Even a video game would proud of Enzo G. Catellari’s Inglorious Bastards. So many Germans are mercilessly slaughtered in the persistent action scenes, few kill counts will rise higher. As an Italian exploitation effort, this is all about Americans blowing away their Nazi foes en masse, and Bastards does that pretty well.
The film “borrows” its plot from The Dirty Dozen, following five soldiers due for court martial on their escape to Switzerland after their convoy is assaulted by a lone German plane. It’s here that the real fun of Bastards begins, with the crew moving into continuous enemy territory, only to wipe out hordes of them and barely taking a bullet in the process. No wonder they were considered a threat after going against military orders.
There is little in the way of interaction between the crew, some light racism involving Fred Canfield (Fred Williamson) that is dropped as quickly as its introduced. A romance with a French nurse Nicole (Debra Berger) follows the same path.
Then again, romance may not be the strong suit; this is exploitation. The Bastards take a rest near a lake, and discover ten naked woman swimming near them. Why are they naked? Why are they there? Who knows, but they turn out to be German, and nude or not, handling a MP40 proves easy for them. It’s hard to hate a movie being this bold and crass.
Everything seems to transition for the third act, an extensive and well put together invasion and then assault on a German train moving a new type of missile. The Bastards end their journey, promised freedom by Colonel Thomas Buckner (Ian Bannen) if they can complete the mission. What follows is a series of high energy action, with multiple levels of stunt work, explosions, and even some strong miniature work. It’s as excessive and as overdone as everything else, only even more complex, a perfect end to a wildly enjoyable piece of Italian cinema.
Bastards comes to Blu-ray in an AVC encode from Severin films, a rather flat, faded effort with some signs of noise reduction. In close, detail is typically maintained. Facial textures are resolved and distinct, both at the beginning of the film and near the end. Right from the start around three-minutes in detail is impressive, and lead Bo Svenson is afforded some nice texture at 43:00. The are regular occurrences, certainly impressive on their own.
However, this is not always the case. The nearly total lack of grain is questionable, as is the occasional digital nature of what is still left on the frame. Faces, with their pasty flesh tones and randomly processed look, are another sign calling into question some possible manipulation. Col. Houser (Mike Morris) at 1:16:30 looks particularly smooth and processed, and at 47:11 you can see another example. It looks nothing like film, even a cheaper stock.
Black levels are generally non-existent, giving the image the bare minimum of depth. Environments, especially some shots of the forest such as 17:28, are quite impressive even with the pale color and gray blacks (aside from the garish opening credits with vivid reds and blues). Long shots fare well, even with the lack of crisp definition. Print damage is minimal, reserved for a few specific shots that pass quickly without much of a distraction. It’s an impressive source in that regard.
Two encode errors were noted. One occurs at 13:49, where screen tearing runs down the middle of the frame. Another is some stock footage at 56:50, which shows some notable interlacing and clunky artifacts. Otherwise, beyond some light, general visible artifacting, the encode seems fine.
Audio comes in two flavors, both compressed. A 5.1 Dolby Digital effort is the default, followed by a 2.0 mono affair. Both suffer from many of the same issues, although the 5.1 mix seems to exasperate them by spreading the sound around the front channels indistinctly. The first raid on the convoy by the German plane tries to offer split stereo channels, and in the end, it just sounds like a jumbled mess.
The score is fine when not at its peak, lacking in fidelity for sure, but tolerable. When it reaches a crescendo, say 7:52, it’s strained and forced. Explosions are likewise muddy and hot, and no low-end accompaniment is noted (not that much would be expected). The heavy treble carries over into gunfire, and likewise, no directionality is heard.
Mostly, everything sits in the center, and seems cloned by the stereo channels. This includes dialogue, which fluctuates greatly. The film was dubbed over, so consider that, and at times, the effect is laughable. Svenson’s first lines are obviously recorded in a hollow room, the completely unnatural echo a distraction (although not fault of the disc). Also note the entire thing is mixed absurdly low, and you’ll have to crank this up well past your usual levels to hear anything.
A commentary from director Enzo G. Catellari begins a lavish set of extras, moving into the featurette Back to the War Zone, a 13-minute tour of the locations as they are today. Train a’ Kept Rollin’ is 75-minute documentary on the making-of the film, bringing back many surviving key players for their thoughts and memories, a superb piece.
Quentin Tarantino sits down with Catellari excitedly to discuss the film and how it influenced him in a 38-minute chat. A 70th birthday celebration with the cast, all for Enzo, is featured, followed by some footage of a screening of the film that included a reunion.