Archive for the ‘World Cinema’ Category

Ida Movie Poster

Like everyone else who writes about films, I’m working on a year-end top-ten movies-of-2014 list. Here are some short pieces I wrote throughout the year about some of the contenders:

If I see a better movie than IDA released in theaters in 2014, I will consider myself one very lucky movie-lover. But I highly doubt that’s going to happen.

This is a movie about a young nun in 1960s Poland, about to take her vows when she’s informed that she was born Jewish. With her one known relative, a caustic aunt with a troubled history, she sets out to find her family’s final resting place.

IDA looks like a prestige picture and it is one, but also it’s a road movie and a buddy movie, a coming-of-age movie and even a detective movie. That’s not to imply that this is a film that is light of heart; it very literally carries the weight of the world. But I invoke those genre touchstones as a way to say that this is one highly watchable prestige picture.

Sadly, most people — myself included — look at a black-and-white period picture about a Polish nun, and worry it’ll be a chore to sit through, a homework movie. It’s not that. For a movie set in the 1960s that looks for all the world as if it could have been made then also, IDA feels remarkably alive, current, relevant. It accomplishes so much in half the running time of any given superhero movie.

This is a movie about faith, family, nature, nurture, history, pain, hope, hopelessness, and acceptance. It’s about so many of the most important things in life, and it’s only 80 minutes long. Time-wise, that’s a steal at the price of three modern-day superhero movies.


Ida (Blu-ray)


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THE RAID 2 (2014)




Having rewatched this movie this afternoon in a haze of antibiotics, I expanded my thoughts on THE RAID 2 from the short piece on it in my Blu-Ray column, which I posted earlier this week.




Gareth Evans is a new action director to take very seriously: He’s growing into a world-class directing talent, in my opinion. 2009′s MERANTAU was plenty promising, an able showcase for both star Iko Uwais and for Uwais’ specialty, the Indonesian martial art pencak silat. 2011′s THE RAID: REDEMPTION delivered and then some. It was one of my top five films that year, as much as that distinction matters.



Evans’ next directorial credit after THE RAID was ‘SAFE HAVEN‘, the piece he co-directed with Timo Tjahjanto for the anthology V/H/S/2. It’s a bolt of scarcely-restrainable horror electricity. All on its own, SAFE HAVEN made my top two last year.



Evans’ style has potency, a rare quality among younger directors, especially those working in the genres of action and horror. As genre directing has trended towards the over-use of hand-held camerawork, much has been lost in the crucial areas of clarity, continuity, and identification — if I can’t entirely see what’s happening or who it’s happening to, it’s harder to stay involved on any level.



By contrast, Gareth Evans creates immediate empathy in an audience for unfamiliar actors playing characters who only just appeared onscreen a moment ago. Through smartly-chosen camera angles and clever deployment of tactile elements and technical arts like sound, Evans creates believable environments with simple strokes: The scrape of a metal bat on a concrete sidewalk, the slow juicy slice of a golden scalpel through a human neck, and so on. These small details have heft, which accumulates and enriches the texture of the film terrifically.



As a cinematic storyteller, Evans can really put you in a room, usually a room you don’t want to ever be in — think of the early scene in the first RAID where the villain murders a row of captives only to run out of bullets before the last; how much you feel for that final man despite not even knowing his name. There’s a similar scene in the new RAID film. The bit still works. You can imagine how excruciating it must be to be the last man on the row. You can see yourself in his quivering place. What would you be thinking, if put in that position? What last thoughts might you choose? This is what this director can do with a day-player who never gets a single line of dialogue. He makes you feel for the cannon fodder. Evans’ approach to action is elemental, his approach to 2-D visual storytelling is tangible. These films don’t need a third dimension — the directorial orchestration provides it.



So everything that was so effective about the first RAID film works about the sequel. The key word is “more.”



