/director Allen has worked with (and given his curse) since. There's Miramax (the founders left the company and Disney has severely scaled back its releases), Touchstone (Disney has scaled it back severely as well), Fine Line (is now as dead as its parent company New Line), and Dreamworks (almost declared bankruptcy twice, and its remains and debts have been sold off). It's just a matter of time before we hear bad news about Fox Searchlight and the Weinstein Company, the distributors he has worked with recently. It's time to DECLARE WAR AND STOP HIS EVIL PLANS!

While I do think it is necessary to declare war against Woody Allen, there is the question as to what I will do for my part with this war. While I do think I have done a lot for the film community by exposing Allen's evil scheme, when it comes to actually joining up in the upcoming war to stop him, that's another story. I may be a good film critic, and good at exposing those in Hollywood who attempt to deceive the public, but when it comes to actually being a warrior and fighting the good fight on the battlefield, I am hopeless. Physically, I am far from being a war machine. I was hopeless in physical education classes when growing up (I was always picked last). I will be middle-aged in a few years from now, so I am descending from my physical peak. And I am a few pounds overweight (though it was somewhat worse a few months ago before I went on a diet.) I'd probably be considered 4-F by the American armed forces if I lived there, but I'm fortunate enough to live in a country with no draft. But if things changed and I was drafted, I think I would be in deep doo-doo no matter which part of the armed forces I found myself in. The army? Well, I have heard the food is good there three meals each day. But I don't relish the idea of having to get up very early in the morning each day and having a drill instructor scream in my face, or climbing ropes and hopping through tires (when does that happen in the battlefield?), or eventually getting exposed to battlefield conditions of mud, bad weather, and bullets and explosions happening all over me (And considering the shape of the Canadian army nowadays...)

Then there's the air force. Well, I did beat the Playstation 2 fighter pilot game Ace Combat 4 on its highest difficulty level. But even with my expertise at the game I would still crash to earth or get shot down occasionally. I don't like the idea of plummeting to earth in flames. Even if I did get to eject safely out of my plane, I might face landing in enemy territory with nothing but a pistol with a few bullets to defend myself. (And considering the shape of the Canadian air force nowadays...) Then there's the navy. Well, considering how wars have been fought in the last while, the navy seems to be the one part of the armed forces that manages to stay out of direct combat. But I don't like the idea of being in a confined space (a submarine, or even a full blown ship) for a long period of time, especially without things like the Internet or a video store - I'd go crazy quickly. (And considering the shape of the Canadian navy nowadays...) In short, my opinion is that I would almost certainly make a lousy member of the armed forces, at least directly on the battlefield. Still, I have to consider there is the factor of technology nowadays; the wars currently being fought by western powers have the advantage of modern technology to protect its participants. That would be assuring to me, and may give me the confidence to fight properly. I'm certainly glad not to be fighting in the past. Vietnam? Although statistics show that most Vietnam vets are not screwed up, I wouldn't relish fighting in a war where we couldn't go all out. World War I? All that mud, and thousands of soldiers sent to be slaughtered in futile campaigns. No thanks.

If I had to choose to be in a past war, my choice would probably be World War II. I think practically everyone would agree that there was a menace that definitely had to be stamped out, so there would be no argument about fighting a useless or futile war. The Canadian armed forces were pretty strong back then as well, so I wouldn't be fighting with useless equipment as well. But the main reason why I would want to fight in World War II is that - at least according to many of the World War II movies that I've watched - it was a "fun" war to fight. Just take a look at movies like The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen, and Kelly's Heroes - they picture fighting the Axis powers as rollicking entertainment. The Inglorious Bastards is no exception. It may not be the most realistic of World War II movies, but it is a lot of fun. It takes place in France in 1944, not long after the Normandy invasion. At an Allied headquarters camp, the command is preparing to take several Allied soldiers to a prison camp for various infractions. Among them are an officer (Svenson, Breaking Point), an African-American (Williamson, Black Caesar), a bigot, and a long-haired mustached Italian (Italian-American?). While they are traveling to the prison camp, the prison vehicle gets a flat tire, and while they are fixing the tire the whole party finds themselves sitting ducks for an attacking German plane. During the attack, the prisoners seize the opportunity and overpower their captors. Sending their former captors away, the freed prisoners decide to escape to the safety of Switzerland - not knowing the many dangers they will have to face along the way.

