Archive for the ‘Fred Williamson’ Category

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)    The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

And please note the spelling, because the Quentin Tarantino movie from 2009 is called “INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.” That movie is great, but it ain’t this one.

THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS, please note spelling and emphasis, is the original piece that started it all.  It was directed by Enzo G. Castellari (HIGH CRIME, GREAT WHITE, 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS), one of the better-known and busier auteurs in Italy whose work has since been sporadically rediscovered in America, along parallel journeys, by B-movie maniacs such as the esteemed Mr. Tarantino. The first Castellari movie I think I saw was a spaghetti Western called KEOMA, which sent me on a path through the maestro’s work that ultimately ended me at a double feature of BATTLE SQUADRON and STREET LAW that turned out to have been introduced by no less than Sr. Castellari and Mr. Tarantino themselves!  QT was bringing the maestro along with him on the preliminary press tour for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.  This appearance is online, amazingly…

In that clip they’re discussing 1969’s BATTLE SQUADRON, a.k.a. EAGLES OVER LONDON, an Italian-made movie about the German aerial assault on the United Kingdom.  Say what?  Yup.   Besides “spaghetti Westerns”, did you know that the Italians made “spaghetti World War Two movies”? It’s a little-known bit of trivia that is charming and weird and just a little culturally and historically mind-blowing, considering where Italy stood at the time — you know, on the other side.  Enzo Castellari made several of these films, known to some as “macaroni combat” films.  In my barely-educated opinion, THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS is one of the best of its kind.  It’s set up to be a movie just like THE DIRTY DOZEN, an all-star team of mean men on a mission, albeit one which features virtually no recognizable faces (on this side of the world at least.) The Bastard team is

1. Bo Svenson (BREAKING POINT), who’s something like a super-sized Steve McQueen;

2. Peter Hooten (ORCA), as the butch guy in an ascot who’s supposed to have the anti-authority John Cassavetes role;

3. An Italian 1970s Black-Sabbath-looking guy who has a downright shocking hairdo reveal;

4. A whiny little dude who’s the most likely to be fertilizer before the end credits roll;

5. A German turncoat [spoiler!] who rocks the 1970s Jew-fro look so hard that he puts both Will Ferell and Seth Rogen together to shame;

and best of all,

6. Fred Williamson (VIGILANTE), otherwise known as “The Hammer.”

The Inglorious Bastards (1978) The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

Fred Williamson rules this movie. He really plays his character in this movie like Bugs Bunny – mischievous, anarchic, and hilarious. He dominates so much that the movie was released in several markets under the inimitable title G.I. BRO.  The Hammer is the main reason, alongside the gunfights and the explosions and the lake full of naked blond German spies, that you will have a total blast watching THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS.

The Hammer

To be honest, seeing this one before the Tarantino movie hurt my experience of the Tarantino movie.  Tarantino tends to favor the long-ass conversation and there ain’t too much of that here.  Not that what QT did do isn’t terrific, but after seeing the original, you kind of yearn to see a more literal approximation of a Castellari film — more action, less talk, more titties.  Then again, that’s what we have the original for.  I recommend it.

Severin Films has a three-disc edition that includes a ton of extras and a CD of the rousing Francesco De Masi score.  Get it if you can; see the movie regardless.  As far as midnight movie experiences go — because let’s face it, you ain’t likely to be watching this during the day — this is absolutely one of the better ones imaginable.

Petition me for a more thorough review on Twitter: @jonnyabomb

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

The Inglorious Bastards (1978)

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This is one of the earlier things I wrote for the internet.  It’s timeless because it’s awesome.

Martin Scorsese believes in film preservation because, as he says, even the films which aren’t considered great are still worthy as historical documents – they show us how people and places looked in the not-too-distant past, and they suggest what those people may have been thinking about.  This is another reason why Martin Scorsese is brilliant.

So an early-‘80s exploitation movie like Vigilante (now available on Blu-Ray!) is I think valuable, not just for the superficial genre pleasures it [intermittently] provides, but for the moment it captures in New York – the architecture has changed dramatically, the outfits are thankfully different, the sociopolitical climate has changed, but some things have come back around again.  A typically garish pimp in the movie stops to complain about how tough it is for a working man to make a buck in “this recession.”

That’s a highfalutin’ way to start a conversation about a barely-remembered midnight movie, but I’ve seen a lot of these things, so my thoughts get busy sometimes during the less original parts.  Vigilante was entertaining enough, for sure, and I never once considered stopping the DVD, but like so many of these movies, there’s what you’d want it to be and what it almost achieves in several scenes, and then there’s how it actually turned out.  Which is a little disappointing,

Vigilante stars the great Robert Forster (Alligator, Jackie Brown, Original Gangstas) and the great Fred “The Hammer” Williamson (Black Caesar, Inglorious Bastards, Original Gangstas).  Accordingly, it’s one of those movies where the urban vigilante genre, a la Death Wish, and the blaxploitation genre, a la most of the Hammer’s filmography, meet each other like gunfighters at high midnight.

 Robert Forster & Fred Williamson.

Forster plays a blue-collar guy whose co-workers, headed up by an unusually bearded Williamson, spend their off hours battering lowlife rapists and drug dealers who the police are stretched too thin to catch and the courts are too corrupt to keep.  Williamson is like that intense guy at work who’s way too fixated on talking about his social agenda, and Forster pleasantly indulges him for a while.  Then his wife and young son are brutally attacked by a gang headed up by the legendary salsa musician Willie Colón (who doesn’t perform in the movie but is always seen listening to good music.  He’s an evil tastemaker.)  Not only does the judge let Colón go free, but he actually drops Forster in jail for contempt of court.

 Woody Strode & Robert Forster.

In jail, besides being treated to partial Forster nudity, we are treated to a welcome late-career performance by Woody Strode, the old-school John Ford regular, as Rake, a tough but fair-minded lifer with a funny mustache who looks out for Forster until his release.  Naturally, when Forster gets out, he looks up Williamson and they go bust some heads.

    Robert Forster & A Head He Busted.

By now, you already know if you want to see this movie.  You’re probably not a woman, and you may in fact be one of five people: me, Quentin, Marty, my buddy Evan, or Fred The Hammer Williamson.  It’s even a small percentage of guys, admittedly, who might be eager to see such a film.  To those I would say:  Vigilante does satisfy on some very basic levels – it has a fun, John-Carpenter-esque exploitation score by Jay Chattaway, some interesting New York cinematography, and it is never not a GREAT time to be watch beloved genre actors like Robert Forster and Fred Williamson whomping away on bad guys in badly-dated gang costumes.  (One guy in particular looks like comedian Zach Galafianakis).  It just doesn’t aspire to much more than that.

I think a more interesting path for the story to take would have been for Forster’s character to refuse to follow Williamson down the vigilante path, and to see the two friends come into conflict at cross-purposes.  If Forster’s character held on to his ethical stance and Williamson continued to push for the instinctively more satisfying release of vengeance, the movie would be much more morally sophisticated.  Hell, barring that, I’d even settle for better pacing and more fights, less talk.  Unfortunately, when you descend into the low-budget exploitation world, you constantly butt up against unfulfilled potential.  There’s probably, unfortunately, a good reason why the classics are the classics, and it’s increasingly harder for a guy to unearth any that may have been lost to time.

Naturally, that still won’t stop me from searching.  Guys like The Hammer taught me that.

*Vigilante* is available from Netflix and in better-stocked DVD outlets like J&R.  Ideally, hold out for the inevitable midnight screening, whenever that may be.