Severin Films // 1978 // 99 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // July 31st, 2009
If you're a kraut, he'll take you out!
The Inglorious Bastards is Italian director Enzo G. Castellari's (The Big Racket) 1978 tough-as-nails homage to old school Hollywood war movies. Thanks to Quentin Tarantino's (Pulp Fiction) long-time love of the flick and his upcoming remake of sorts, Inglourious Bastards, Castellari's cult hit landed on home video in 2008 in a tricked out three-disc DVD from Severin Films. Now the good folks at Severin are serving up The Inglorious Bastards in high definition on this brand new Blu-ray.
In 1944, a group of reprobate American GIs is ambushed by Germans on their way to the stockade. Escaping both the Germans and the MPs who were transporting them, the soldiers decide to try to make their way across the border from France to neutral Switzerland. On the way, they accidentally kill a group of American soldiers who were on a secret mission and were wearing Nazi uniforms. Led by Air Force Lieutenant Robert Yeager (Bo Svenson, Walking Tall Part II), the bastards -- Fred (Fred Williamson, From Dusk Till Dawn), Tony (Peter Hooten, Orca), Nick (Michael Pergolani), and Berle (Jackie Basehart) -- must make things right with the US military by going on a suicide mission to steal the gyroscope for a Nazi V2 rocket.
The Inglorious Bastards is like a war movie conceived by me and my childhood friends, based upon our adventures playing army in each other's backyards. Potato masher grenades blowing Nazis straight up into the air like ragdolls? A scene in which Svenson and Williamson burst into an empty barn with Thompson submachine guns blazing on the off chance that there's a stray Nazi or two hiding away inside? An entire plot built around the zany notion that the US military would assign a group of thieving, AWOL-going, roughneck GIs to a strategically vital mission originally assigned to a team of highly trained commandos that the roughnecks accidentally gunned down? Nothing in the movie even remotely resembles the strategies and tactics of a military run by a competent officer corps. The Inglorious Bastards' version of war is a make-it-up-as-you-go free-for-all in which even the most nonsensical action is acceptable so long as the heroes look cool doing it. It's like the script was written by elementary school kids -- the most jaded, foul-mouthed, horny, and blood-thirsty elementary school kids ever to walk the earth, but elementary school kids nonetheless.
All of that would be a bad thing if The Inglorious Bastards wasn't the kind of movie so pumped up on testosterone-fueled violent excess that it openly and self-consciously flips the bird at logic and realism. If military standard operating procedure means that Fred Williamson wouldn't kick in a door with his unlaced combat boots and indiscriminately spray bullets at whomever or whatever is on the other side of the door, his lips tightly pursed beneath a lush and manly mustache, then screw standard operating procedure. If logic asserts that the bastards being fired upon by a group of naked, heavily armed, foxy, Nazi-loving bathing beauties is outrageously absurd, then it's best to sneak up on logic from behind, stab it in the neck with a commando knife, and get on with the mayhem. If The Inglorious Bastards was trying to be Saving Private Ryan or The Thin Red Line, then it would be a pathetic failure. But it's not trying to be those films. Its raison d'être is to depict the ruthless slaughter of countless Nazis by a small band of stone cool, anti-authoritarian American GIs. On that front, it's a complete success. The Inglorious Bastards isn't The Dirty Dozen, but it's probably the next best thing.
The Inglorious Bastards comes to Blu-ray in a decent 1080p AVC transfer that sports accurate colors and reasonable detail given that we're talking about a low budget Italian flick that is over 30 years old. There isn't a speckle or blemish to be found on the impressive source print. A few scenes display heavy grain due to the lighting conditions under which they were shot, and I noticed some flicker in a few shots. Aside from those minor gripes, the movie looks excellent. Sure, detail would undoubtedly be better if it had been made on a bigger budget, but given its origins, The Inglorious Bastards looks superb in high definition.
The default audio option is a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix matrixed from the original analog mono track. Due to the limited source, it's an anemic effort characterized by thin (though not tinny) dialogue and almost nothing in the way of low end. The secondary option, a Dolby stereo mix (the packaging mistakenly lists it as Dolby stereo surround), also lacks punch but is more satisfying since it doesn't stretch the original source beyond its breaking point.
Exclusive to this Blu-ray are two video features presented in high definition. "Inglorious Bastards Reunion at the New Beverly" (11:24) finds Fred Williamson, Bo Svenson, and Enzo G. Castellari hosting a recent screening of the movie. Williamson, Svenson, and Castellari return to enjoy each other's company in "Enzo's 70th Birthday Celebration in L.A." (7:15).
In addition to the HD exclusives, the disc contains all of the supplements from Disc Two of the three-disc DVD. Director Enzo G. Castellari delivers a feature-length audio commentary. Train Kept a Rollin' (75:12) is a retrospective documentary about the film's production. In "Back to the War Zone" (13:00), Castellari revisits the locations used in the film. "A Conversation with Quentin Tarantino and Enzo G. Castellari" (38:23) finds Tarantino gesticulating wildly, praising The Inglorious Bastards effusively, and hardly letting Castellari get a word in edge-wise. There are also English and Italian trailers for the film. The documentary, featurettes, and trailers are all presented in high definition. Not carried over to this release is the CD soundtrack that comprised Disc Three of the DVD set.
The Inglorious Bastards isn't a great movie, but it's a lot of fun for anyone who likes to see multiple cans of whoop-ass opened on fascists. This Blu-ray isn't worth the price of an upgrade for those who already own the DVD, but it's the perfect option for anyone looking to buy the flick for the first time.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Severin Films
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 1978
MPAA Rating: Rated R