THE RAID 2: BERANDAL is nearly an hour longer than its predecessor, with twice the characters and a more complex storyline, such as it is. The closest imagining is what would happen if John Woo made THE GODFATHER: PART TWO, minus the sumptuousnous and grace. It’s a back-alley HARD BOILED. This is a seedier neighborhood. The knives are sharper. Heads don’t get knocked around, they get pulverized into a red mist.



Where the earlier RAID film showed the events of one particularly arduous day, the sequel covers a longer expanse of time. Whereas the earlier scenario was confined to one building, THE RAID 2 opens up the action. There’s a car chase now. There are subways. There are rivers and lakes and ruins and killing fields. The villains are even more vicious this time around, if that can be believed. The redoubtable Yayan Ruhian, so indelibly fearsome as “Mad Dog” in the earlier film, plays a similar role here, only to be overcome by the new breed of vicious killer. Evans’ Jakarta is no country for old mad dogs.



There’s even a bit more black humor in the sequel, much of it courtesy of the silent siblings Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man, the film’s signature characters. (Better to experience those two without benefit of much foreknowledge.)




The end result of all this “more” by film’s end may be a faint sense of exhaustion, even among die-hard fans of THE RAID like myself. For my part I’m all RAID-ed out. “I’m done,” as series hero finally concludes. These are arduous films — for the viewer alone! One can only imagine how it feels for the active participants. Don’t get me wrong: I love THE RAID 2 and it’s clearly one of the superior action films of the year. It’s only that I’ve been through a long onslaught of fists, bullets, stabbings, and hammerings and now I’d like to see what this gifted filmmaker and his dedicated crew can do next. A third RAID film is planned; hopefully after that there’ll be a return to horror. Or a monster movie. Or a Western. Or a musical. The sky’s the limit, really.




– Jon Abrams.












Over the past two weeks I’ve been covering the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival for Daily Grindhouse. This festival is so well-curated that one doesn’t even need to be local to find use for it; their schedule is like a ready-made Netflix queue. One of the films that ran this week was the deceptively-named WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL?, which has a great title for a horror movie but which quickly turns out to be something very different. I was lucky enough to see it last year and this is what I wrote about it for my year-end top-ten:



WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? is maybe, probably, most likely the most jubilant movie about movies ever made. Almost every prominent director seems to end up making a movie directly or indirectly about making movies — from Paul Thomas Anderson (BOOGIE NIGHTS) to John Carpenter (IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS), from Clint Eastwood (BRONCO BILLY) to Spike Lee (SHE HATE ME), from George Romero (KNIGHTRIDERS) to Martin Scorsese (THE AVIATOR) — and now here comes the one by Japan’s Sion Sono.



The story centers around a long-running feud between two factions of violent gangsters. Aside from war in the streets, the head of one mob is dedicated to making his daughter (the very young, hugely appealing Fumi Nikaido) a movie star. Towards that end, he recruits a group of would-be filmmakers calling themselves “the Fuck Bombers” to make it happen. One of them falls in love with the leading lady, which is problem enough, but the gang war is escalating, although ultimately, it provides the perfect setting for a very realistically bloody movie. WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? runs over two hours but every single minute is full of boistrous energy. It’s as wildly funny as any teen sex comedy and as gruesomely violent as any horror movie — usually at the same exact time. The point, it seems, is that film-going and filmmaking becomes an obsession and a delirium, like love itself. Makes perfect sense to me.




– Jon Abrams.





Sorcerer (1977)



Over at Daily Grindhouse I’ve been doing a weekly column on the newest DVD and Blu-Ray releases, which I enjoy doing because as random movies find their way to the newer formats, I get the chance to reflect on movies which I otherwise never would have written about. SORCERER isn’t like that — SORCERER is a movie I would have wanted to write about as soon as this beautiful new edition hit the shelves. The movie has been on DVD before, but it has always deserved better treatment than it’s gotten. Filmmaker William Friedkin has been working for months and years to get this under-seen great film out in the best possible picture quality. Now it’s ready to be seen, and in fact Film Forum has been showing it all weekend. There’s still time to get to the last couple shows today! Quick! You can come back and read this later! It’s playing through June 5th, so you still have the week.


