Inglorious Bastards Review
The FilmThe film part of this review is reprinted from our review of the Optimum release of this movie, the disc part has been written to cover the new Severin release
Somehow, I have never been too bothered by war movies. The endless stream of world war two films which explain how America won the war and saved us poor Europeans from our Fascist neighbours always has made me rather dubious about their historical claims and their universal portrayal of whitebread heroism and teutonic villainy. The Great Escape is basically an extended advert for apple pie, baseball and Harley Davison, The Dirty Dozen suggests that Ernest Borgnine is a crack soldier and it has a Mexican imaginatively named Pedro, and every Nazi in these films seems to be monocled and cracking a riding crop.
This isn't to say that I decry the reality of previous generations' sacrifice or underplay the Nazi's crimes and I can quite understand the joy of racist scum getting their arses kicked as good solid entertainment. What bothers me about those films were their claims to authenticity, and their role in making history become a simple narrative of the victory of good over evil. This eager morality seems patently absurd given the liberties the screenwriters take, and to my mind it seems sensible to make such liberties even more glaring and escapist so that the entertainment factor is not hidden in hypocritical claims about documentary truth.
Inglorious Bastards takes huge dramatic license and it is so darned enthralling and funny that it won me over from the very first viewing some years ago. This isn't because the film is novel in its construction, it is a quite blatant and breathtaking rip off of The Dirty Dozen and any number of US produced war films. The reason that Inglorious Bastards is so damn good is that it knows that it isn't truthful or serious in reflecting the great events of the last century, it knows that it is not particularly original and it knows that it ain't a Hollywood sized production. Yet, it tries and tries to thrill you, to provide tension, and to give you the time of your life.
It is a film peopled with rogues, a group of prisoners on their way to court martial, and it enjoys this company and their attempts to, at first, escape the war around them and, finally, to redeem their selves for their misadventures. Bo Svensson leads the troop of escaped prisoners and he is a disgraced pilot who has been using his plane for romantic sojourns. Fred Williamson is the black soldier who has killed a racist officer and the rest of this group includes Mafiosi, a thief and your basic dregs of humanity.
Good fortune and the Luftwaffe free the men and they end up mistakenly dispatching a crack troop of US commandos only to be mistaken for the same group of fighters by the French resistance. The only way to escape the fate of being murderers of their own countrymen is to carry the secret mission out themselves and soon they are planning to hijack a Nazi train carrying a new V2 rocket. Even some obviously poor model effects can not derail the action and Inglorious Bastards finishes with the same chutzpah it displayed throughout. Castellari's cast are engaging and convincing, and all the actors keep their tongue in cheek for the more unlikely moments.
Why would anyone choose it over the US originals? Well, it's funnier, better paced, better edited and more charming than just about any other movie you may choose to see. It is the very antithesis of pompous, it is the antidote to all those Vietnam films that looked for meaning in colonial carnage and it actually delivers the action that those films apologised for. In fact, by working with flawed human beings rather than heroes, the movie is even more successful in making you care for its gang of brigands than the monoliths of honourable movie stars in the films I mentioned above.
I would never claim that Inglorious Bastards means too much and in the end it is this honesty about its purpose that makes it so damn likeable. Nazis bite the dust and Fred and Bo kick their butts all the way back to Berlin, and if you want insight into war then you are looking in the wrong place. It gives you what you want in terms of action, explosions and stars acting according to type. Simply terrific.
Severin have released this film in two formats, the disc reviewed here is the single disc release but for lovers of the film they may want to seek out the three disc edition with documentary and soundtrack. The film's transfer and sound are not very different from the previous R2 disc and the chief advantage of these new releases is the excellent extras. The film still retains a degree of softness but the treatment is very similar to the Optimum disc, I enclose screenshot comparisons below:
Although the still image shows the framing and quality to be roughly the same, I did feel whilst watching the film that this presentation is sharper and more detailed than the Optimum disc but the quality is undeniable very similar. Again the audio tracks are alike and this new release boasts clear dialogue and a lack of distortion. In terms of A/V quality there seems to be little difference to choose between these two releases.
The major draw in terms of extras here is an interview ostensibly between the director and Quentin Tarantino which will draw in those interested with QT's planned re-imagining/remake/re-gurgitation of this film. I have probably made my thoughts clear on QT before but I'll repeat them for those who want to separate my feelings from an objective view on this extra. He has become this generation's film librarian and is responsible for the re-appraisals of many excellent genre pics, in my view though his own work has become stunted, self satisfied and lacking courage since he made Jackie Brown. Professionally the man needs more critical feedback and better editing, but as a film conoisseur his taste is impeccable.
The conversation is not very natural, which is largely because QT is talking and talking and Castellari's English is rather halting. The conversation covers QT and his efforts on writing his remake, influences like Kurosawa and Peckinpah, and Castellari talks about how he handled Svenson's rampant ego. They both compliment Fred Williamson for his awareness of what a director needs, and share a positive outlook about their profession. Castellari's humility is rather sweet and the piece will prove a draw for those looking forward to QT's film.
The disc comes with a full screen trailer for the film which is rather worn and seems vertically stretched, and a commentary from the director moderated by David Gregory. He talks about Svenson being competitive with Williamson, the faking of gunfire due to the banning of such by the Italian government, and loving working with stunts and explosions. It does help having the conversation moderated, but once Castellari is in full flow he talks easily and warmly - a man clearly in love with his work.
A very small improvement in terms of A/V quality is trumped by the plentiful extras. This single disc release is a definite improvement on previous releases but the 3 disc set is clearly the way to go and a definitive release.