Made during a period when Italy was churning out hundreds of movies each year, The Inglorious Bastards is clearly a movie where more time and expense has been spent than that of the average Italian movie of the time. Maybe not as much as a Hollywood war movie, of course, but the production values are still pretty impressive at times. For example, we don't get just two or three period military vehicles to stretch out for the entire running time, but we get a whole bunch throughout the movie, some scenes having several such vehicles running all at the same time. There's even what appears to be a legitimate German air force fighter flying in the air in a few shots in the beginning of the movie. We get sizable battlefields that are from one end to another covered with wrecked vehicles blown up in the fighting. The scope of the movie is also enhanced by the use of special effects; several times in the movie, matte painting are used to great effect to display things like the ravages of war or a squadron of bombers flying overhead. There is also some modelwork on display as well. I'll admit that the modelwork seen in the final few minutes of the movie is pretty unconvincing (I can't go into detail in fear that I will spoil the big climax of the movie), but in the beginning of the movie we get a shot of a parking lot full of tanks that had me fooled the first time I saw the movie (I learned the truth when watching the supplements included with the DVD.)

Besides the poor modelwork at one point of The Inglorious Bastards, I will admit there are a few other slip-ups or budgetary flaws in the production values of the movie - for example, there's a laughable moment when the "steel" hinged doors of an armored train car wobble when they are flung open - but such flaws are only a few in number, and they didn't spoil my enjoyment of the movie. In fact, I found that they were amusing to observe and just added to the fun that I got out of the movie. In case you are more cynical in your mind and don't think such slip-ups are very amusing to observe in a serious-minded movie like this, don't worry - the movie offers a lot more in legitimate entertainment. For one thing, the performances in this movie should be pleasing to viewers of any mindset. Ian Bannen (Waking Ned), an Allied commando team leader that the band of escaped prisoners meets later in the movie doesn't have that much dialogue or get to do that much, but his no-nonsense attitude feels like that of a seasoned and high-ranking soldier. As the leader of the escaped prisoners, Svenson is appropriately heroic, though the screenplay for some reason treats him for the first half of the movie mostly as one of the band instead of a leader. Michael Pergolani is amusing as the Italian hippie-like member of the team, providing plenty of comic relief throughout. But the real standout of the movie is Williamson. He is naturally charismatic to the extreme, and his coolness steals the show. He is always ready with a flip remark, and even performs a number of his own stunts in the action sequences.

Speaking of the action sequences, I think that anyone entering this movie with a craving for some serious action will be seriously satisfied. Quite simply, The Inglorious Bastards is cram-packed with action. We get mortar blasts. There are bombing raids. Grenades get thrown. We get friendly fire. And best of all, we get dozens of Nazis getting cut down by machine-gun fire. I will freely admit that some of the movie's action sequences are gratuitous. For example, there's one scene where the band of prisoners (disguised as German soldiers), while driving a truck, encounter a roadblock manned by actual German soldiers. A few seconds after they are stopped, the prisoners pull out their guns and kill all the Germans. They then continue on their way. This scene could have easily been left out without affecting the rest of the movie. It's the same with several other scenes in the movie, like when they encounter a dozen or so naked women bathing in a river, an excuse just to show some nudity and having one of the naked women fire a machine gun. But this padding out of the story is never boring, in part because no scene, whether it is necessary to the plot or not, goes on for very long. This is a very fast-paced movie, and there's no time for any viewer to get bored. Director Enzo G. Castellari (Great White) has a firm hand on this movie, which probably ranks highest of all the movies of his that I have seen. He borrows a few things from other movies (like Peckinpah-like slow motion in some battle sequences), but overall makes this movie his own. Quentin Tarantino has given his seal of approval to the movie, and this is one case where his hype is deserved.

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See also: Breaking Point, Delta Force One, Force 10 From Navarone

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