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Inglourious Basterds cover

Blu-ray Reviews: Inglourious Basterds

Originally published in Sound and Image, February/March 2010, v.23#04
Last updated 25 February 2013

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Inglourious Basterds
2009 - Universal Pictures (Australasia) Pty Ltd
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, Daniel Brühl, Til Schweiger, Gedeon Burkhard, Jacky Ido, B.J. Novak, Omar Doom, August Diehl, Denis Menochet and Sylvester Groth

Movie: 5 Picture: 5 Sound: 4.5 Extras: 3.5

As far as I'm concerned, Inglourious Basterds is the best movie Quentin Tarantino has ever made. Sure, Pulp Fiction sits at #5 on the IMDB Top 250, while Inglourious Basterds languishes all the way down at a mere #69 (scoring 8.4/0 from over 127,000 voters). But the new movie offers something new: tension.

There are two long scenes, which are essentially extended conversations, where Tarantino just winds up the tension, second by second, minute by minute, until I found it almost unbearable. Sure, the old Tarantino was still there: graphic violence, clever dialogue, and more explicit movie allusions than is the norm even for him.

But it was the edge of the seat -- what is going to happen now! -- feeling that stood out for me.

In case you haven't heard, this is a World War II movie, usually characterised as being about a group of US Jewish guerillas operating brutally in German occupied France. But it is actually about a lot more than that, and it is the intersection of this group with some others who are fighting the Germans in their own ways that truly forms the basis of the narrative.

Oh, and the film industry. The climactic scene takes place in a Parisian cinema, showing the latest fruit of Joseph Goebbels' propaganda film industry: 'Nation's Pride'. This movie-within-a-movie is presented in its full six minute glory as an extra on the disc. Surprisingly, it is shown only in standard definition, but this may have been intentional to ensure that the image remains appropriately 1940's soft. There's also an amusing in-character 'Making Of' featurette for 'Nation's Pride', featuring interviews with the Goebbels character and with Eli Roth (one of the stars of Inglourious Basterds, and a director in his own right of such horror fodder as Hostel) as its director. This is delivered in 1080i60 HD!

A couple of the featurettes are interviews with Australian screen legend Rod Taylor, who was specifically sought out by Tarantino to play the small Winston Churchill part.

The picture quality of this movie is excellent. Tarantino's camera work starts with homages to Sergio Leone, and the clarity of the MPEG4 AVC transfer brings this brilliantly to the big home theatre screen. The sound is solid, and with the dialogue at a higher than usual level in the mix, so the extensive conversations are always clearly conveyed.

Some recent Universal Pictures Blu-ray discs have this interesting -- some apparently find it irritating -- feature called a 'Ticker'. This is a scrolling text bar on the main menu that, I believe, shows information provided by Universal on what BD Live material is available, and possibly other stuff. But I'm guessing here because I don't really know because it is apparently not available to Australians.

This disc (amongst several other Universal titles) won't show the ticker, nor indeed the 'On/Off' front menu item for it, when loaded into proper BD-Live Blu-ray player. An increasing number of discs are paying attention to such things as the BD-Live status of the player and presenting their menu options accordingly (some Sony titles won't show the BD-Live menu option if the player isn't BD-Live connected).

But if you put this disc into a BD-Live player with its BD-Live connection switched off, then the ticker is shown, the ticker option is visible on the menu, and the ticker itself informs you that the player isn't connected to the Internet. I've confirmed this on three different Blu-ray players, plus my computer.

Seems like a bit of bad programming, but I have a better theory. Blu-ray players don't really know where they are. They know their region code, but Region Code B could put the player in Australia, New Zealand, the UK or Europe, Greenland or Africa. As soon as I inserted the disc into one of the Blu-ray players of which I had switched off the BD-Live capability, it informed me that the disc was attempting to access the Internet but was being blocked. So it seems likely that the disc is using BD-Live to query its location, and upon discovering that it is in Australia, setting the ticker option to not show.

Now all I have to do is find out why. The other BD-Live capabilities seemed to work all right.

Running time: 153 minutes
Picture: 2.4:1, 1080p24, MPEG4 AVC @ 25.67Mbps
Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 24/48 3/2.1 @ 3516kbps (core: DTS 24/48 3/2.1 @ 1509kbps); Spanish, French: DTS 24/48 3/2.1 @ 768kbps
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Extras: 'Nation's Pride' full feature' (480i60, MPEG2, DD2.0 @ 192kbps - 6 mins); 3 Extended and Alternate Scenes (1080p24, MPEG4 AVC, DD5.1 @ 448kbps - 11 mins); 4 Featurettes (1080i60, MPEG4 AVC, DD2.0 @ 192kbps - 45 mins); 4 Featurettes (480i60, MPEG2, DD2.0 @ 192kbps - 24 mins); Poster gallery (38 stills, 1080p24, MPEG2); 3 Trailers (1080p24, MPEG4 AVC, DD5.1 @ 448kbps - 5 mins); 1 Trailer (1080p24, MPEG4 AVC, DD2.0 @ 192kbps - 2 mins); D-Box Motion Codes; My Scenes scene marking; BD Live (My Chat, Scene sharing)
Restrictions: Rated MA (Australian rating); Region Free

The following video bitrate graph was generated by BDInfo 0.5.3:

Inglourious Basterds video bitrate graph

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