It is easy to see what drew Tarantino's interest-the thing already plays like one of his. The story involves a ragtag bunch of convicts and deserters in WWII who manage to evade discipline only to find themselves behind enemy lines, stumbling from calamity to calamity in their efforts to slip across the Swiss border to freedom. Along the way they are mistaken for a skilled commando squad on a suicide mission (whom they mistakenly killed), and sent in to finish the job. Bo Svenson and blaxploitation megastar Fred Williamson topline, supported by a colorful ensemble cast that includes Tom Savini lookalike Michael Pergolani and Peter Hooten as a racist gangster-the closest thing this movie has a to a romantic hero. Not only is this a study of bad guys redeemed by violence, but the plot is little more than a framework on which to hang a series of outlandish set pieces and dense patches of character-building dialogue. If Tarantino had never seen this movie, he certainly would have dreamed it.
Like loftier predecessors like Catch 22,
Severin's DVD clearly hungers for the arrival of the Tarantino remake-as a bonus feature the disc presents an extended and warm encounter between Tarantino and Castellari. As is to be expected, Tarantino dominates their conversation but it is surprising how much of that conversation is given over Tarantino's version, especially since it hasn't been made yet. It is probably a DVD first, to have the presentation of one film heap such praise on its own remake, a remake that has yet to even exist. For most consumers, this platter will suffice, but serious Bastards will happily note the indulgent 3 disc special edition that includes an entire additional disc of extras and a third disc of the soundtrack in CD format. Severin has given a Criterion-standard treatment to a nearly forgotten Eurocult obscurity, whose reputation is surely, and deservedly, on the rise.
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by David Kalat