Friday, September 4, 2009


My review today of A Special Cop in Action as well as comparing that poster with the poster from the Castellari/Nero team up Street Law, really put me in an Enzo G. Castellari mood. On the recommendations from the lovely fellows of The Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema, I am hereby declaring September ENZO MONTH ON ASSORTED LOAF!*

*or at least until I get bored of the theme, which honestly could happen in a couple days

So get ready for a vast array of even more Italian exploitation by one of the greats!

And we will start off with the Bastards!

No, no. Not BastErds!

Original Title: Quel maledetto treno blindato
Year: 1978
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Writer: Sandro Continenza, Sergio Grieco, Franco Marotta, Romano Migliorini, Laura Toscano
Genre: War

imdb synopsis:
Set in Europe during WWII, a group of American soldiers are in the process of being shipped off to military prison for a variety of infractions, ranging from desertion to murder. While they're being transported, a German artillery attack hits the convoy, killing the MPs and enabling four of the prisoners to escape. The group decides their best bet is to head to neutral Switzerland where they can avoid the fighting and prison. As they make their way to what they think will be freedom, they end up volunteering for a commando mission to steal a V2 warhead for the French Underground. Somehow, the team must sneak into the most heavily guarded base in German territory, steal the Nazi's most precious military hardware, and bring it back to the allies without getting arrested again by their own side.

Tarantino uses a type treatment in Inglorious Basterds that is very reminiscent of this title screen!

Needless to say that this film borrows from and owes much to the classic film The Dirty Dozen, but what this film does is up the fun and exploitative elements to make it in my opinion quite excellent. I'll be honest, I did not sit down and take notes on this one, but there are memorable elements and an interesting story that keep it lively and set it apart from it's older brother. It's a film I really just had fun watching and I see myself revisiting it.

The overall highlight I think for me is Castellari just having a blast behind the camera! The story is a bit silly and in part swiped from previous films as I mentioned already, but Castellari keeps it moving and mostly lighthearted and fun.

We see him utilizing slow motion a few times in this film for great effect. These types of flourishes (along with a lighthearted feel) adds a sense of style to what could have been another ho-hum war film.

In particuar, there is a fire fight between Nazis and French freedom fighters that comes off quite beautifully with bodies very slowly flying and twisting through the air with a classical score as the only sound effect. I don't think I am spoiling anything here. The opening animation is evidently pulled from this footage.

When I think about it, it's possible this scene could be viewed as extraneous - like this somewhat artistic approach can feel out of place. I looked at it instead as a place to laugh or cheer out loud. There is lots of death happening all at once, but by removing all audio aside from the music and having the slow motion exaggeratedly flying bodies, it makes what could be made into a terribly serious moment in another war story and turns it into something that still fits with the overall feel of the rest of the film.

One scene in particular that had me say out loud "COOL!" or something equally profound (roll eyes) was the slow motion shot of the German potato masher grenade smashing through a glass window. On the special edition DVD, in a conversation with Castellari, Quentin Tarantino mentions this scene as well as they talk for quite awhile about slow motion filming.

I also want to briefly mention the opening and closing credits. Behind the credits on screen with the typical drummy, horn filled military film music is a contrasty, 2 color clip of explosions, of a train rolling over, and of soldiers flying into the air. I thought this was really great, as was the title of the film itself.
Very graphic... almost comic book-like, which captures, and in a way sets the feel of the film very well right from the beginning.

The characters were all interesting and well-acted for the most part. There was nothing offensive at least. I felt like many of the roles and even the story was tongue-in-cheek as they were one-dimensional. This is completely forgiveable in this type of film, however.

Bo Svenson was a likeable lead. His German sounds good and he just has a good look for the camera and for this sort of leadership role. Fred Williamson always rules if you ask me. He chews up the scenery like he chews up the cigar that is forever present in between his teeth. You can really tell that The Hammer was having a lot of fun with this one, and he even had some impressive stuntwork especially on the train in the final act! How could you not love a silly face like that over there? That cigar looks as dry as a tunbleweed in July.

Michael Pergolani I thought was very entertaining as the cleptomaniac Nick character. His scene on the motorcycle is great, as is his scene with the random bathing beauties before Fred scares them to the point of machine gun fire.

Oh....Yes, this movie has a moment of naked chicks with machine guns. Out-feckin-standing! Sorry for the slight spoiler, but this was just too great to pass up!

On top of all this, nice stuntwork, explosions, plenty of gun play, and some really nice miniature effects at the end really make this a memorable film. It is lighter than Dirty Dozen, and in ways I like this film better. It is tighter than DD (about 1:40 as opposed to 2:30) so there is not much wasted time. The overall story is a little silly I suppose, and there are some down scenes (like at the medical station) which were take it or leave it for me, but the action and humor are woven in nicely with the more serious war elements, making this film a fantastic example of what can be done very well on a limited budget.

Definite recommendation to pick this one up! It's not perfect, but it's a load of fun.

What's the big deal, all we gotta do is steal a damn choo-choo!

7.5 out of 10

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Yeah Nick was a great character. My favorite scene in the film is actually when he first took his helmet off and his long hair unraveled, then Peter Hooten's character has this look on his face like "you gotta be fuckin kidding me". Good stuff!