This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I picked “Inglourious Basterds.”
The Movie: “Inglourious Basterds”
Starring: Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Christoph Waltz
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) In Nazi-occupied France during World War II, a plan to assassinate Nazi leaders by a group of Jewish U.S. soldiers coincides with a theatre owner’s vengeful plans for the same.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89 percent
Froemming: After fighting off the threat of the “Birdemic” last week, I decided we should look toward a real foe that has caused nothing but trouble for America since WWII — Nazis. I have also wanted to review a Quentin Tarantino film here as well. So, we are killin’ two birds with one stone by visiting “Inglourious Basterds,” Tarantino’s WWII film that sacrifices factual history for, well, a kick-ass movie about American Jewish soldiers fightin’ Nazis!
And not those Khaki-clad, tiki torch waving basement dweller Nazis of today, the WWII Nazis that were hell-bent on world domination.
Before we dig into this and mock Brad Pitt’s mustache and accent, Brown why don’t you toss your thoughts out here as I plot my snark while listening to David Bowie’s “Cat People.”
Brown: I was all for this, because “Inglourious Basterds” is my favorite Tarantino movie.
You have Brad Pitt with a ridiculous accent. Christoph Waltz as one of the best antagonists in any movie I’ve ever seen. Eli Roth bashing Nazi brains in. The guitar riff that accompanies Hugo Stiglitz’s entrance.
Because, up until two weeks ago, I thought the one universal American thought, regardless of party line, was Nazis=bad. And don’t get it twisted, my thought is (REDACTED) Nazis.
And between this movie, real-life news and binge-watching “The Man in the High Castle” on Amazon Prime, these people have taken up too much of my life as of late. So it felt cathartic to see Aldo Raine’s rag-tag bunch of guerrilla warriors beat those misguided, hateful asses.
I’m pumped now, get us started, Froemming!
Froemming: We start off with what I consider one of the most intense interrogation scenes on film that doesn’t start off that way. We see a family farm, where Perrier La Padite is chopping wood as our villain, SS Colonel Hans Landa (Waltz) arrives looking for the whereabouts of a Jewish family that has gone missing in their French village. I haven’t watched this film in a while, but man, the evil and charm just oozes out of Landa as he sits and talks with this man in his kitchen. The tension is high, and thank God at one point Landa wants to switch the conversation to English, because I (REDACTED) hate subtitles.
Brown: If you were like me, you look at this idyllic French farmland and start singing “The hills are alive … with the sound of … Nazi convoys.” And speaking of music, although he didn’t compose the music to this movie, we do get a little Ennio Morricone to set the scene. And that man is my favorite movie composer, thanks to all the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns.
It’s also been a while since I’ve seen “Inglourious Basterds” and a nice parallel we’ll see later in Landa’s character is how he embraces his “Jew Hunter” nickname at this point. He’s new to this gig and you can see the glee he gets in smiling in the front and brandishing a knife behind his back.
One complaint: Yes, Waltz is charismatic, but has Quentin Tarantino ever actually heard a human conversation? It’s a problem I have with most of his movies where every character talks like the person at a party who thinks they’re the smartest person in the room. And like the real-life comparison, that smartest-guy-in-the-room attitude gets grating.
Froemming: It works for Landa here, but you are correct in that is an issue in all of his films. And rewatching this, I realized this is a big film, but it is mostly carried by dialog, much like all his films. We only get a handful of scenes, but because of how much you’re paying attention to the characters interacting, it feels like there is more.
Anyway, enough on that. Landa knows this family is hiding the Jewish family, and in exchange to being left alone for the rest of the war and not having his family slaughtered by sauerkraut-eating Germans (you know Nazis are evil when they consider sauerkraut “food”) he lets Landa know where the family is hiding, under the floorboards.
Brown: … Sauerkraut is delicious.
Froemming: You, my friend, are a Nazi.
Brown: I just heard the Hugo Stiglitz riff in my head. Run, Froemming.