The following is what I wrote for the weekly column. I hope to expound upon SORCERER further as soon as I get to sit down with the new Blu-Ray that just showed up at my door!




Out of the many picks of the week this week, this is the most underlined and bold-faced. The 1970s were arguably the artistically important decade in American film history, the place in time where Old Hollywood and New Hollywood intersected, featuring the last films of many of the canonical directors and the first films of their inheritors. Blockbusters and ‘blaxploitation’ were born in the 1970s, and the boundaries of propriety and expression were tested by the introduction of nudity and profanity and the integration of politics and unprecedented moral ambiguity. The horror film hit new hellish heights throughout the decade. Maybe the most important trend was the personalization of mainstream films. Filmmakers such as Clint Eastwood, John Carpenter, Martin Scorsese, Sam Peckinpah, George Romero, Jack Hill, Francis Ford Coppola, Wes Craven, Steven Spielberg, Sylvester Stallone, John Landis, George Lucas, David Cronenberg, and Jim Henson emerged as resonant voices whose films were invariably distinctive. Individuality was present in the films of the Old Hollywood, of course, but you had to squint a little more to catch it back then. On the other hand, there was no mistaking the sui generis nature of the intensely-felt films of the 1970s. And William Friedkin’s SORCERER is a film that deserves the hallowed reputation of the great films from that era.




For one thing, Friedkin had already made two immediately influential films that decade, 1971′sTHE FRENCH CONNECTION and 1973′s THE EXORCIST. Both were unlikely hits but both became sensations, and their respective effects on the crime genre and the horror genre, respectively, have lasted to this day. SORCERER, however, is a film that seemed lost to time. Released on June 24th, 1977, it was a small ship washed away in the tidal wave of STAR WARS, released on May 25th of that year. SORCERER was a small-scale, intense, and very dark film in comparison to STAR WARS, but then it would be that in comparison to very many films. Filmed in part in France and Israel and largely in Latin America, SORCERER is a bleak thriller in the mode of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 classic THE WAGES OF FEAR. Friedkin hired Walon Green, screenwriter of Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH, to craft the script, which concerned four international rogues hired to drive trucks carrying nitroglycerin through the dense jungles of South America, an extraordinarily dangerous job which pits them against the elements, the landscape, and each other.




The cast features all-American Roy Scheider (Chief Brody from JAWS), France’s Bruno Cremer, Francisco Rabal from Spain, and Moroccan actor Amidou. By all accounts the shoot was remarkably arduous — in his autobiography Friedkin invokes Werner Herzog’s film FITZCARRALDO, a film from five years later more famously focused on madmen on mad missions in the jungle — and there were many factors which threw audiences, including the lack of an A-list star (Steve McQueen was sought for Scheider’s part), its then-unusual electronic soundtrack from Tangerine Dream, and the confusion around its title (which comes from a 1967 Miles Davis album that inspired Friedkin). The financial failure of SORCERER‘s release, along with a highly misguided critical response, basically derailed Friedkin’s career as an A-list director. He never stopped making films — and several great ones! — but these days he is rarely mentioned alongside the big-name auteurs who were his contemporaries.




That is an oversight. 2007′s BUG and 2012′s KILLER JOE proved that William Friedkin remains as vital and bold a filmmaker as any, be it the 1970s or the decade we are in today. Few filmmakers of any generation have made even one film as good as Friedkin’s handful of stone classics. His work is uncommonly vibrant, vigorous, and challenging. SORCERER is no exception. In fact, it is the ultimate example of what this terrific director can do. For years SORCERER has been relatively hard to see, but thanks to Friedkin’s  hard-won efforts, a restored, remastered edition of the film is finally out on Blu-Ray today from Warner Brothers. Buy it sight unseen if need be.










