When cult moviemaker Enzo G. Castellari, hailed as the “70s Italian Drive-In God” by L.A. Weekly, embarked on his 1978 World War II adventure, Inglorious Bastards, he had little idea that, 30 years later, his film would still be loved and appreciated by a new generation of enthusiastic fans. Starring football player-turned-blaxploitation legend Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and equipped with the classic tagline “Whatever the Dirty Dozen did they do it dirtier!,” the bloody war saga was not a breakout hit when originally released into theaters. But it definitely made a mark on an impressionable young Quentin Tarantino, who recently announced his next film will be an Inglorious Bastards remake. On July 28th, Severin Films is releasing the original film on DVD and Blu-ray, packed with DVD extras. One of the most memorable features of the new DVD is a conversation between Castellari and Tarantino on the making of the film.
MM spoke with Castellari about the cult phenomenon surrounding Inglorious Bastards, including the origins of the film’s classic title.
Kyle Rupprecht (MM): You’ve worked in a multitude of genres—from spaghetti westerns and gritty crime dramas to sci-fi fantasies and war sagas. Which genre is your personal favorite to direct and why?
Enzo Castellari (EC): I grew up watching all American movies—I saw all kinds of genres, from war and police detective films to science-fiction and musicals. But the genre that I absolutely love, and which gave me great and wonderful emotions, is the western genre.
The western genre was born together with the birth of the cinema. Therefore, after almost 100 years of honored service, the “western” is a bearer of deep mythology which sinks into the history and into the popular traditions. Conciseness of story, richness of movement, long suspenses and then the collective or individual “crash” between the two fighting parts. These are the immmortal themes of this genre of which I loved so much and I still love profoundly today.
MM: This year marks the 30th anniversary of your 1978 cult classic, Inglorious Bastards. How did you get involved in the project? And where did the film get its very distinctive title?
EC: The production company called me to direct this movie, because I was always considered one of the best action directors and realizer of uncommon and singular special effects sequences—especially due to my ability to employ the best stuntmen. For this “war movie,” the producers selected me due to these specific abilities. [But] during the shooting the movie, a stupid law was passed that it was illegal to use real weapons during the making of a film! Without knowing that the weapons used in the films cannot shoot real bullets—because all the weapons had been modified to shoot blanks—I therefore found myself directing a war movie without weapons. My inventiveness worked right away; before the weapons were confiscated, I made all kinds of copies—from wood to plastic. The weapons were illegal, but not explosions and squibs, so I used very little explosions inside the weapons. During the rest of the movie, I invented a number of solutions to not see and use weapons. This released in me a great freedom of fantasy… creating, like everbody recognizes, the “originality of the film,” in that the death scenes of many soldiers [looks] as if they were slow-motion ballets.
The original title of the movie was “Mission something.” I do not recall the exact title, but during the first days of the shooting, when I was explaining the characters and final plot to the actors, I told them: “You are inglorious bastards!” This thrilled everybody. From that day on we used Inglorious Bastards as the title of the movie!
MM: Quentin Tarantino is obviously a huge fan of yours. He’s featured very prominently on the Inglorious Bastards DVD extras and has announced plans to remake the film. What are your feelings regarding the remake? Would you have any input in Tarantino’s re-imagining?
EC: His idea to make a remake of my movie is my lifetime achievement award! Just to think that a young genius director like Tarantino picks, from millions of movies, my own movie to make a remake? For me it’s my Academy Award! From our last meeting, Tarantino will start filming in Europe around the month of September. During the remake, I will have a little part and I will stay on the set, near Quentin all the time I want.
MM: Although Inglorious Bastards was released 30 years ago, its fan base continues to grow, especially among young males. Why do you think the film has such an enduring appeal to a new generation of fans?
EC: I do have to say, that during the various projections I have witnessed during these past years, the film did not bore me at all. That means that the film has not aged. That means that all the enthusiasm I put into the realization of the movie is still intact—all the inventions continue to create enthusiasm among the spectators, and I am the first spectator of my own film. When I am on set directing my movie, I always think, ‘What I would like to see on the screen?’ Every time I start a new scene, I always ask myself, ‘Would I like to see this scene on the big screen?’ You cannot imagine how many times I changed the script because I knew, that on the big screen, it would not work well. I work for myself and for the spectator; when it has [satisfied] both of us, that means that I worked well. If one spectator, watching my movie, will forget all his daily problems following my story, well, my [goal] has been accomplished!