Inglorious Bastards AKA Quel maledetto treno blindato (1977)
R2 - Japan - DEX Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (21st April 2006).
The Film

There are often two types of war-films; most of the recent ones want to follow the historical events quite accurately, and are at least largely based on a true story. You can sometimes even say that a good war-movie teaches some history to the new generation. Some of the older movies weren´t that keen to follow all the historical facts, and often combined war and adventure into one package. At their best, they are highly entertaining, but not exactly for the history buffs. The Italian movie industry in the 1970s usually followed the same road, imitating the American WW2-movies in their usual low budget-way. They usually focused on action, rather than history. During the recent years, several of the finest Italian Giallo, -exploitation, and horror-movies have been released on DVD, but Italian war-movies have, for some reason, been largely absent (along with Peplums, I might add). Fans like me are dying to see these movies in a proper way, even when they´re not as known as some other Italian cult movies from that time. We have to be glad that at least some Japanese DVD-companies have released Italian war-action. “Imagica” has released “Corbari (1970)”, “Five for Hell AKA Cinque per l'inferno (1969)”, and “Commandos AKA Sullivan's Marauders (1968)”, and all but “Commandos” have also English audio included. Now the company “Dex Entertainment” (they have also released “Massacre in Rome AKA Rappresaglia (1973)”) has done a huge favour to all the fans by releasing the DVD of “Inglorious Bastards AKA Quel maledetto treno blindato”, by director Enzo G. Castellari, and with English audio. Read on soldier.

“Inglorious Bastards” is set in France 1944, where the WW2 battles are still raging. A group of American soldiers, for various reasons, are being transported to the court marshal. These deserters and misfits are now prisoners of the United States Army, and are loaded at the back of a truck. Along with the more regular privates, Lt. Yeager (Bo Svenson) from the Airforce is also on board, and has the unofficial command over the group, even when he´s about to face the court marshal like the rest of them. During their transportation, a German plane makes an attack towards their small convoy, and most of the men are pinned down, many still in the truck. The MP officer guiding the prisoners goes berserk, and starts shooting the men who are trying to take better cover from the truck, which is the nr.1 target to the German plane. Eventually Lt. Yeager and some of the other prisoners have to take the situation into their own hands, killing the MP officer, and taking the truck for their own disposal. Along with Lt. Yeager are now four men; dark skinned powerhouse Fred (Fred Williamson), long haired “Tom Savini”- look-a-like Nick (Michael Pergolani), impatient and impulsive Tony (Peter Hooten), and sensitive and scared Berle (Jackie Basehart). Their plan now is get to neutral Switzerland, which is only 160 miles away.

From now on the film is a real rollercoaster ride of battles and action, all sheer entertainment. You can pretty much throw the history books in the corner, since this is definitely pure war-action, rather than historical facts. Difficult situations start to pile up on their way quickly; at first their truck is being hit by German artillery, and along the way they end up briefly with German prisoners, help the Americans in a battle, and swim with several naked German women at the lake - at least to the point when the women realize that they are Americans, and take their machine guns. During their way they also meet the German deserter that they call Adolf (Raimund Harmstorf), who´ll be their guide. And this is only half of the story. When a few unfortunate incidents happens, these “Inglorious Bastards” have to help the Col. Buckner (Ian Bannen) to capture the gyroscope of the guiding system of a new rocket prototype, which is been transported via train. Some influences to “The Dirty Dozen (1967)” can´t be overlooked. Eventually, what is the Italian cult movie without a woman, so Veronique (Michel Constantin) from the French resistance adds some female flavour to the film, which doesn´t go unnoticed by Tony.

