Thursday, August 14, 2014

FORGOTTEN GEM? The Inglorious Bastards (1978)


 

                Once upon a time in Western cinema, there was a little Italian movie that had been buried and forgotten.  Then along came a famous director who had fond memories of it and was inspired to make a movie of the same title (sort of).  This highly renowned director urged people to get their shovels out and enlighten themselves.  It turns out the shovels would serve double duty (dooty).   The undead movie is entitled “The Inglorious Bastards” and was directed by Enzo Castellan.  It is now probably the most famous example of a subgenre called “macaroni combat”.  Macaroni combat films first appeared in the mid-60s.  These movies were Italian made.  They were characterized by low budgets and over the top violence.  Many of them starred a has-been American actor.  Another characteristic is they all were greatly improved if viewed while ingesting copious quantities of alcohol and in the company of male friends who were not missing a Mensa meeting.

                The movie is set in France in 1944.  A group of misfits are being transferred to a military stockade when a fortuitous strafing allows them to escape.  One of them tells an MP “arrivederci” and the subtitle tells the target audience that this means “see you later”.  Here are our dirty five:

1.        Nick (Michael Pergolini) -  the Italian thief in charge of comic relief

2.       Berle (Jackie Basehart) -  the cowardly deserter in need of redemption

3.       Endfield (Fred Williamson)  -  the black justifiable murderer

4.       Tony (Peter Hooten) -  the wiseass mutineer who is a racist

5.       Yeager (Bo Svenson)  -  the fighter jock who refused to kill civilians

Yeager assumes leadership of the motley crew and they head for Switzerland.  On the way they add a
German deserter misfit.  Along the way they get to kill a bunch of Nazis with blazing machine guns (no rifles for these guys).  And we get to see an encounter with some German nurses who are bathing nude in a stream.  This movie has everything a macaroni movie male could ask for.  In one of their firefights they accidentally kill (no one gets wounded in this movie) an American commando team.  The team was on a mission to steal a gyroscope for the V-2 prototype from an armored train.  Col. Buckner (the vaguely recognizable Ian Bannen) needs a new team for his suicide mission.  Where can he find five guys willing to risk their lives in order to expend a lot of ordinance?  Buckner and Yeager disguise themselves as rocket scientists (ironic right?) to accomplish the mission and change the course of the war, naturally. 

"Can you believe this piece of crap is going to inspire a
future auteur?"
                If Quentin Tarantino ever invites you to an Italian restaurant and suggests you try some exotic dish, think twice.  Just because a hipster recommends something that he remembers fondly from his childhood does not mean it’s guaranteed to be good.  It should be noted that as much as Tarantino loved the movie, his “remake” has absolutely nothing in common with the original.  Thank God for that!  There are no redeeming features to Castellan’s movie.  Other than the naked ladies.  The acting is horrible, but Svenson (who appears in the “Nation’s Pride” movie within a movie in “Inglourious Basterds”) is suave and appears to be enjoying the pay check, but the rest of the cast is so bad that they make Svenson seem like Brad Pitt.  Williamson makes Jim Brown look like a thespian.  That, by the way, is a very appropriate analogy since the character was plagiarized from "The Dirty Dozen"..  His character's name is Fred which means they did not want to make things too confusing for the ex-football player.  (The movie was recut as a blaxploitation flick called “G.I. Bro” with Williamson’s character bumped up to leading man. The tag line became:  “If you’re a Kraut, he’ll take you out.”)   Two of the misfits (Tony and Nick) are grating and I hated them (partly because the actors are abysmal).  The loathsome Tony even gets a romantic subplot!  And Nick is put in Steve McQueen’s motorcycle-riding shoes with vomit-inducing results. 

                The movie is camp wannabe.  It does have some of the worst deaths of any war movie I have ever seen.  People don’t think about how important it is that the extras die competently.  I laughed out loud several times.  Just as movies sometimes have a boot camp to help the actors to realistically portray soldiers, there needs to be training on how to flop.  Otherwise your movie ends up looking like a low budget, badly dubbed Italian macaroni combat movie.  Speaking of deaths, quantity does not make up for quality although there certainly are a lot of them in this movie.  Needless to say the dialogue is trite and the plot is full of clichés.  Believe it or not, it took five writers to work out the script (and rumor has it that Williamson helped!).  It still could have been a fun movie like “The Secret Invasion”, but it isn’t.  In fact, it is f'n terrible!  Hey Tarantino, remember that cool dead skunk you saw on the road when you were a teenager?  Keep it to yourself.

 

GRADE  =  F-

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