The Inglorious Bastards – Fighting To Survive

Country: Italy
Genre: Action/ Macaroni Combat
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Year: 1978

Rating: ★★★★☆


The Inglorious Bastards may start out slow, but once the characters are introduced, it’s nonstop action from there on in.

The bastards of the title are a bunch of soldiers who have been sentenced to the brig or the firing squad for various offenses. Private Canfield (Fred Williamson) killed an officer for getting up in his face. Nick (Michael Pergolani) is an incorrigible thief. Lieutenant Yeager (Bo Svensen) is the natural leader of the group. His crime? He keeps using his fighter jet to visit his girlfriend in Switzerland. And then there’s Tony (Peter Hooten), a stone psychopath.

When the MPs escorting them to jail are strafed by a Luftwaffe fighter plane, the Bastards make the best of the opportunity to escape. Their goal is simple, to make it to Switzerland, the nearest neutral country.

The rest of the picture simply consists of obstacles to that goal, mostly in the form of the Germans. The biggest obstacle is that the Bastards are mistaken for a crack troop of American soldiers with a near suicidal plan to commandeer a Nazi train and steal the guidance device of a U2 rocket. The Bastards are forced to assume the mission in exchange for their freedom.

This could all be deadly boring, but the committee of screenwriters (Sandro Continenza, Sergio Grieco, Romano Migliorini, Laura Toscano, and Franco Marotta) have come up with a snappy script. The dialog is to the point and surprisingly intelligent, there is a refreshing lack of sentimentality, and the film is jam packed with incident and action.

Director Enzo G. Castellari does his part by smartly moving the proceedings along and investing the action sequences with great energy. I would have appreciated a more generous use of blood squibs, but that wasn’t the style back then, at least in Italian action flicks.

The actors are fine for this sort of thing. Shakespeare it’s not, but the performances have flavor and charm. I especially enjoyed Michael Pergolani as a thief who is a walking hardware store and Peter Hooten as a creep who is always trying to figure out a new angle.

The Inglorious Bastards is not exactly cynical. It’s more like the filmmakers refused to falsify human nature and fate. The noble characters don’t necessarily survive and the creeps don’t necessarily bite the dust. You have to love the “happy” ending the screenwriters come up with.

The Inglorious Bastards is a no nonsense macaroni combat flick, with energy to spare and a flippant attitude to match. In this case, war may not exactly be hell, but it’s a hell of a good time.

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