Release Date(s)2009 (October 12, 2021)
Studio(s)A Band Apart/The Weinstein Company (Universal Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B+
Prior to Quentin Tarantino writing a fairy tale version of history in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, his first stab at the idea was 2009’s Inglourious Basterds, which was derived from 1978’s The Inglorious Bastards (in name only). Setting his sights on a group of soldiers hunting Nazis during World War II, it was anything but orthodox. As usual with Tarantino, it’s stylized and brutal with great dialogue and performances. The film also brought Christoph Waltz, who had mostly worked for many years in German film and TV, to the attention of US audiences. As with other Tarantino projects, Basterds was also criticized for its violent content. Of course, that didn’t stop it from taking a nice chunk of the box office upon its release, grossing over $300 million against a $70 million dollar budget. Today it’s touted by many to be one of their favorite Tarantino films. It also further established his status as a filmmaker, dipping into unknown wells of genre knowledge, and morphing facets of it and references to it into something entirely his own.
In the early 1940s, a group of US commandos, led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), are marching into Nazi territory to not only kill them, but scalp them. Among them is Sergeant Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) and Donny Donowitz aka The Bear Jew (Eli Roth), two of the most vicious men in the group. Combing the countryside for Jews in hiding is SS Office Hans Landa aka The Jew Hunter (Christoph Waltz), a seemingly genial but also malevolent man. After killing her family, Hans allows a young woman, Shosanna Dreyfus (Melanie Laurent), to flee. She later makes it to Paris and winds up running a cinema which will soon be showing a Nazi propaganda film, and she intends to get revenge. The Basterds, now allied with British soldiers, including Lieutenant Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender), as well as German film star Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), infiltrate the premiere of the film to kill the Nazi leaders present, including Hitler.
Inglourious Basterds was shot on 35 mm photochemical film by Robert Richardson, using Arriflex and Panavision cameras with a variety of anamorphic and spherical lenses, and framed at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For its release on Ultra HD, Universal Pictures unfortunately seems to have utilized the existing 2K Digital Intermediate—simply upsampling it—and then graded the image for High Dynamic Range (both HDR10 and HDR10+ are available options). Standard procedure for a new 4K presentation on this format—for a catalog movie of this vintage that’s actually shot on film but finished as a 2K DI—would typically involve re-scanning the camera negative in native 4K (for live action) and using that footage to rebuild the DI, along with any upsampled VFX shots originally finished in 2K, then regrading from the ground up. Universal does not appear to have done that here, rendering the film’s upgrade to UHD somewhat inert. It’s watchable, but (and emphasis on the but) you are essentially getting a Blu-ray quality image on a higher quality format. There are still certain advantages, such as the higher bit rate, greater color depth, better encoding, and HDR, but the result is problematic with an eleven-year-old HD master. That said, the improved palette represents the film well. The HDR pass brings a little more detail out in the blacks, with a bit more nuance in the colors, though the highlights are rather hot. But the image is lacking in the kind of added depth that a fresh 4K scan might have provided. What’s more, aliasing, noise, and ringing are all in evidence here. If you can look past all of that, you might still appreciate this presentation. But as it is, some may prefer to wait for a better remaster of the film. This ain’t it.
The audio is included in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and Spanish and French 5.1 DTS Digital Surround. Subtitle options include English SDH, Spanish, and French. The main 5.1 track is the same one found on the previous Blu-ray release, and it’s just as impressive as it was then with a highly immersive mix that puts the surrounding speakers to good use. Low frequency activity is steady thanks to the score and sound effects, most of which involve explosions and gunfire. Dialogue exchanges are clear and precise as well. Key moments, including The Bear Jew’s main entrance, are given excellent reverb and presence. Speaker to speaker movement is also constant. It’s definitely a dynamic soundtrack, though one can’t help but wonder what a new object-based track would do for this film’s sound design.
A Blu-ray of Inglourious Basterds is also included in this package in 1080p, as is a Digital code on a paper insert. The Blu-ray and Ultra HD features are identical outside of the Killin’ Nazis Trivia Game (exclusive to the Blu-ray) and one other item in particular. They include the following:
- Extended and Alternate Scenes: Lunch with Goebbels – Extended Version (HD – 7:15)
- Extended and Alternate Scenes: La Louisiane Card Game – Extended Version (HD – 2:12)
- Extended and Alternate Scenes: Nation’s Pride Begins – Alternate Version (HD – 2:14)
- Roundtable Discussion with Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt, and Elvis Mitchell (HD – 30:45)
- The New York Times Talks (SD – 68:07)
- Nation’s Pride – Full Feature (SD – 6:10)
- The Making of Nation’s Pride (HD – 4:00)
- The Original Inglorious Bastards (SD – 7:38)
- A Conversation with Rod Taylor (HD – 6:43)
- Rod Taylor on Victoria Bitter (HD – 3:19)
- Quentin Tarantino’s Camera Angel (SD – 2:41)
- Hi Sallys (SD – 2:09)
- Film Poster Gallery Tour with Elvis Mitchell (SD – 10:59)
- Inglourious Basterds Poster Gallery (HD – 38 in all)
- Teaser Trailer (HD – 1:45)
- Domestic Trailer (HD – 2:23)
- International Trailer (HD – 2:08)
- Japanese Trailer (HD – 1:17)
The good news is that all of the previously-released bonus materials are included. The Extended and Alternate Scenes are sourced from the German version of the film. The Roundtable Discussion and The New York Times Talks feature extended interviews, the latter of which was formerly a Best Buy exclusive (but not included on the accompanying Blu-ray here). Nation’s Pride also isn’t up to snuff in terms of A/V quality. In The Making of Nation’s Pride, which is presented in HD, clips from the film are actually of better quality. Three featurettes are dedicated to The Inglorious Bastards from 1978, including The Original Inglorious Basterds, A Conversation with Rod Taylor, and Rod Taylor on Victoria Bitter, the latter more of a fun outtake of sorts. Quentin Tarantino’s Camera Angel and Hi Sallys are a series of humorous outtakes, although the second stings a little in light of Sally Menke’s passing. Elvis Mitchell offers a visual essay of sorts with Film Poster Gallery Tour, detailing German films, Nazi propaganda films, and their artwork. Closing out the extras are a series of four trailers. There’s nothing new here, but at least it’s complete. Both discs and the Digital code sit inside a black amaray case with the film’s poster art. Everything is housed in a limited slipcover with the same artwork.
It’s fair to say that gaining an extra featurette doesn’t make up for the lack of work that went into the image remaster on this UHD. It’s also telling that Arrow Video teased a release of Inglourious Basterds with a card in one of their Blu-ray releases a while back, but that hasn’t come to pass. We wouldn’t be surprised if they took one look at Universal’s 4K master and thought better of it. In short, Inglourious Basterds in Ultra HD is quite watchable, but it’s not the presentation that the film deserves.
- Tim Salmons