This film is back in the spotlight again because the Quentin Tarantino remake, which features Brad Pitt, is coming out next month to theaters everywhere, and once that is released, it is going to seem futile to compare the two for obvious reasons. The 1978 version is a low-budget Italian-made war picture, and the new one is an epic in scale with an all-star cast. However, that does not mean that the original version is not without its charm, and it will always be worth a viewing to the more adventurous moviegoer.
Luckily, Severin has released a three-disc special edition to the film, which allows audiences to properly view this often bootlegged picture under the title “Deadly Mission.”
A group of criminal World War II soldiers are on their way to be tried for their crimes manage to escape behind enemy lines, and are eventually mistaken for a group of American soldiers on a secret mission to stop a Nazi train. This makes for one of the most thrilling spaghetti war films ever made.
The Italians had an interesting approach to the movies, which allowed them to have a lasting impact on the cult-movie scene. That approach was to take popular American movie concepts and make them on a much cheaper budget. They often peppered the cast with supporting character actors from the United States, by drawing them in with the promise of a leading role.
Enzo G. Castellari (“Eagles Over London”) was one of the Italian directors that did the best, and was often able to put his own creative spin into his films. You have to take in consideration his budget constraints when watching his work, and it is very visible at times in “The Inglorious Bastards.” At one point in the movie, you can’t help but notice the strings pulling a supposedly blown up Nazi in the air.
There is also a perplexing moment where our heroes stumble upon a group of women skinny dipping, only to discover that these women are packing heat and hate Americans. While naked women shooting machines guns comes off extremely funny and campy, it proves to be a wrong detour for this flick.
This film is loaded with wall-to-wall action that never slows down. Explosions and danger follow the main characters as they transform from criminals to heroes. War is often a great backdrop for an adventure, and often allows people to get caught and root for the main characters despite their shady pasts. And it is evident here, thanks in large part to Castellari’s handling. Audiences without a doubt love to see characters that defy the odds and have the bravery to stand up to villains, and that is why despite some shortcomings, this film works.
Bo Svenson (“Breaking Point,” “Choke Canyon”) is solid in the lead as Lt. Robert Yeager. He is one of the more underrated tough guys in cinema. Svenson is probably most famous for filling in the shoes of Joe Don Baker in the sequels to the “Walking Tall” series, and since then has always had a commanding screen presence. Look for him in a cameo in the upcoming Tarantino version.
The secret ingredient to a good Castellari movie has always been Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (“1990: Bronx Warriors”). He seems to be having a ball in this movie, teaching the Nazis a thing or two, and always standing up for what is right. Williamson is a great entertainer and knows how to give audiences what they want, and he certainly delivers here.
A Steve Guttenberg lookalike named Peter Hooten (“The Soldier”) provides some racial tension in the group, but the Hammer quickly puts a stop to that.
Now come the extras, which start on disc one with an informative commentary by Castellari, then an interview with Castellari conducted by Tarantino. Sadly, Tarantino does most of the talking, and Castellari is extremely polite considering the interview was about him and not Tarantino.
Disc two houses a feature-length and very informative documentary on the making of the film, which encompasses almost every aspect. This is exactly what a DVD documentary should be, and not a 20-minute fluff piece that we often see.
Castellari also takes us on a journey of the locations used in the movie.
Disc three is a CD that includes the score to the picture, and is the first time this music was ever released separately.
“The Inglorious Bastards” is easy to admire for the bold and riveting story it attempts to tell, and simply is what it is. It can only be enjoyed if you’re not expecting some brilliant movie that inspired Tarantino to remake it.