Quentin Tarantino loves Enzo G. Castellari’s 1978 warsploitation artifact The Inglorious Bastards (originally titled Quel maledetto treno blindato and released in the U.S. under numerous alternate titles) so much that he’s announced a remake as his next picture. Being Tarantino, he’s sure to overhaul the project from top to bottom, but it’s easy to see his attraction to this Dirty Dozen reworking/knock-off. A bunch of American soldiers in 1944 France, up for court martial and on their way to military prison, escape during a German attack on their convoy.
[update August 2009 – I review Tarantino’s film, which he purposely misspells as Inglourious Basterds, here.]
They’re a colorful group: a decorated flier (Bo Svenson) with a tendency to go AWOL to visit his girlfriend in London, a black private (Fred Williamson) charged with murder (he killed his redneck superior officer, or so he says to another racist in an American uniform), a deserter coward (Michael Pergolani), a scavenger (Jackie Basehart) with hippie looks and a slightly Italian accent, and the joker misanthrope (Peter Hooten) who screws with everyone. It would be inappropriate to reveal Castellari’s most inspired twist, but suffice it to say that a combination of shame and responsibility and the last vestiges of honor and obligation land them in a suicide mission behind enemy lines. It’s a platoon thriller laced with the anti-hero cynicism of spaghetti westerns and the lurid violence of the post-Wild Bunch era and guided by the box-office instincts of exploitation filmmaking. In what other World War II caper film can you see the lost platoon stumble upon skinning dipping German babes, and then discover that these sex kittens come armed with machine guns?
Severin’s DVD release features an interview with Enzo G. Castellari conducted by Quentin Tarantino, or more accurately a conversation between fellow directors, one of whom happens to be the biggest fanboy behind a camera. Tarantino manages to dominate the video interview and is, frankly, the more interesting of the two, but he does get Castellari to talk about his work in some detail. Severin also offers a three-disc special edition featuring a terrific feature length retrospective documentary. Train Kept a Rollin’ gathers stars Bo Svenson and Fred Williamson, producer Roberto Sbarigia, screenwriter Laura Toscano and director Enzo G. Castellari (among others) to chart the making of the film, but it’s what isn’t spoken that’s most interesting, notably the tensions between Williamson and Svenson (and, as far as that goes, Castellari and Svenson). Williamson shows just what a cagey businessman he was and still is as he talks about the film as an opportunity to extend his reach into the European market. “In American I was a black actor,” he observes. “In Europe, I was an action star.” Also includes a featurette with Castellari revisiting the location and a CD soundtrack of what survives of the original score.
I review the film in my MSN DVD column here.
Continue reading “DVD of the Week – ‘The Inglorious Bastards’ – July 29, 2008”