The name “Inglorious Bastards” has been in the headlines lately, when director Quentin Tarantino has planned to make a remake of it in the near future (lately Tarantino has been connected to everything from the next James Bond film to Godzilla, and even to the Friday the 13th-saga - all of them being merely rumours, so you never know). This is indeed a film which is a synonym for the word “action”, and that action is what makes the film work. There´s no denying, that some of the action sequences are rather cheesy, and suffer from the unrealistic events (many times people just don´t take any cover, they just shoot the enemy or run straight to them - and later on in the film the character Nick takes some of the Germans down with a small slingshot), but many scenes have great stunt work (the train, anyone) and a few slow motion sequences work like a charm. Director Enzo G. Castellari is bit of a legend among the Italian cult directors, and he has that eye for creating exciting sequences in film. “Keoma (1976)” is one of my favorite Spaghetti westerns, and police films like “The Big Racket AKA Il Grande racket (1976)” and “Day of the Cobra AKA Il Giorno del Cobra (1980)” (just to name a few), post apocalyptic films like “Bronx Warriors AKA 1990: I guerrieri del Bronx (1982)” and “The New Barbarians AKA I Nuovi Barbari (1982)”, and his Giallo “Cold Eyes Of Fear AKA Gli Occhi Freddi Della Paura (1971)” all show that Castellari is among the best, when it comes to Italian cult-directors. In “Inglorious Bastards” he has put his creative eye to good use, which shows on the screen. Actors are also doing solid work, and especially Bo Svenson is great in his role. Fred Williamson does what he does best, being a badass all the way, bringing that needed spice to the movie. Most fans know the great composer Francesco De Masi, who provides the lively score for the film, which is kicking in right from the very visual opening credits (both opening and ending credits are in English, btw). Special effects are done by Gino De Rossi) (not Giannetto De Rossi, though).

Sure, this film is low budget all the way through, including a few rather unrealistic action scenes and the dialogue that won´t win any Oscars, but it´s hard not to like the film, which has this much action and battles, stunts and explosions, and different characters from American GIs to Germans, and American GIs dressed in German soldiers´ unforms to French resistance ones. Action also happens in various places such as in the woods, in the castle full of SS-soldiers, and in a train. It´s all come together in “Inglorious Bastards”, and I wish that DVD-companies would take note and start releasing these re-mastered and with proper extras. There could be plenty coming where this film came from.

Video

Japanese “Dex Entertainment” presents the film in Anamorphic 1.85:1, which is surprisingly good. The print is very clean, almost without any damage or film artifacts. Colours seemed to be slightly pale at least in certain scenes and there´s minor softness, but black levels are deep enough and the look of the film is generally quite pristine for its age. My minor gripe would be that the disc is “single layer”, the thing that is still too common with some of these smaller Japanese distributors. Still, bitrate is in a decent level, and the transfer doesn´t suffer any obvious compression artifacts (although the transfer does get a bit restless during the panning shots, and there´s some talk that this may have been taken from the PAL-source). Disc runs 95:16 min (NTSC), and is coded “R2”. There are 9 chapters.

Audio

The disc includes 3 audio tracks, all Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono; English, Italian, and Japanese. Two different and optional Japanese subtitles are included; one for the whole film, and one for the German and French dialogue. Here actually lies a minor problem, since there are some scenes in the film, where German or French is spoken, and those are not subtitled in English (but are in Japanese). In all fairness, this is not affecting the enjoyment much, since it´s fairly easy to see what´s going on, even when German is spoken. As with the film, the English audio is also better than I expected. Hissing is not a problem, and dialogue is clear. The balance of the track is not ideal, since in some (mostly dialogue) scenes you have to add the volume, and then lower it during the louder action scenes. This just could be how it was originally mixed, and happens from time to time with older Mono-tracks. Too bad that English subtitles are absent, since the Italian track is also included. It has perhaps a bit more hiss on the background and the audio is louder, but English and Italian -tracks are this time quite equal (both are also loud, so you probably have to use a lower level on your receiver than usual).

Extras

Not much on in the extras-department, but US theatrical trailer (3:42 min) is included, and is also Anamorphic. Photo gallery includes 10 photos, mainly Italian lobby cards (and one poster). Menu is in Japanese, but easy to follow. Note, that this release is also available in the “Italian War Action” box set, with “Massacre in Rome AKA Rappresaglia (1973)”.

Overall

“Dex Entertainment” has provided a very good release of this cult classic (yes, at least for the fans of Italian war-action), which only lacks some good extras and English subtitles for the film (for the non-English scenes, and for the alternate Italian track, that is). Highly recommended release from the land of the rising sun, so go and get it.

Please buy this DVD from CDJapan.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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