So, Landa charms himself into a massacre by having his men shoot up the floor, but we see one woman scramble into the field. From the descriptions, we assume it’s Shosanna, the teenage daughter of the Dreyfus family.
Speaking of which, when Landa was asking what happened to the Dreyfus family, I was hoping shark attack. Alas, we’ll never get that “Inglourious Basterds”/”Jaws” crossover we’re all hoping for. Nazi sharks, that’s all I’m saying.
Instead of being the ruthless Jew killer we assume him to be, Landa doesn’t take a shot at Shosanna when he has her in his sights.
Froemming: I may be wrong, but I think he only kills one person himself in this movie. And that is toward the end.
But you know who does do a lot of killing in this movie? Aldo Raine’s ragtag group of Jewish soldiers known as the Basterds. We get a brief recruiting moment after Shosanna’s escape, where Raine hypes up the recruits and lets them know he demands 300 Nazi scalps from each.
This is why you don’t mess with mountain folk.
Brown: Yeah, I looked it up while watching this movie and the Geneva Convention existed before WWII. However, this is an alternate universe where Hitler is gunned down in a movie theater in a way that John Wilkes Booth could only imagine in his Lincoln-hating brain so I’ll excuse it.
I’ve never been to Appalachia, but I assume people in the mountains think Brad Pitt’s accent is absurd. But like Landa, he’s got this strange charisma that makes him charming. Plus, I wanna know where that scar on his neck came from.
Froemming: Well, we do know he likes to leave scars on his victims’ heads, because Aldo likes to carve Charlie Manson swastikas on Nazis’ foreheads so after the war, they can take off the uniform, but are still marked. Holy badass, Batman!
Also, Pitt constantly looks likes he is grunting out a massive BM throughout this movie.
Brown: Well, they go into that grey area where in order to scare the Nazis, they need to be just as cruel, if not more cruel than a group of genocidal thugs. So, you scalp ‘em and make sure people know for the rest of their lives they were the worst human being ever.
Froemming: Anyway, Let us meet the rest of our crew, who are becoming quite the pain in Adolf Hitler’s pimply ass. I’m going to jump forward here to when the Basterds have caught a group of Nazis in the woods and need to know the positions of the rest of their unit. Brown, take it away!
Brown: Being the small guerilla group they are, the Basterds keep three German soldiers alive in order to extract information. And we do get brief introductions to the group. My favorite, of course: Hugo Stiglitz. Because historical accuracy, Stiglitz is introduced to a ‘70s funk song, “Slaughter” by Billy Preston. Yes, it’s on my iPhone.
Seeing a German who hates Nazis, my heart flutters.
One German decides that he wants to die for his country. So, the Basterds send out Donny, AKA “The Bear Jew,” whose build-up is incredible as you hear something tapping against a darkened tunnel. And out comes Eli Roth with a baseball bat and a thirst for Nazi blood.
It’s… it’s pretty brutal. Per usual Tarantino, don’t watch if you’re squeamish.
Eventually, they get their info after their intimidation tactics work. And because this is Tarantino, we are whisked away from the forest to the city where a young woman is fixing the marquee on a theater.
Froemming: I wonder what came first, this or Negan’s bat moment in “The Walking Dead” comic books. Both are just brutal, but because this is a Nazi we are talking about, I wasn’t as squeamish.
Also, the actor who played Hugo is a German-born actor who apparently took the role because he got to kill Nazis in it.
And yes, a French movie theater during WWII that would swell the heart of every film student hipster on any college campus across America. And here we find Shosanna, four years after her escape, is pulling down movie titles when she meets a man who is blind to body language, Private First Class Fredrick Zoller. He, much like our hero Rod in “Birdemic,” is a walking red flag to women.
Brown: Yeah, Zoller has a hard time understanding that women don’t want to talk to you, no matter if you’re handsome or charming, if you helped in killing people and occupying their country. You could try some Mystery Method (REDACTED) and it’s still not gonna help you get laid, bro.