Raw Force (1982)


On the Norwegian Wikipedia page for the 1982 exploitation epic RAW FORCE — probably the only time I’ll ever start a sentence that way — we are informed that the movie was banned in Norway in 1984. That’s the most attention any kind of majority, political or otherwise, has paid this movie. RAW FORCE is made for almost no one, because it is apparently made for almost everyone. Nearly every convention or trope of genre movies from the first seventy or so years of the existence of film is expended in this one rickety heap of madness.




As I tried to describe on our latest podcast focusing on RAW FORCEdescribing this movie is like fighting a giant squid. Just when you’ve bested one wavy storytelling strand, another one snaps up and grabs you by the throat.


Here’s the trailer, which is maybe the most dishonest trailer I’ve ever seen:



That trailer literally sells a different movie. The clips are the same, but some of the character names and all of their backstories are totally different. The editors somehow cobbled together a cohesive story from several scenes that have no connection. This is the SHOGUN ASSASSIN of movie trailers. RAW FORCE is plenty of kinds of fun, but one adjective that does not apply is “cohesive.” This is the summary I gave on the podcast:




First, a quote from Anton Chekhov:

“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

Okay. So early on in RAW FORCE, when a plane lands on a remote island and a character mentions that the waters surrounding the island are infested with vicious piranha, you can bet you will see those fish by the end of the movie. And if that character is a white-suited human trafficker who looks and talks exactly like Adolf Hitler, you may fairly assume he’ll be the one to meet them.




Otherwise, RAW FORCE, also known as KUNG FU CANNIBALS, completely ignores the principle of Chekhov’s gun. This movie operates under its own rules, and also it doesn’t have any rules. If you somehow managed to drink up all the movies and television shows of the 1970s and then you barfed them back up, the mess on the bathroom floor might look like this.




Saloon fights, graveyard fights, bazooka fights, hippies in warpaint, gratuitously naked ladies, karate-chopping hobbit bartenders, giggling monks who dine on human women, ninja zombies, a BOOGIE NIGHTS style group of protagonists calling themselves the Burbank Karate Club, an ornery sea captain, a kung fu chef, an extended riff on ‘Gilligan’s Island’, and the aforementioned worst person in human history: All this and more in RAW FORCE.


This was a fun episode even though I was delirious and feverish and congested and loopy. As always my co-hosts Joe and Freeman were terrific, engaging, and informative. You can subscribe and download the show on iTunes (please comment with feedback!) or you can



Here are our previous episodes, in case you’d like to catch up. We’re recording a new episode this week! Stay tuned.



Vigilante Force






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Journey to the West (2013)


JOURNEY TO THE WEST is now available to download on iTunes and to watch on demand. If you have access to New York City, it’s playing at Cinema Village. This is the brief rave I wrote about the movie when I put it in my top ten of 2013. It’s not much but I hope it makes clear how emphatically I recommend it.


Journey to the West


Journey to the West


The way I feel about Stephen Chow’s movies is the way you probably feel about Pixar’s movies. KUNG FU HUSTLE alone is literally perfection. JOURNEY TO THE WEST may not be his single best film, but it’s a, incredibly strong addition to a beautiful filmography.




Fleet, funny, broadly universal, and unexpectedly moving, JOURNEY TO THE WEST is the story of a young demon hunter named Tang Sanzang (Wen Zhang) who takes on a wild menagerie of monsters and villains, looking to get them to change their evil ways rather than simply killing them. He’s both aided and bedeviled along the way by a pretty demon hunter known as Miss Duan (Shu Qi) and her gang of killers (including the insanely cute Chrissie Chau), all of whom would prefer the more extreme option. For stone killers, they’re as adorable as it gets.




The relationship between Tang Sanzang and Miss Duan is the through-line of the movie, which otherwise progresses from demon battle to demon battle. The characters voyage through a variety of exciting environments; some inviting, like the open-air river battle against a gigantic fish demon, and others far less inviting, like the hellish domain of the nightmarish pig demon.




