Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

          Best known as the flick from which Quentin Tarantino borrowed the title for his 2009 World War II epic Inglorious Basterds, this Italian production is an enjoyably overstuffed riff on The Dirty Dozen (1967) and assorted other World War II men-on-a-mission flicks. Starring a pair of American B-movie stalwarts, Fred Williamson and Bo Svenson, The Inglorious Bastards borrows the basic plot device from The Dirty Dozen—soldiers incarcerated for various crimes end up redeeming themselves when thrust back into combat—then adds on narrative bits and bobbles from countless other flicks, resulting in an absurd plot that hurtles from one violent incident to the next.
          The story begins when M.P.s holding the convicts are killed in a Nazi air raid, freeing the “heroes” to roam the European countryside in search of freedom. Then, after assorted convenient plot twists, the protagonists take the place of a team of highly trained commandoes for a dangerous covert mission. Along the way, a series of colorful adventures ensues, most of which are pleasant diversions even if they’re not particularly believable. At the movie’s silliest moment, several of the convicts cozy up to a gaggle of German beauties who are splashing around in a country stream, only to have the nude women pick up machine guns and blast away at the Yanks when the frauleins realize their new friends aren’t from the fatherland.
          There’s absolutely nothing in The Inglorious Bastards that fans of World War II flicks haven’t seen before, from the comic-relief enlisted man who carries a secret stash of contraband goods to the tension between Williamson’s character and the racist G.I. played by Peter Hooten; furthermore, the acting is unremarkable, especially since a fair amount of the dialogue was dubbed sloppily. Nonetheless, The Inglorious Bastards is entertaining in a stupidly macho sort of way, thanks to the over-the-top plotting, some genuinely harrowing stunt work, and zesty ingredients like Williamson’s amusing swagger. (Providing the requisite ’70s kitsch factor, actor Michael Pergolani, who plays the comic-relief enlisted man, wears anachronistic shoulder-length hair and a ginormous ’70s moustache—why not?) There’s a reason this flick lodged itself into the brain of a young Quentin Tarantino, and the reason seems to be that The Inglorious Bastards is an eager-to-please sampler platter of escapist war-picture thrills.

The Inglorious Bastards: FUNKY

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