The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

a.k.a. - Deadly Mission (USA) Quel maledetto treno blindato (ITA)

Enzo G. Castellari's explosive and action packed Macaroni Combat film starring Fred Williamson and Bo Svenson. Severin R1 DVD

The Film

As the Americans advance into occupied Europe in the later days of the Second World War, a group of American soldiers is being transported to penal camps, their crimes ranging from airplane theft to murder. When their truck is hit by German mortar fire, the group find themselves alone inbetween the lines and Lt. Robert Yeager (Bo Svenson) decides to lead them to Switzerland and safety. They escape numerous run-ins with German forces but after accidentally killing a US Commando unit they find themselves mistaken by French resistance for an elite force and tasked with a deadly, daring and vital assault on a German armoured train...

After a brief introduction to the scenario the script hits us with an action scene and never looks back. For the next thirty minutes the film seems to be one continual action scene - yet it still manages to provide enough characterisation inbetween explosions to keep us interested. The second third becomes a more traditional wartime commando film with the planning of the big raid, although in contrast to The Dirty Dozen (1967) where the criminals are sent on the mission to prove themselves, the group here have simply stumbled into it (although the script manages to make the whole thing surprisingly plausible). As expected the pacing at the opening is pretty brisk and although it slows down a little in the middle it certainly never drags. The script never tries to have a 'message', the addition of which drags down a lot of war films and it remains quite light hearted throughout - although never descending into all out comedy at any point. The ending is certainly worth waiting for - a real explosive climax and at times genuinely emotive.

This was only Castellari's second war film (after Battaglia d'Inghilterra (1969)) but he brings all of his Spaghetti Western and Euro-crime experience to the table. The action scenes are certainly the highlight here with some amazing explosions, very good use of matte paintings and sparing but effective use of models. Castellari's trademark stuntman abuse is in full evidence here as they get shot, blown into the air and pushed off castles and moving trains, while his other trademark - the extremely slow motion deaths - only makes a single appearance and in keeping with Keoma (1976) its timing is pretty random.

In keeping with the film's exploitation roots (and to provide some good trailer/poster shots) there is a nude sequence with a delectable bunch of women bathing, but an almost embarrased Castellari seems to skip past it pretty quickly where other directors might have spent a good five minutes. The always reliable Francesco De Masi gives the film a very epic opening theme (that would be equally at home in Battle of Britain (1969) and its kin) as well as underscoring the action scenes - although Castellari uses it sparingly here, letting the explosive sound effects sound out loud.

There are none of the big Euro-cult names in the cast here, instead the majority of the lead cast are all imported and little known American actors but the performances are all solid, particularly from the statuesque Bo Svenson and the gruff Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson. The gorgeous Debra Berger (Emanuelle in Bangkok (1976)) gets a brief role as the love interest while Eurocult regular Donald O'Brien (Keoma (1976)) gives a good turn as a German Commander.

Wonderfully over-the-top and enjoyable, The Inglorious Bastards is the pinnacle of the trashy war film, boasting some incredible action scenes with a plot that actually works, by far the best of the Italian made exploitation WWII films. Enzo G. Castellari makes it all possible with his solid direction and the relatively unknown cast all do a solid job. If you need a war film with a message then this is not for you, but if you want explosions, action and a thoroughly entertaining plot then The Inglorious Bastards is highly recommended.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Fred Williams - an American who become a post-apoc hero after starring in Bronx Warriors (1982)
Directed by anyone interesting? Enzo G. Castellari - one of the best known Eurocult directors, his early works include the impressive Spaghetti Western Johnny Hamlet (1968) before moving on to direct films in all of the Euro-cult genres.
Any gore or violence ? Some blood but nothing gory.
Any sex or nudity? Some brief and non-sexual female topless shots.
Who is it for? Fans of action and war films should really enjoy this. One for all Eurocult fans for sure.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
A stunning print with great colours and detail - no damage and only the mildest grain.
Audio English original mono. Sounds strong - includes German language for the German scenes.
Subtitles English - translate the occasional German dialogue.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Audio commentary with Enzo G. Castellari and moderator David Gregory - lots of very interesting details about the film.
  • Train Kept-a-rolling - a lengthy interview piece with Enzo Castellari, actors Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson, Massimo Vanni, special effects man Gino de Rossi, producer Roberto Sbarigia, Filippo De Masi (son of the film's composer) and credited screenwriter Romano Toscano. A fantastically detailed interview piece discussing all of the cast, the effects work and lots of background stories. Certainly worth watching in full and very well edited with footage from the film and behind-the-scenes photos. English and Italian (with optional English subs). (1 hour 15 minutes).
  • Location feature with Castellari looking at three of the locations used in the film. Interesting to see. (11 minutes)
  • Castellari in conversation with the frentic Quentin Tarantino, contains lots of interesting information. (37 minutes).
  • Original Theatrical trailer.
  • Easter Egg: Video release alternate openings as Deadly Mission and G.I. Bro.

  • The third disc is an audio CD containing 4 tracks of about 18 minutes total, including the main theme. Sound quality is average (the recordings were taken from an audio tape - the only remaining source as discussed in the documetnary).
Region Region 1 (USA) - NTSC
Availability Also available as a single disc edition (with the audio commentary, Tarantino talk and trailer but no documentary or audio CD).
Other regions? Also available in the UK from Optimum with no features, in Germany from Koch Media (as Ein Haufen verwegener Hunde) with English audio (subtitled for the German scenes) and an interview feature in German and Italian only, plus a Scandinavian release from AWE including interviews with Castellari and the composer de Masi - no English subs for the German scenes.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. The print is English language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 20th July 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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