Most prominently featured is the Monkey King (Huang Bo), the most duplicitous of the creatures but also the most likable and enjoyable. He’s the reason for the movie’s dance sequence, is all I’m saying.





Like all of Stephen Chow’s best-known movies, JOURNEY TO THE WEST reaches heights of joy few movies can match, but it also comes packaged with moments of heartbreak. It’s an epic adventure stuffed with comedy and romance that ends up having agreeably spiritual resonance, based as it is on a classical work of literature dating back to the Ming Dynasty. But then again it also has a giant gorilla. This really does have everything you need from a movie.





Xi you xiang mo pian




Definitely, definitely, definitely don’t look at the title THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE and mistake it for having anything to do with the Michael Jackson album. Also known as THEY CALL HER ONE EYE and HOOKER’S REVENGE, this vicious, grubby revenge picture from Sweden is little known to mainstream audiences but has been massively influential on the grindhouse and cult-film circuit. You see the footprints of this movie all over Tarantino’s work, particularly KILL BILL, and even on our promo artwork for Daily Grindhouse.





THRILLER: THEY CALL HER ONE EYE (1973) is a hard movie for normal people to watch. I’m in no way a normal person and I still had a lot of trouble with it when I finally watched it for the first time for our most recent podcast. In fact, I kind of hated it. Despite that knee-jerk reaction, we still had a detailed, rambunctious, hopefully informative conversation about it. Give us a listen!

Here are our previous episodes, in case you’d like to catch up. A new episode drops this week! Stay tuned.






Vigilante Force
















AFTER LIFE is the second feature film from Japanese writer and director Hirokazu Kore-eda. Before features, he worked in documentaries, and that experience, that interest in real human beings and their thoughts and feelings, shows in this film. AFTER LIFE is set in a kind of business-like purgatory, where people who have recently died are asked to choose their happiest memory from life. Then, the people running the place put together a dramatic re-creation of that memory, and after watching the result, the dead are able to head on into eternity, taking that memory with them. The story focuses equally on the dead and the ones who work to their benefit.

Obviously, what’s most striking about AFTER LIFE, considering its subject matter, is its humility, its small scale, its lack of high drama. There are no angels flying around on feathery wings, no demons or hellfire. Everyone in this movie looks like a person you could meet. Almost every story told is one you could relate to. AFTER LIFE has a rare sweetness, a genuine spirituality. Sure, we’re talking about notions of Heaven here, but you don’t have to buy into one ethos or another to appreciate this film. This is the kind of spirituality that could and maybe should be universal. For the more philosophically minded, there’s plenty for you also. As the trailer asks, “What is the one memory you would take with you?” What a lovely question for a film to consider, and to ask its audience to consider.

AFTER LIFE is almost unique in its lack of conflict; its primary mode is reflective. There aren’t galvanic performances or sweeping visual flourishes here. The modest look of the film suits it well. A lot can be said with a little. Many movies want to shake the ground you stand on, to make your eyes widen and make your mind melt. This one has the feeling of sitting on a park bench by a duck pond in the spring, a loved one by your side, or in your thoughts. There is serenity here.

The Japan Society is screening AFTER LIFE tonight. I recommend attending, if you’re able.


After Life

Teddy Bear (2012)

TEDDY BEAR is the name of a Danish film that is known in its native country as TEN HOURS TO PARADISE.  It’s possible that I’m not the only English-speaker who finds the title TEN HOURS TO PARADISE to sounds a little bit porn-y, or maybe they figured it’d be better business to have a little healthy box-office confusion with another 2012 film.  I’m pretty sure I first found out about the movie from seeing a small piece on it in Film Comment, but I never made it to the theater.  In that oversight I had plenty of company:  As it turned out, almost literally nobody went to see TEDDY BEAR when it played in the U.S., and that’s a damn shame.

