Monday, 15 September 2008

Women In Prison Movies And Inglorious Basterds

Yes the misspelling was intentional. That's the way the script spells it.

Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds script is going around the web unchecked, as did the Kill Bill script years ago. I don't think its much of a problem as whoever reads the script is gonna go see the film. Quite a few major websites have ran reviews. You can find it if you look for an entire five minutes.

Its a pretty good script. Hard to tell how the film will come out as so much is geared toward visual, even in dialogue scenes, so there's no real way to get an idea how it will look. It has the potential to be a mess or to be a brilliantly funny and twisted take on world war 2 heroic propaganda and characters. It has some good stuff such as the Basterds being Jews who scalp nazi's, has a terrific villain, the Jew Hunter, who's nasty and cynical. The film is very obsessed with the idea of German produced war movies and propaganda stars. The funny thing is, the Basterds are not the protagonists. They are chief supporting players to someone they never meet, a Jewish resistance fighter, hiding her identity to fit in, who runs a cinema. (Tarantino must have been either thrilled or appalled by Black Book, as he has a similar heroine). She drives the story, wanting to kill nazi's even though she has to deal with them daily. The basterds are like the psycho dwarfs to her Snow White.

The script has the same fantasy feel as an animated tale, gleefully has sick fun with historical accuracy. So much of it is open to what Tarantino does visually. Some bits seem ripe for a DePalma shot, some bits very Sam Fuller (the Basterds themselves seem to be Fuller influenced), a lot seems open to do some Fritz Lang sudden violence in a respectable setting.

Now the women in prison films influence. Jack Hill made women in prison films in the early seventies, starring Pam Grier. Two of which I have seen, The Big Doll's House and The Big Bird Cage. Now I know Tarantino loves these films and the influence made its way into the script. These films are focused upon women stuck in prison in what seems to be South America, with fascist dictatorships. The women are not innocent, are cruel to one another. The only thing that unites them is hatred of the guards and society that puts them there. It's all about the set-up then the tension between the characters, the waiting, the character events within a pulp landscape. Of course there is brief nudity. Of course there are cat-fights (I'd want my pound back if there wasn't). Despite what seems cheesy, these are great b-movies. They move at a pace, have focused characters and incident. They have build to situations, have central characters having to prove themselves under very harsh conditions. People have moments of weaknesses and selfishness. The villains are focused and interesting. They deliver far more than the genre usually demands. The first hour is them under stress and the last section is all hell breaking loose, where sympathetic characters die horribly and few escape. But it really works in the films as you do get affected when people die. People who you think would survive don't. Things don't go to plan and get complicated. The deaths are interesting within the situation.

This relates to Inglorious Basterds as it has a similar structure. There's the character intro's, like a prison movie. How did they get here. Then we have the meat of the story, the characters in action, coiled, under pressure, being pushed in directions that they don't expect. It starts to resemble the Hill films, with people waiting, unsure of one another and situations that are getting warped by strange people and their expectations, that others react to violently, all getting on each other's nerves for various reasons. Everyone is waiting for the big moment but things get insane up until then, when you see much more of the characters than expected, intelligent people making mistakes, some dying, some villains far more professional than suggested earlier in story. It's all about the weird character moments dominating within strict pulp that the Hill films also have. But the structure and inter-changes make it feel very similar in tone to the women in prison movies. So when the action finale comes, and all hell is breaking loose, characters splitting up to achieve their goal, everything is very dicey as people have gotten odd and there are many agenda's at play. So the final section is a mix of tension and surprise, similar to Hill's film, where things get odd, many characters getting butchered for strange reasons. There's an explosion at the end that's weirdly similar to the big bird cage burning in The Big Bird Cage, fascists getting what they deserve. While the script owes some plot elements to The Dirty Dozen (and The Next Mission, a duff sequel) the tone is much more like the exploitation films. Including the female protagonist. And darkness in the ending. Both take themes into exploitation genre but not in a simplistic way.

So this will be interesting in how Tarantino pulls it off. The film seems to be a world war 2 film but has so many elements from German propaganda, resistance films and exploitation that it could become something very unique or very messy. Actually it'll be unique whatever happens. Here's hoping it turns out well.

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