Scarecrow suggests | Like "Inglorious Basterds"? Try other "mission movies" on DVD
"Five For Hell," "The Dirty Dozen," "Where Eagles Dare," "Black Book" and other films focus on rule-breaking tough guys using their expertise against the Nazis.
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Quentin Tarantino liked the title of 1978's "Inglorious Bastards" so much that he borrowed it for his own war film. "Basterds" isn't a remake, but it is in the same genre of WWII "men on a mission" movies where a team of rule-breaking tough guys use their expertise against the Nazis.
In this case, a group of American soldiers (Bo Svenson, Peter Hooten, Michael Pergolani, Jackie Basehart and Fred Williamson) are attacked on their way to a military prison. They escape and flee toward Switzerland, but end up volunteering for a deadly mission to steal some precious Nazi military hardware.
In that same vein is "Five For Hell" (1969), an Italian film focused on a group of soldiers sent into enemy territory to confiscate German attack plans, who then run into a brutal SS commander played by Klaus Kinski.
Robert Aldrich's 1967 classic "The Dirty Dozen" is one of the definitive "men on a mission" movies. Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) is charged with the daunting task of leading a team of prisoners convicted of capital offenses on a suicide mission to capture a French château used as a retreat for high-ranking German officers. Among the grizzled group are Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas, John Cassavetes, Jim Brown and Charles Bronson.
Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood star in "Where Eagles Dare" (1968) as members of a team sent to infiltrate an enemy-held castle and rescue a captured Allied general with knowledge of the upcoming invasion of Normandy before he can be interrogated. From there, the plot twists as double agents and true objectives are revealed.
Paul Verhoeven's "Black Book" (2006) is a different type of pulpy take on WWII. Carice van Houten plays a singer and member of the Dutch resistance who goes undercover with the local Gestapo. It's a great old-fashioned thriller peppered with Verhoeven's trademark mischievous use of cinematic sex and violence. But somehow it all adds up to a profound statement about humanity and a tragic portrait of endless conflict.
Of course, there are plenty of WWII films that take the topic more seriously. Tarantino's film begins in occupied France, so we suggest two excellent films about the French Resistance (both made in 1969); Marcel Ophuls' documentary "The Sorrow and the Pity" and Jean-Pierre Melville's "Army of Shadows," based on a book by Resistance member Joseph Kessel.
Other related viewing suggestions include Samuel Fuller's "The Big Red One" (1980), the 2001 miniseries "Band of Brothers" written by historian Stephen Ambrose, the epic portrait of D-Day from the Allied and German perspectives "The Longest Day" (1962), Francois Truffaut's "The Last Metro" (1980), Ernst Lubitsch's "To Be or Not to Be" (1942), and, of course, Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" (1998).
There are countless documentaries covering every aspect of World War II. It would be difficult to say there's a "definitive" one, but the exhaustive and informative 12-disc set "BBC History of World War II" comes pretty close.
Contributed by Scarecrow Video, 5030 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle; 206-524-8554 or www.scarecrow.com.
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