But, this (REDACTED) boy is persistent, and he’s entitled because he’s a German celebrity. He’s a Nazi sniper who killed 250 soldiers in a battle. Spoiler alert: He STILL lost the war. USA! USA! USA!
Because of his exploits, Joseph Goebbels wants to make a propaganda movie about Zoller and during a luncheon, Zoller has Shosanna (under the assumed name of Emmanuelle Mimieux) accosted and brought to lunch.
Froemming: I love how the impatience and annoyance oozes out of Shosanna whenever Zoller and his Nazi pals are around her. But her body language at this lunch changes when Landa shows up. See, Zoller is trying to convince the propaganda minister for the Nazi party to change venues for the film to Shosanna’s, and this raises the curiosity of the security detail that Landa is head of. And after the most uncomfortable strudel-eating scene in history, I truly felt terrible for her being forced to share a pastry with the man who had her entire family murdered.
Brown: It’s so gut-wrenching. It really hit me on this viewing how difficult it has to be to try and keep a civil, let alone natural, face while sitting six feet away from a man who massacred your family like rats. And then when Landa walks away, you see that emotion pour out of Shosanna. Melanie Laurent made us feel that absolute heartbreak. Well done.
Froemming: Indeed. Also, (REDACTED) Nazis. I mean it. I know that is a #HotTake in 2017 for stupid reasons (my theory, the Cubs winning the World Series threw us into the darkest timeline), but I stand by it. I purposely chose this film to mock Nazis. And I have no regrets.
Brown: Agreed. If this gets me a bunch of hate mail and puts my job in question, this is a worthy hill to die on. If you actually believe in the tenants of the National Socialist party, go home, reevaluate your life and quit idolizing a terribly-flawed ideology that millions of fighting Americans and six million Jewish people were put into the grave for because of a cult of personality’s own insecurities.
While we’re at it: White supremacy is dumb and if you want to preserve history, read a book. Statues are made to idolize something, not to preserve history. Go talk to a woman instead of being a racist troll on the internet.
Anyway, let us head over to Chapter 4: Operation Kino. And also, the first film I saw that featured Michael Fassbender’s jaw-dropping chiseled chin. We are introduced to British Royal Marine Lieutenant Archie Hicox as he meets with Austin Powers General Ed Fenech (Mike Meyers) and is briefed on a plan to take out some Nazi scum with the help of the Basterds.
Brown: Quick aside about this scene. With the old man in the corner in front of a red curtain, did you get a weird feeling like I did that we were about to get some “Twin Peaks” craziness during this scene?
Froemming: Not really. The only weirdness I expect from Tarantino is his love of feet, which can become quite distracting in his films.
Now Hicox has to venture to Nadine and meet up with our American heroes and an undercover agent in German actress Bridget von Hammersmark. What makes him right for the job? He is a film critic and understands German film. I didn’t get that, but hey, this isn’t a deep pool to be diving in. This is about killin’ Nazis.
Brown: It matters because the plan is for Bridget to be accompanied by someone who knows the ins and outs of German film to blend in with the German movie-viewing crowd. Also, he speaks German. It’s just to strengthen his cover.
Froemming: Fun fact: Fassbender was born in Germany, but his accent is awkward and that is used later in the film.
Brown: Fun fact: I took German in high school and don’t know a lick of German. Honestly, I took the class because gummi bears were sold in the class.
Sorry I retained nothing, Frau Hanke.
Froemming: Well, I know some German.
Anyway, Hicox meets up with our heroes and they find out their meeting is in a tavern. That is below street level, which makes things a bit tricky since there is only one way out if things go awry. They are to go in undercover as higher-ranking Nazi soldiers, and when they get to the pub, they find that there are some other Germans there, smashed on Schnapps.
More proof Nazis suck: They drink that abomination of a liquor that is only popular among teenagers who don’t know any better.
