2 DISC SPECIAL EDITION
Film Year: 2009
Film Length: 2 hours 33 mins
Genre: World War II Tarantino Thriller Comedy
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
BD Resolution: 1080p
BD Video Codec: AVC (@ an average 25 mbps)
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.5 mbps, going up over 5 mbps in the shootouts)
French DTS 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Film Rating: R (Strong Graphic Violence, Language, Brief Sexuality, Quentin Tarantino)
Release Date: December 15, 2009
Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl, Til Schweiger and Melanie Laurent, and Guest Starring (?) August Diehl, Julie Dreyfus, Sylvester Groth, Jacky Ido, Denis Menochet, Mike Meyers, Rod Taylor and Martin Wutke
Written and Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Film Rating: 4/5
There is a moment in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction that will inform my review here, so please bear with me for a minute. Early in Pulp Fiction, our hero enforcers Jules and Vincent confront a hapless (and soon to be deceased) group of small-timers. Jules (played with obvious relish by Samuel L. Jackson) helps himself to his main target’s Big Kahuna Burger and then washes it down with the guy’s beverage. As he does so, the camera holds on Jules’ eyes – cold and menacing. And all the surface amusement and cute banter is shown to be a mask for some really nasty business that’s about to erupt.
That same level of menace is established within the opening minutes of Tarantino’s new film, Inglourious Basterds, as Christoph Waltz’s SS Colonel Landa casually interrogates a French dairy farmer about the Jewish fugitives he is hunting. Waltz’s Landa is congenial and pleasant, even generous with smiling compliments to the farmer about his daughters and the milk the farmer provides. (And I should note that this conversation, like much of the film, takes place in multiple languages.) But underneath the pleasantries is a layer of savage menace that percolates throughout the scene, until the tension is almost unbearable. And then the real nasty stuff starts to happen. When the gunfire finally erupts, it’s almost a relief, given the level of tension Tarantino has ratcheted into the scene. The movie then unfolds a dual narrative, both trails of which end up at the same destination. One track has to do with a French survivor of Nazi atrocities (and particularly those of Colonel Landa) planning an elaborate revenge. The other track follows the exploits of an American squad of Jewish soldiers wrecking havoc and mayhem against the Nazis in occupied France. Both tracks are followed with equal amounts of good humor and intensity. Several scenes are in and of themselves complete mini-features of their own – especially a basement bar social outing that quickly becomes something very different. With this film, Quentin Tarantino returns to the confident mastery of both absurd comedy and intense drama that he previously showed in the second half of his Kill Bill duplex. And, appropriately enough for a film buff like Tarantino, the big climax of the film takes place in a movie palace. Of course, Tarantino can’t resist being Tarantino – at any moment when anyone might think that the film is going to take itself completely seriously, he throws a moment of over-the-top violence and blood so outrageous that it practically winks at the viewer.
Inglourious Basterds is being released this week both on standard DVD and Blu-ray. The Blu-ray release is a 2-disc affair, with the first disc containing a high definition transfer of the film with some special features, and the second disc containing a digital copy.
VIDEO QUALITY 4/5
Inglourious Basterds is presented in a 1080p AVC 2.40:1 transfer that shows off a satisfying level of detail and some deep reds along the way. The décor of Melanie Laurent’s movie theater, as well as the fabric and dye of her red dress, are marvelous to see in high definition. At the same time, the transfer shows off an accurate variety of flesh tones and does well with both daytime and nighttime situations. I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.
AUDIO QUALITY 4 ½/5
Inglourious Basterds is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English, along with standard DTS 5.1 mixes in French and Spanish. This mix is one of the most active and immersive ones I have heard to date, particularly in the various shootouts. The basement situation in particular had bullets whizzing around my surround channels and the various hits popping up everywhere. The dialogue is also clear, even in the quietest moments of the film. I actually didn’t have any issue here of needing to turn up the volume for dialogue and then turn it down for the big climaxes. In this soundtrack, there are certainly louder sequences, but the variance isn’t a big issue. All that said, I still wouldn’t recommend watching the movie at a high volume level after midnight in a quiet neighborhood…
SPECIAL FEATURES 3/5
The Blu-Ray presentation of Inglourious Basterds comes with a fair amount of special features, although not the usual commentary or PIP functionality that many viewers have come to expect from HD releases. The specials here include about 17 minutes of extended material, a mock documentary, about an hour of featurettes, a few trailers, a gallery, and a movie trivia game, as well as the usual BD-Live connectivity. The disc also comes with D-Box and My Scenes functionality, as well as a new pocket Blu function that connects to an iPhone or iPod Touch. And there’s the second disc with the digital copy.
Extended & Alternate Scenes (1080p, 11:26) – Three scenes are presented here in high definition, including an extension of the lunchtime discussion between the characters of Goebbels, Zoller and Shoshanna (Melanie Laurent), and an extension of the basement bar character card game.
Nation’s Pride (480p, Non-Anamorphic, 6:10) – The inset Nazi propaganda film featuring “war hero” sniper Zoller is shown here in its entirety, albeit in non-anamorphic standard definition. The piece is so far over the top in its adoration of the sniper’s accuracy that it quickly becomes pretty funny. Bo Svenson, star of the original Inglorious Bastards, turns up in a cameo here. (He’s aged quite a bit since the most interesting performance of his in my memory – as evil “Ivan” from the Magnum P.I. episode “Did You See The Sunrise?”)
