If you saw Inglourious Basterds in theaters, you may have missed a lot of the sly references in this weird alternate history of World War II. The DVD is packed with cool trivia, plus a very strange interview with Tarantino.
For those who haven't seen it yet, Inglourious Basterds is Quentin Tarantino's alternate history of World War II, about a fictional band of bloodthirsty Jewish soldiers called the Basterds. Led by southern white boy Brad Pitt, the group roves around Europe, leaving hundreds of scalped Nazis in their wake. Their current mission is "Operation Kino," a suicide bombing run where they'll attend (and blow up) the Paris premiere of Joseph Goebbels' latest propaganda flick, Stolz der Nation (Spirit of the Nation). Lucky for the Basterds, the woman who owns the theater is actually a stealth Jew whose family was murdered by Nazis - so she's got her own explosive plans for high-ranking officials attending the event.
The movie is as much about movies as it is World War II. The war's historical details are smudged throughout with imaginative flourishes that speak mostly to contemporary fantasies borrowed from action flicks. A standout is Hostel director Eli Roth, known for his torture-laced movies, playing "the Bear Jew," who likes to smash Nazi heads open with baseball bats. Another great moment comes when the stealth Jew theater-owner Shoshanna describes how to fight back against the Nazis using the power of film. At first it seems as if she's made another version of famous French resistance movie Open City. But no - she just means that movies are incredibly flammable. If she lights her film collection on fire, it's going to make one hell of a bomb.
A highlight of the DVD extras is a fairly long interview with Tarantino and Pitt, in conversation with film critic Elvis Mitchell. They talk about how intense it was when they showed the film in Germany, and Tarantino speculates that this is perhaps one of the only movies that gave Germans permission to laugh at Nazi history rather than feeling guilty about it. He says there's a whole generation of Germans who had nothing to do with the Nazis' crimes, and that they all carry around this burden of guilt which is reignited by movie after movie - and yet something about Inglourious Basterds allowed them to see their history in a new light. Possibly it's this same aspect of the film that caused some Jewish groups to attack the movie for anti-Semitism.
Film nerds like me will love the special features that explore all the cinematic influences on the movie, including Enzo Castellari's 1970s flick Inglorious Bastards. Tarantino and Roth talk about how much they loved the original film, and we get to see a quick behind-the-scenes on Castellari doing his cameo in the movie.There's also a quick tour from critic Mitchell through the rare movie posters on display in Shoshanna's movie theater, which help explain some of the references in the film, as well as the fictional posters created for Tarantino's alternate history.
Best of all is the fake "making of" documentary about Stolz Der Nation, the movie-within-a-movie which was directed by Eli Roth. And of course, there's Roth playing the director and talking about how great it is that Hitler is going to write an endorsement of the movie.
If you liked the movie in the theaters and just want to plunge more deeply into the piles of references that inform it, or if you didn't get a chance to see it yet, you'll want to check out the Inglourious Basterds DVD.