When Robert Aldrich's The Dirty Dozen was released into theaters in 1967, it became a huge smash in Europe and it soon spawned a whole bunch of thematic remakes by Italian directors. Ten years later, Italian master director Enzo G. Castellari did his own spin on this type of "men on a mission" film with Quel Maledetto Treno Blindatto aka The Inglorious Bastards. Being an incredible stylist of cinema, Il Maestro Castellari brought a wild, raucous vision of war to the screen and the film has since become a cult classic for film geeks.
1944: Nazi Occupied France...a group of US soldiers who are also criminals are being transported to a stockade. While en route, the convoy is attacked by German planes. Some of the convicts are killed and only a few escape alive including an Air Force pilot, Lt. Robert Yeager (Bo Svenson), the smooth talking Pvt. Fred Canfield (Fred Williamson), Tony (Peter Hooten), Nick (Michael Pergolani) and Berle (Jackie Basehart). The group then boost an Army truck and take off into unknown territory. As they are traveling, they look for a place to relax and get their ideas together. They soon stop at an old farmhouse and find a German officer hiding out there and they take him hostage. Lt. Yeager inquires which is the safest way to get to Switzerland. The German officer explains that every road will be dangerous to travel and that the adjacent forrest would be the safest route for them to take, so that is what they do. On their journey, The Bastards run into several characters including some naked women who are bathing in a pond. When the soldiers make themselves known as Americans, the girls break out machine guns and try to kill them. Later, the German officer is discovered with some other German officers who just arrived on the scene. Without hesitating, The Bastards shoot them all, only to find out that the men were actually fellow American officers incognito for a top secret mission. The Bastards are next ambushed by some French resistance fighters who were teaming up with the Americans....yep, the ones the Bastards mistakenly shot. Lt. Yeager and the other men don't let them know about their mistake right away. Enter Col. Buckner (Ian Bannen) who parachutes into the area. He is supposed to be setting up the attack on a German armored train with the US soldiers that were killed by The Bastards. Lt. Yeager explains who they really are and after some heated exchanges, he finally convinces Col. Buckner that his gang of escaped criminals will help take out the German train which contains some high tech missiles in exchange for a reprieve on their current charges. The climax of the film is literally explosive and incredible to witness. For a lower budget Italian production, the crew did a superb, highly creative job with the action sequences. If you are already a fan of Italian cinema, you might know that the artists on these films were highly imaginative. The Inglorious Bastards is packed with action, laughs and great style. Another true classic from Il Maestro Enzo G. Castellari.
DISC ONE: Featuring the film which has been fully restored from the vault negative. The transfer looks very clear and the color contrasts are excellent. The second feature on Disc One is an extensive conversation between Writer-Director Quentin Tarantino (Kill Bill) and Enzo G. Castellari. Both directors are big fans of one another. Quentin talks about his first experience seeing Inglorious Bastards on Los Angeles TV as a young kid and how after he saw it, it became one of his most favorite films. The movie was widely unseen by everyone Quentin knew at the time until he showed it to them. It was like his own personal secret film treasure which soon led him and his friends to refer to all Euro 'men on a mission' movies they saw as "inglorious bastards films". It also was the main reason he called his own latest war film: Inglourious Basterds. Quentin and Enzo go on to discuss their personal filmmaking styles and Enzo shares many details about his ideas on the Inglorious Bastards action sequences including how certain fake weapons were not permitted by the Italian government which led to Enzo adding his own alternate weapons (such as the slingshot). He also tells about the climactic ending which features some beautiful slow motion shots which, as we learn from Quentin, were directly inspired by Sam Peckinpah's war film Cross of Iron. Quentin then recollects directing a sequence in Kill Bill that was not scripted, but made up the day or so before he had to shoot it. The shot in question was the church scene at the beginning of Chapter Six. It was originally supposed to be a massacre, then filmed reactions and a spaghetti western gang beating, but time was very tight so Quentin created a shorter but very impactful reverse steadicam shot instead. The two talk about "The Hammer" aka Fred Williamson, one of the biggest stars of the 1970s. Quentin fondly remembers his own first encounter with Mr. Williamson one night at a gas station in Los Angeles in the early 80s long before he became a famous celebrity himself. It's a really cool little story to hear about. This entire interview is a lot of fun and fans of these great directors will surely enjoy listening to both energetic artists/friends express themselves.
DISC TWO: On the second disc there is an incredibly well made, in-depth documentary called The Train Kept A Rollin which features Director Enzo G. Castellari, Stars Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson, Massimo Vanni, SFX Artist Gino De Rossi, Producer Roberto Sbarigia, Screenwriter Laura Toscano and the son of composer Francesco De Masi, Fillipo De Masi. The cast and crew discuss what it was like to work on the film. Bo Svenson explains how working with Enzo was a very exciting experience and how he and Fred Williamson got along great although you can tell there was a level of macho competition between the two which is evident when you listen to them talk about each other. We also get some nice commentary about the incredible action sequences as the crew fondly remembers the explosives technician who went by the colorful and descriptive name "Bombardone".
Back To The War Zone is a short but nice featurette with Enzo Castellari visiting several of the locations where the film was shot around Rome including the pond where the women are bathing, the gate of the Army base and the train station where the big climax was filmed.
THE SCORE CD: In a story told by Francesco De Masi's son Fillipo, the majority of the original Inglorious Bastards score is lost forever due to a mistake by Francesco himself. He recorded Fillipo's school musical over the tracks for the movie on the only copy of the tape he had made. All that was left was 4 main cues from the film. Its both a funny story yet sad too. Nevertheless, it's still great for film score collectors to have this bit of rare music in their collection. Perfect background music for when you're hijacking a train!
For fans of Euro exploitation cinema and Macaroni Combat (Italian war-action films), Inglorious Bastards is a must see. This 3 Disc set is a real treat and should be in every fans collection. Severin Films did an excellent job putting it all together. I really hope to see many more of these kinds of great genre releases from them in the future!
Reviewed by Pete R. - July 2008