Color, 1977, 100m. / Directed by Enzo G. Castellari
Starring Bo Svenson, Fred Williamson, Ian Bannen, Michael Pergolani, Peter Hooten, Michel Constantin
Severin (US R1 NTSC) (DVD & Blu-Ray), Optimum (UK R2 PAL), DEX (Japan R2 NTSC), Sweden (Another World R2 PAL), Koch (Germany R2 PAL) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Along with seemingly every other popular genre, the Hollywood war film enjoyed such popularity in Europe that it spawned a stream of imitations designed to cash in on such hits as The Dirty Dozen and The Guns of Navarone. The 1970s saw these star-studded, action-packed battle epics taking a decidedly weird turn, resulting in such flat-out nusto offerings as The Passage and Escape to Athena. No stranger to war films himself after 1969's Eagles over London, macho director Enzo G. Castellari outdid himself with the supremely entertaining The Inglorious Bastards, which also circulated under a few duller but more socially acceptable titles like Hell's Heroes, G.I. Bro and Deadly Mission. Quentin Tarantino's decade-long promise to remake the film caused its legend to grow despite its scarcity on home video in the United States, while fans had to content themselves with pricey import DVDs for the first decade of the format's existence. Fortunately Severin's appropriately excessive American release (available on Blu-Ray, a two-disc DVD, and a three-disc "Explosive Edition") rectifies that problem in high style, making it one of the most essential Eurocult titles on the market.

Obviously owing more than a nod to The Dirty Dozen, our story follows a ragtag gang of World War II soldiers facing court martial whose transport vehicle runs afoul of German forces. The survivors decide to hightail it to Switzerland away from the Axis threat, but the journey is interrupted by such obstacles as machine-gun-totintg women skinnydipping in a lake, an attacking force of Nazis who are more than they appear, and ultimately a perilous mission for Resistance forces to ambush a German bomb-hauling train.

While all of the actors create vivid personalities with their roles, this film really belongs to the two American stars, Bo Svenson (fresh off his two Walking Tall movies) and Fred Williamson in his cigar-chomping prime about to embark on a career of Italian drive-in films. As with most Castellari films, style isn't really the main concern here as the film gets in and does its business without any fancy visuals to get in the way of all the explosions, bullets, and incredibly entertaining tough talk.

The various import versions of The Inglorious Bastards hailing from Japan and Europe all feature anamorphic transfers, all of them okay but nothing to get too excited about. The US release from Severin looks considerably sharper and fresher, offering the best presentation of this film to date as well as the most substantial extras. The Blu-Ray comes with all of the extras and the feature film on one handy disc, and not surprisingly, the 1080p Blu-Ray easily wins in the transfer department with a surprisingly crisp and fresh-looking transfer; it's definitely one of the best-looking HD Eurocult presentations around to date. Fleshtones look healthy and vibrant, while on large screens the picture has a very satisfying film-like texture with strong dimensionality. It also bears mentioning that this is one film where the luxury of ultra-clear modern transfer techniques can also be a bit of a curse as well, since the exploding toy trains and railroad minatures at the finale are even more obvious than ever. Both the BD and DVD editions feature Dolby Digital 2.0 mono options, while the BD also adds a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track (sorry, no lossless TruHD here, but it's a pretty basic track anyway) which mostly pumps the (very loud) music into the rear channels.

The DVD splits the extras onto two discs unlike its BD counterpart; the first disc contains a full-length audio commentary with a heavy-accented Castellari and Severin's David Gregory, covering all the technical bases of mounting the production as well as recollections about the actors and naked female extras. Castellari pops up again on the first disc for a 38-minute chat with Quentin Tarantino, who covers the film from more of a film buff perspective with an emphasis on Williamson and the various genre influences. As long as you can bear listening to Tarantino for that amount of time, it's worth a view but pales in comparison to the mammoth documentary on disc two, "Train Kept-a-Rollin'." Clocking in at over an 75 minutes, it features pretty much every living participant (Castellari, Svenson, Williamson, producer Robert Sbarigia, writers Laura Toscano, Fillipo De Masi (son of the late composer Francesco Di Masi), and FX artist Gino De Rossi. Anything you could possibly want to know about the film is accounted for here, including loads of behind the scenes visual material culled from God knows how many archives. Expertly assembled and executed, it's another feather in Severin's special features cap. Last up is a quick but solid featurette showing Castellari returning to the original filming locations as well as the English-language European trailer, which features similar stylized graphics as the memorable opening sequence. Also hidden as an Easter Egg is a VHS-sourced alternate main title sequence from the American reissue as Deadly Mission. Exclusive to the DVD is a third disc comprised of a CD with the four extant music cues from the film, previously available as a standalone CD from Dagored (with an extra four concert tracks thrown on, but they're hardly missed here). Completists may want to hang on their Swedish Region 2 DVDs for its exclusive interview with Francesco De Masi before he died, but the American disc should certainly satisfy the heartiest of cinematic appetites.

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