Remake the knockoff, knock off the remakes

The Inglorious Bastards

When Quentin Tarantino decides to remake a low-budget, largely ignored, unavailable-on-DVD 1970s spaghetti war flick, the film instantly takes on mythic status. Tarantino soon will reimagine Enzo G. Castellari’s newly released 1978 World War II actioner, The Inglorious Bastards, a knockoff of The Dirty Dozen and Sam Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron. It’s an entertaining blood bath, but it’s certainly no B-masterpiece.

Thus, it’s the rare case in favor of launching an expansive remake in a Hollywood culture drunk on the idea; after all, why remake a movie that already got it right? There were two filmed versions of The Maltese Falcon before John Huston’s, but they didn’t keep trotting out retreads after Bogart and Co. nailed it.

If the rumors are to be believed, Tarantino’s take on The Inglorious Bastards seems less a remake of Castellari’s film than an enormous expansion of the central idea—convicted GIs on the loose, machine-gunning their way through Nazi Germany. In Castellari’s version, the imprisoned soldiers are freed when a German plane takes out their jailers. Hunted by both sides, they make their way toward the Swiss border.

The most recognizable actors here are Fred Williamson, the former running back turned blaxploitation icon (he also did all of his own stunts, and is the presumptive star of a 1980s video release of the movie titled G.I. Bro), while 1970s TV staple Bo Svenson, already resurrected by Tarantino to play the reverend in Kill Bill Vol. 2, plays an officer acting as leader of the group.

Ultimately, The Inglorious Bastards is minor entertainment, a solidly mounted war movie with more clichés than the big-budget Hollywood productions it intends to undercut. In the entertaining conversation between Tarantino and Castellari included on the DVD, even the Italian director displays a telling eagerness to experience Tarantino’s version instead.