France, 1944, and a group of lawbreaking American soldiers are being rounded up to take back to headquarters for punishment, including a deserter, a pickpocket, and a couple of murderers. Lieutenant Robert Yeager (Bo Svenson) is different - he has been arrested because of regularly leaving his men to see his true love, but he is in the same boat as the other criminals. Yet the journey is halted when a German plane attacks, seeing the officers and their men diving for cover and the criminals left to cower in the exposed back of the truck. One of them, Canfield (Fred Williamson) manages to get free, but others fleeing are gunned down by the sergeant - will Canfield save the day?
Of course he will, he's Fred Williamson in a war adventure with a title appropriated (and misspelled) by Quentin Tarantino over three decades later that owes more than a nod to The Dirty Dozen. For a film that was regarded at one time to be forever in the shadow of its predecessor, Inglorious Bastards has cheerfully taken up a mantle for fans of the genre akin to another Kelly's Heroes, in that it's obviously of its era, that is, not the nineteen-forties where it is set, but provides a slab of unpretentious action and thrills. All this with the bonus of there being no question about whose side you are supposed to be on.
Once the surviving soldiers have done away with the less than helpful superiors, they make up their minds to team up and head for the Swiss border, reasoning that it's the closest neutral country in the area. Decked out with stolen machine guns, our antiheroes begin their quest, and for the first half of the story it seems as though this is to be their destiny and perhaps this isn't quite so much like The Dirty Dozen after all. Ah, but just you wait and see, director Enzo G. Castellani's five screenwriters have a few tricks up their collective sleeve.
Along the way, the deserters meet a German soldier with the utterly non-stereotypical name of Adolf (Raimund Harmstorf), who it turns out is a deserter too. Luckily Yeager can speak German thanks to a German nanny in his childhood, but this minor revelation counts for not very much when we find out Adolf can speak English anyway. Nevertheless, if the American deserters can pose as his prisoners they can avoid some awkward questions, and those German uniforms they appropriated can come in handy as well. Of course, it doesn't work out quite as smoothly as they hoped, but they do gain the opportunity to redeem themselves before the final reel.
And we viewers gain the chance to see some gratuitous nudity when they stumble across some bathing fräuleins who are pleased to see them until Willliamson enthusiastically bounds over: being black, he tips them off that they are Americans. And if there's a running theme, it's how much better an example of various nations getting along the U.S. of A. is compared with the rest of the world. Even if one is a racist, he (Tony - Peter Hooten) proves himself able to work alongside his countryman and set aside his differences for the greater good. By the time Colonel Buckner (Ian Bannen) has parachuted in to offer them a real mission we can cheer on the rich variety of American diversity, and this in an Italian film as well. It's not Saving Private Ryan, but it is an exciting example of action cinema and therefore fine escapism, although the amount of extras being killed is ridiculous. Rousing music by Francesco De Masi.