Director/co-writer Mads Matthiesen originally began this story as a short film called DENNIS, which also starred his leading man, Kim Kold, as the title character.  TEDDY BEAR expands Dennis’s story into a modest but ingratiating feature film about love in its most unlikely forms.


Dennis is an avid bodybuilder, which is obvious the second you get a look at him.  He’s the size of two Frankensteins soddered together at the seams.  In real life, Kim Kold is a prize-winning bodybuilder, which, again, makes sense, because that’d be a hard thing to fake.  What is surprising is that he was a non-actor before Mads Matthiesen cast him, because he does such a nice job centering his first feature film — no easy feat for an actor of any size.

Dennis is nearly forty and still lives at home with his mother (Elsebeth Steentoft), who is quietly but severely domineering.  The filmmaking is non-obtrusive, subtle, pseudo-documentarian, observant.  A lot of character work is accomplished with very little dialogue.  It doesn’t take long to establish Mom is a real beast in a tiny frame:  While Dennis is using the shower, she comes in and uses the toilet, for example.  That kind of shit is gonna mess with a dude’s head, no matter how scary-looking he is.

Teddy Bear

For this reason, and for many reasons that are suggested but unseen, such as the story behind the absence of Dennis’s father, Dennis is a shy, reflective, reserved man-child who is uneasy around single women.  He looks like Sean Bean if Sean Bean were hit by a gamma-bomb, but his biggest problem is talking to girls.  And that’s all he wants.  One day, Dennis and his mom visit his R. Crumb of an uncle, who has just married a Thai woman.  Uncle Bent tells Dennis it’s easier to meet women over there.  That gives Dennis an idea.

Teddy Bear

He tells his mom he’s got an out-of-town bodybuilding competition, and heads to Thailand in search of love.  Uncle Bent puts Dennis in touch with an odd American man (David Winters, who has a Wikipedia entry you absolutely have to read, having produced Raquel Welch’s TV special RAQUEL! among other adventures) — but this guy turns out to be exactly the kind of creep you may be expecting to meet when you hear “American man in Thailand.”  Dennis is a naïf — it simply never occurred to him to take a sex vacation.  He really just wants to meet a nice girl.  And then he does.  Disillusioned with the nightlife, he retreats to the comfort of the local gym, where he eventually becomes involved with the owner (Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard), a widow who was left the place by her late husband.  The relationship gets serious fast — the main dramatic question of TEDDY BEAR, then, is how Mom’s going to take the news.

Teddy Bear

This isn’t heavy plotting.  This isn’t a steady stream of dense wordplay.  This isn’t explosive drama.  It’s an inward piece.  Very low-key.  Unassuming.  Believable.  Which is odd, since there’s such an outsized figure in the center.  Dennis doesn’t entirely look like a real person, but he proves to be a very winning one.  In TEDDY BEAR , director Matthiesen and cinematographer Laust Trier-Mørk get a lot of visual mileage out of the disparity between the massive bodybuilder and all the tinier or odder-shaped people who surround him, but no one is being lampooned.  It’s a movie abundant with heart.  It leads to reconsideration of stereotypes, which I endorse and appreciate.  I’m as guilty as anyone as laughing off those huge muscle guys at the gym.  “At a certain point, isn’t that more than enough weight-lifting?”  Right?  But here’s what I never think about:  I’m well acquainted with my own demons.  They’re half the reason I write every day like my life depends on it, regardless of compensation.  Those are my demons.  I always thought they were pretty fierce.  But what kind of demons power a guy like Dennis to do what he does?  Must be pretty fearsome in their own right.  That’s not really the point of the movie, but the instinct towards more empathy certainly is.

Kim Kold can now be seen in the newest FAST & FURIOUS movie.  He plays an evil henchman who takes a flying headbutt from Vin Diesel, because that’s what we do in America with guys who look like him.  Seeing that movie last week is what reminded me to catch up with TEDDY BEAR this week, and I’m obviously glad I did.  It’s a much friendlier showcase for a hugely unlikely leading man.


Teddy Bear (2012)

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)