Brown: Here’s my question on the basement scene: Hugo Stiglitz is the stuff of legend in the SS because of how many Nazis he killed. How exactly is he able to walk into a bar with Nazi soldiers, regardless of their rank on the totem pole, and not be scoped out immediately?
Froemming: Because Nazis are (REDACTED) stupid, that’s why.
Brown: Good answer.
Froemming: Now, as the Basterds and Fassbender’s dreamy jawbone are talking with Bridget, one of the Nazis, Wilhelm, is drunk and chatty because he had just become a father that day. And in 10 minutes, he will become a corpse to that child. After listening to him yammer away, Hicox begins to lose his patience, which is surprising because the British seem like some of the most patient people in the world.
Brown: That’s not true. We watched “Bronson” to prove that.
Froemming: Well, after pulling rank, Wilhelm finds Hicox has a funny accent. And it turns out, a higher-ranking Nazi sitting by himself because even Nazis seem to can’t stand being around Nazis, also detects his weird accent.
Brown: Seeing that we have a bigwig among the group now, I’ll briefly allude to my Stiglitz question and move on.
Before he walks into the room, this Nazi takes a needle of a record player. No record scratch sound? Come on, it was so easy, Tarantino.
Great tension throughout this scene, although it’s a theme with any movie featuring Nazis where every man in uniform has that aura of “You know I’ll kill you on a whim, right?” This guy, no different.
Trying to ease the tension, the group tries to play the same card game the drunks are playing. Of course, Stiglitz is mean-mugging this Nazi for five minutes straight and that’s why I love him.
It’s only when Hicox orders three glasses for scotch that his cover is blown. I don’t quite get why, something to do with German customs or something. This leads to a Mexican standoff where guns are pointed at other men’s testicles. And eventually, everyone but Wilhelm and Bridget are shot to death. During some negotiation between Wilhelm and Aldo, Bridget guns down the new daddy.
Froemming: RIP Hugo Stiglitz, going out the way he lived: Killin’ Nazis.
Part of me enjoys how cartoonish Tarantino’s violence in films have gotten. It is almost like a Bugs Bunny cartoon, a far cry from watching Mr. Orange bleed out from a gunshot to the gut and Mr. Blonde cutting off ears to K Billy’s Super Sounds of the ‘70s of his earlier work.
Well, Raine has some questions for Bridget. To him, it seemed to easy and not a coincidence that some of his best men were killed in an ambush. How does he get her to talk? Shoving his finger into her (REDACTED) gunshot wound. Again, mountain folk are not to be messed with.
Brown: With Hicox dead, that throws a huge wrench into the plan. Which is a bad thing because the stakes have been risen exponentially. Not only will the movie, “Nation’s Pride” be shown in Shosanna’s theater, but the fuhrer himself will be in attendance with his terrible mustache.
But, they find a workaround. Apparently Aldo and Donny can speak some Italian. So they go with that plan. In hindsight, Bridget, maybe you should have put them on the spot and asked them to say some Italian.
Regardless, they know it’s a stupid plan and they’re probably dead in the water. But, it’s the only plan they got.
Turns out, Shosanna has a plan of her own.
Froemming: I love this concept: Two different parties unknown to one another pulling off the same goal at the same time. Shosanna and the love of her life, Marcel, come up with a plan as well for the screening. Because Nazis are obviously racists, they want her to run the projection booth instead of Marcel. Together, they make a film of their own to be spliced into “Nation’s Pride” as they set the Nazis on fire with their 35mm film that is three time more flammable than paper. Once the movie is going, Marcel locks these strudel-eating bastards into the theater, and much like going out for a drink with Bill Brasky, Shosanna will scream among the roar of the flames her vengeance upon the Nazis as they are trapped in a burning building to perish.
Shosanna is not one to mess with.
