The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

Introduction

The Inglorious Bastards (Italian: Quel maledetto treno blindato, literally: “That damned armored train”) is a 1978 Italian action/war film.

The film, which concerns a group of prisoners who are drafted into a special war mission in 1944, is a loose remake of the 1967 American film The Dirty Dozen.

The film attracted critics’ attention again after Quentin Tarantino used the title as the inspiration for the title of his 2009 film Inglourious Basterds. The Tarantino film is not a remake of The Inglorious Bastards, but contains a few references to it, including the appearance of actor Bo Svenson as an American colonel.

Outline

In France in 1944, American soldiers Berle, a deserter; Nick Colasanti, a petty thief; Fred, nicknamed “Assassin”; Tony, a mutineer; and Lieutenant Yeager (arrested for refusing to execute orders to kill, among others, women and children) are sentenced to death for their crimes and are shipped to a prisoners’ camp near the Ardennes.

During the journey to the camp, the convoy stops because of a flat tire, and Fred and Berle are ordered to change it. Their work is interrupted by a German air raid. The five criminals take advantage of the attack and escape. Yeager takes command of the group and decides to find a way to neutral Switzerland.

On their way, they stop at an abandoned factory in the French countryside to rest and refill their supplies. While they eat, the upper floor of the building collapses, and a German soldier appears from between the hay bundles. Captured by Yeager’s group, he tells them that he is in fact an escaped prisoner sentenced to death just like them. Although Tony and Fred want to kill him, Yeager prefers to take him along in case the Nazis attack again.

Later, the group runs into a German patrol, and the captured Nazi soldier proves very helpful. He convinces the patrol that the Americans are his prisoners, and they manage to kill part of the patrol and escape. After this, the group see a group of beautiful German nurses bathing naked in a river. Nick suggests the Americans pretend to be Nazi soldiers, and they are able to get on friendly terms with the girls. However, after they see Fred, who is black, the nurses realise the men are Americans and start shooting at them. Tony, Nick, Berle and Fred run away to a nearby camp.

But the situation does not get any better. Some German soldiers arrive at the camp, and Yeager sends the captured Nazi to talk to them. After discussing something with them, the German soldier realises that the newly arrived are in fact Americans and shouts: “Americans! Americans!” Yeager, thinking that he is telling the Nazis who the fugitives really are, starts shooting at the Germans. He, however, makes a huge mistake as Colonel Buckner tells him that the squad he shot at actually consisted of Americans dressed in Nazi uniform who were supposed to accomplish an important mission. At this point, the only solution is to trust the group led by Yeager with this task.

Meanwhile, Berle meets Nicole, a French nurse of the Resistance movement. He falls in love with her but it is Tony she is crazy about. Another problem arises as Fred falls into the enemy’s hands. Yeager, Tony, Berle and Nick attack the Nazi fortifications and free their friend. After the group is reunited, Colonel Buckner explains to them the plan, according to which they are to assault an armoured train shipping a prototype of the V-2 missile.

According to the plan, the train is supposed to pass a mined bridge. But there are unexpected problems as Nick is unable to contact his comrades due to a broken transmitter, and is killed in an attempt to warn them. Berle is killed by the train driver, and when all hope seems to be lost, Lieutenant Yeager decides the outcome of the battle in a heroic act, in which he blows up the train with the missiles and himself on board, destroying the station assaulted by the Nazis.

Ultimately, the only ones to survive are Fred (who is wounded but escapes into the French fields), Colonel Buckner, and Tony, who manages to return to Nicole.

Dirty Dozen Films

Trivia & Goofs

  • Three years after The Dirty Dozen was released, Too Late the Hero, a film also directed by Aldrich, was described as a “kind of sequel to The Dirty Dozen”.
  • The 1969 Michael Caine film Play Dirty follows a similar theme of convicts-recruited-as-soldiers.
  • The 1977 Italian war film The Inglorious Bastards is a loose remake of The Dirty Dozen.
  • Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 Inglourious Basterds was later derived from the English-language title of director Enzo G. Castellari’s 1977 war film The Inglorious Bastards.
  • The original working title was Bastardi senza gloria (literally: “Inglorious Bastards”). The first attempt to make this movie took place in 1976 in the United States and involved an approach proposed by Bo Richards to filmmaker Ted V. Mikels.
  • Mikels rejected it on the grounds that a movie pitched as a Dirty Dozen follow-up was a decade late, and any insistence on preserving a title containing the word “bastard” would spell box office failure in the 1970s.
  • The film was released in the United States as The Inglorious Bastards; it was also issued as Hell’s Heroes and as Deadly Mission on home video.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director: Enzo G. Castellari.
  • Producer: Roberto Sbarigia.
  • Writers: Sandro Continenza, Sergio Grieco, Romano Migliorini, Laura Toscano, and Franco Marotta.
  • Music: Francesco De Masi.
  • Cinematography: Giovanni BErgamini.
  • Editor: Gianfranco Amicucci.
  • Production: Film Concorde.
  • Release Date: 1978 (Italy).
  • Running Time: 99 Minutes.
  • Country: Italy.
  • Language: English.

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