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Blu-ray Review: The Inglorious Bastards

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When Severin Films first released Enzo G. Castellari’s anti-hero World War II epic The Inglorious Bastards on DVD last year, they enabled many EuroCult film connoisseurs to at long last scratch another title off of their “Been Waiting A Small Eternity For This To Show Up On Home Video” list. At that point in time, some guy by the name of Quentin Tarantino was working hard on his homage to it and other anti-hero World War II classics from the same genre.

And now, as Tarantino’s new film is making its mark with moviegoers everywhere, it seems like the perfect time for Severin to warrant a double-dip of the film, just to remind the general public that his Inglourious Basterds — like every other movie he has made — derives its inspiration from an earlier source.

And what better way to get us to double-dip than with a Blu-ray (the very first Blu-ray that Severin has unleashed upon us, incidentally)?

I can think of no better way, personally. And, while Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds bears no resemblance to Castellari’s The Inglorious Bastards other than its illiterate take on the title, the EuroCult spirit of both films is unmistakably there. But enough about Tarantino’s flick — you can read about that from one of our other illustrious writers. Let’s talk about Castellari’s film.

Spawned from the likes of The Dirty Dozen and several gajillion other European-made war flicks, The Inglorious Bastards tells the tale of a condemned group of soldiers, each sentenced to death for desertion, murder, or theft. En route to what is to be their final destination, they escape from their captors. Their goal is simple: escape to the Swiss border and get the hell out of the damn war. But, of course, things are never that easy, especially when your troop of misfits is led by B-movie greats Bo Svenson (Walking Tall) and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson.

With their initial plan cut short, our anti-heroes involuntary volunteer to dive into occupied France. Briefed by Colonel Bruckner (Ian Bannen, looking like he’s committed a mortal sin by even signing on for this low-budget picture), the mission is to board a heavily-guarded Nazi train (you read that right: not just any train, but a Nazi train) and steal ze Germans' new top-secret toy: a missile gyroscope thingy that will undoubtedly cause much remorse to the Allies and the Free World should they be able to use it.

It’s a suicide mission, naturally. Most of these poor inglorious bastards won’t survive. But when the movie is stamped with the good name of Enzo G. Castellari (Great White, 1990: The Bronx Warriors), you can expect nothing but good cheesy bloody wartime fun — the Italian way.

While the colors for Severin’s Blu-ray release of The Inglorious Bastards do not necessarily “leap out” at you like most high def releases do (and may look muted by comparison), the picture here more than suffices. The film is presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio, and there are very few flaws in the transfer. Like the original DVD release, the picture boasts an English 2.0 soundtrack, but a newly-mixed 5.1 Dolby Digital surround track is the star of the auditory show. Most of the “hissing” from the original mix has been removed here, and, while it makes a big difference, it almost takes away from the charm at times: the dialogue on the 5.1 track almost sounds subdued at times, and the music often blasts you out of your chair. Personally, I’d stick with the original mix, but that call is yours to make. Since certain scenes of the film are spoken in German or French, removable English subtitles have been added to translate. As a side bit of nitpicking, the subtitles look a bit too small on larger screens and the choice of color (white) often seems like a bad idea (yeller is sweller, fellers).

Most of the great special features from Severin’s original DVD releases (the film was issued in two-disc and three-disc editions) have been carried over here and include two featurettes (“A Conversation With Enzo Castellari And Quentin Tarantino” and “Back To The War Zone”), the documentary The Train Kept-A-Rollin’, and a theatrical trailer. The older standard def releases also featured a Music CD (which was the third disc of the 3-Disc set) and an Easter egg with an alternate credit sequence from one of the many grey-market U.S. home video releases (titled G.I. Bro).

This Blu-ray edition carries a substitute Easter egg (sporting entirely different alternate home video credits for Deadly Mission) and two new featurettes. The first featurette is “Inglorious Reunion At The New Beverly (Cinema)” (which I received an invite for but, sadly, was unable to be present at — damn the bad luck) with Castellari and stars Svenson and Williamson in attendance. The last new bonus item is “Enzo’s 70th Birthday Celebration In L.A.” (which I did not receive an invite for — damn the bad luck again), also featuring actors Svenson and Williamson. While it is brief (as is the other new featurette), it's heartwarming to see this underrated exploitation filmmaker having a party thrown in his honor. Fans of actors John Steiner, Edd Byrnes, and John Saxon (the reigning king of B-movies in my book) will love showing their affection for the funny little man.

The Inglorious Bastards is a fun — if very simple — flick. Sure, the late 1970s appearance of the actors clashes with the 1940s war setting, but that just adds to the fun. Overall, this is a most excellent first-time Blu-ray release, and I’m looking forward to Severin’s future high def releases.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.