Brown: My favorite part when we see Shosanna’s plan come together: How her and Marcel go all mafioso on a film developer to get their homemade movie done. Throwing the guy into a bunch of film canisters, threatening his family. Mafia movies are my favorite and I consider “Goodfellas” the best movie ever, so this was right in my wheelhouse.
So it’s time to watch a bunch of well-dressed Nazis end up like marshmallows at a bonfire.
And right away, you know the Basterds’ plan has gone to (REDACTED) when Aldo opens his mouth and tries to pass off as Italian with a backwoods American accent. Donny doesn’t do much better. Ulmer stays quiet, which is a good thing.
Landa shows up and is suspicious of Bridget after seeing her autograph and a fashionable women’s shoe at the scene of the basement bar shootout.
And here you see years of huntin’ Jews start to eat at Landa. He goes from being coy and charming with Bridget to brutally violent as he chokes the actress to death.
After this, Aldo is detained along with
Dunder-Mifflin’s Ryan Howard Utivich (BJ Novak).
Froemming: I love when Landa makes each of them repeat their names. There is no way Aldo is convincing anyone he is anything but an American.
But here we are. The big night. And we have Donny and Ulmer in the theater, looking really uncomfortable among the Nazis, with dynamite strapped to their ankles. They know this is a suicide mission, but hot damn, they are going to gun down Hitler before they blow with a machine gun!
As it turns out, Landa is no dummy. The war has taken its toll and he can allow the Basterds to end it in one night by taking out the top ranks of the Nazi party. He just wants to come off as a hero (um, you hunted Jewish people to be murdered. No amount of good will erase that from your reputation) and makes a deal with the U.S. In that deal, he asks for everything: Citizenship, medals, land, medals for all the Basterds. I also love how Aldo shows the man no respect at all during this scene. As far as Aldo is concerned, this man is Nazi scum.
Brown: Yeah, Landa is done. He admits to Utivich that he’s grown to hate the “Jew Hunter” nickname. And, after taking the dynamite from Aldo, he actually throws it under Goebbels’ and Hitler’s chair. The U.S. agrees to Landa’s conditions, but as we’ll get to, Aldo does not.
Back to the theater, the stage is set to have anti-semitic s’mores, but Shosanna has one more problem to deal with in Zoller. Because he refuses to take no for an answer and clearly missed freshman orientation at his four-year university, Zoller continues his advances toward the clearly-irritated Shosanna. He gets a bullet in the gut when he gets aggressive. And, she gets several bullets and dies because Zoller is still clinging to life.
That isn’t for long, though, as Shosanna’s film pops up on the screen and her version of Jewish vengeance takes place as Marcel sets the theater ablaze. About the same time, Donny and Ulmer break into the Fuhrer’s booth, gun down Hitler and start laying waste to Nazi scum.
You feel a little uncomfortable seeing so much death. Then you remember that they’re Nazis and you just nod your head in agreement.
Froemming: I love the look on Donny’s face as he pumps round after round into Hitler’s head, making it look like a pile of Spam doused with ketchup. Just the angry bliss of taking out history’s most evil loser.
And Marcel throws his cigarette into the pile of film behind the screen, causing the theater to go up in flames as the Basterds pick off Nazi scum. Historically incorrect? Wildly so. But I love it.
And the building explodes, killing everyone with it, including some poor schmuck on a bicycle outside of it. Collateral damage I guess.
Now, Aldo, Landa, Michael Scott’s favorite intern and a Nazi cross into Allied territory for the two Germans to surrender to the Americans. And things don’t exactly go as planned.
Brown: Yeah, Aldo is the man. Landa thinks Nazi military rules apply to America but really, all Aldo is going to receive is a chewin’ out. Carving a swastika into a Jew hunter’s scalp… the karmic justice is sooooo fulfilling.
Now that I have sauerkraut on the brain, should we go to recommendations?
Froemming: Let’s do it.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: Absolutely. I am a huge Tarantino fan, and I love his weird history pieces like this and “Django Unchained.”
Brown: Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes. Still my favorite Tarantino movie.