Roundtable Discussion with Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt and Elvis Mitchell (1080i, 30:45) – Film critic Elvis Mitchell spends a half hour with Tarantino and Pitt discussing various aspects of the movie and its production. It’s a pretty self-congratulatory affair, but some interesting things get discussed, particularly when Pitt pushes Tarantino to get into the kinds of stuff you don’t normally discuss in these pieces. Both Pitt and Tarantino discuss the deliberately limited scope of the project, which forced Tarantino to cut his own script and make compromises in order to keep the movie from inflating into a much longer schedule. (As the film came out at 2 ½ hours, this was probably a very wise choice.) I should note that they don’t disclose where Pitt’s “Aldo Raine” got his prominent scar, other than to say it’s part of the character’s history.
The Making of Nation’s Pride (1080i, 4:00) – This mock featurette shows that Tarantino and his guys have definitely watched enough DVD featurettes to quickly sum up the problem with many of them: too many mutual compliments and clips and too little real information. This piece includes interviews with “Goebbels”, his mistress and Eli Roth as the propaganda piece’s director. (I should note that Roth actually directed the propaganda piece himself for Tarantino…) For some reason, the sight of the director happily recounting his enjoyment at working with a “tough producer like Joseph” had me laughing out loud.
The Original Inglorious Bastards (480p, Anamorphic, 7:39) – This standard definition featurette focuses on Enzo Castellari and his World War II epic from the 1970s. Castellari of course makes a cameo appearance in Tarantino’s film, which is also covered here. At the end of the piece, the viewer is shown a trailer for Castellari’s film..
A Conversation with Rod Taylor (1080i, 6:43) – Veteran actor Rod Taylor gives a brief interview here, intercut with video footage from the set. He’s clearly a fan of Tarantino’s films and his workstyle, which usually finds Tarantino sitting by the camera rather than at a video village monitor in the next room. Taylor is happy to recall (and the video corroborates this) that Tarantino will usually ask for an additional take and in discussing a reason, shout along with the cast and crew, “Why? Because WE LOVE MAKING MOVIES!!!!”
Rod Taylor on Victoria Bitter (1080i, 3:19) – This is an additional few minutes with Rod Taylor, wherein he discusses how Tarantino brought a bucket of this Australian beer to Taylor so they could spend an evening discussing their movies together. (The beer is exclusive to Australia according to Taylor, but I understand it to be available in San Francisco at one location, if anyone is interested…) Taylor also discusses his enjoyment of Tarantino having shown the crew several of his movies so that he would be recognized by everyone when working on the set.
Quentin Tarantino’s Camera Angel (480p, Anamorphic, 2:42) – This is a fun little montage of the various nicknames given to the letters assigned to various shots used in the movie. For the lay person, every shot in a movie is identified by the scene number it is in, and after a master shot has been printed, by a letter starting with the letter A and moving higher in the alphabet as more camera positions are used for the same scene. In the usual situation, you’ll hear “Apple” for “A”, “Baker” for “B”, etc. Not so with the camera assistant featured here. For a shot labeled with “FC”, you get “Francis Ford Coppola”. For “DA”, you get “Dario Argento. And so on. There are some really good ones in here, spoken by the camera assistant while clapping the “sticks” together for picture/sound sync. In several cases, the actors can be seen giggling behind the clapper and then trying to regain their composure to play the scene at hand.
Hi Sallys (480p, Anamorphic, 2:09) – This montage shows several of the greetings thrown into various shots from Tarantino to his editor, Sally Menke. In some cases, Tarantino pops up into the shot to say hello to her. In other shots, he has the actors greet her. In one case, a corpse comes to life to say hello to the editor. In two other cases, Mike Meyers throws in a pair of greetings in the midst of his spiel as “Ed French”.
Film Poster Gallery Tour (480p, Anamorphic, 11:00) – Elvis Mitchell narrates this collection of clips from the film, and stills of movie posters seen in the film. Mitchell’s knowledge of film history is shown here, as he discusses both the real movies discussed or displayed within Tarantino’s film, and the mock posters and Nation’s Pride. There’s a fair amount of material here, even at the short length, and it’s enough to send the viewer looking for some of the real movies, or at least for some more materials about the people that made them.
Trailers (1080p, 1:45, 2:23, 2:08, 1:17) – Four trailers for this movie are included here in 1080p high definition. The first is the teaser trailer that has also graced many Universal DVDs over the last few months. The second one is a longer domestic trailer. The third is an international trailer. The final one is a Japanese trailer with Japanese subtitles and narration.
Inglourious Basterds Poster Gallery – This is an image gallery of the posters made for this film for advertising in the United States and in various other countries around the world.
Killin’ Nazis Trivia Challenge – This is an onscreen multiple-choice quiz about trivia from this film that ranges from simple questions to more arcane ones about the goings-on. I qualified as a “Basterd” but missed a couple of questions in the final round and wound up finishing at a lower rank…
BD-Live - The more general BD-Live screen is accessible via the menu, which makes various online materials available, including tickers, trailers and special events.
D-Box – This Blu-ray is enabled with D-Box Motion for viewers who have this capability in their home theater.
My Scenes - The usual bookmarking feature is included here.
pocket BLU – This feature is designed to provide bonus material for use with an iPhone or iPod Touch. As I have neither of these items, I will not be able to test this for myself. If any viewers have been trying out this function, please post within this thread.
On Disc 2:
Digital Copy - A digital copy of the extended version of the film can be loaded on to your computer or portable device.
IN THE END...
Inglourious Basterds is a solid film by Quentin Tarantino that mixes humor with sometimes unbearable intensity. And usually this is within the same scene. The Blu-ray release of this film is a worthy purchase for fans of Tarantino. I have a feeling they don’t need my recommendation. I am therefore giving it anyway.
December 16, 2009.