Battle Squadron

La Battaglia d’inghilterra covers the ground to Dunkirk in a fighting retreat permeated with German agents in British uniforms, hence Van Johnson as Air Marshal Taylor supervising British radar installations, from Wellman’s Battleground.

The reverse shot of Quel maledetto treno blindato, with the same road of war-litter leading to the great city. A split-screen technique conveys the rescue and the battle, the aerial fighting combines wartime footage and Cinecittà cockpits in two or three panels to very satisfactory effect.

Castellari’s understanding of Hitchcock is supremely useful more than once, in a pub where documents are filched and photographed, on a rooftop where a Kraut in French uniform must be captured.

Frederick Stafford in the expressive opening shot stands amid the trail of wreckage leading to the sea, he conducts the ambush of a German tank unit and detects the infiltration. London sees a string of murders as the German agents change identities, and there he is in pursuit. His mistress coldly offers herself, removing her Wren tunic, he switches off the lights, the Blitz illuminates them fitfully as the scene merges into a bombing raid on Berlin.

The studio effects are from the house of Fellini and expertly gauged. The great central control room with its war map and croupier-sticks under the intermittent red light of an impending invasion is the ultimate objective of the German agents, one of whom is helped across a mined bridge in France and befriends the investigating officer.

Renzo Palmer as the Cockney sergeant plays Alan Hale to the French in a saloon fight on a London street.

A reverse shot of The Longest Day gives Dunkirk, massive and swarming, with a view from the fighter that strafes the beach.


The Inglorious Bastards

None of the films cited as sources explains Castellari’s position, and that includes Fuller’s Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street for the medieval fight in the castle, though Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch comes close.

The objective is a V-2 gyroscope on a goddamned armored train (Quel maledetto treno blindato), the concision of style amounts to equipoise in consideration of this. The correct answer is given in the English title.

“I’m a man of peace,” says the true soldier (Jack Warner in Dearden’s The Captive Heart), “and peace is what I’m going to have.” Switzerland is the initial goal of Castellari’s military prisoners after their escape from a truck being strafed, and in which they are kept defenseless by MPs in a nearby foxhole.

As a consequence of their escape, the handful of accused deserters, murderers and thieves liquidate an undercover team in German uniforms and are obliged to fulfill the mission against a special train with a laboratory car.

The enemies are animus and blind obedience, either side could get you killed that way. The wartime mobilization means everybody is in it, toy troops and mechanics, cannon fodder, militarists, bigots, nuts and trigger men.

The bastards divide according to several classifications, the keen fighting man (Bo Svenson) and the desultory (Fred Williamson), equally efficient à la Beckett. Then the Chicago hood and the shaggy scrounger, finally the guy who would rather be elsewhere. Maj. Buckner (Ian Bannen) takes them for his destroyed commando unit, after the Maquis capture them à la Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Like the “racial bullshit” Lt. Yeager and his Tommy gun would prefer to avoid, Castellari eschews psychological motivation in general, except where it falls into one or the other enemy category. The speed of his execution depends partly on this, Shakespeare is the model for his quick studies.

Hitchcock’s model work, magnified by Antonioni’s slow-motion (Zabriskie Point), works well in the technical side of the finale, especially.

Williamson’s Tommy gun is “baby”, Svenson sticks a pencil in the rotating gears of an auto-destruct mechanism to stop the rocket’s nose cone from blowing up on the train.