So Who Wants the Inglourious Basterds Prequel/Sequels?
More than a month and a half before his Inglourious Basterds stampeded to a stunning debut weekend, Quentin Tarantino was teasing moviegoers and critics with word of a Basterds prequel if the first film opened. He'd even shot some of the footage, he said, leaving it out of the final Basterds cut just in case. And that's to say nothing of the sequels co-star Eil Roth alluded to in interviews of his own. Here we are now, $37.6 million later, and my thought returning to the potential of a Basterds franchise. Could it happen? Would you actually want one? (Warning: Spoilers follow!)
A quick recap: Some time after Cannes, Tarantino confirmed that he had trimmed a sequence in which Donny Donowitz (played by Roth) bumps around Boston before his deployment to Europe, having local relatives of Holocaust victims sign the baseball bat he'll eventually use to bludgeon Nazis to death. One scene features Cloris Leachman as his neighbor Mrs. Himmelstein; Tarantino said it came out well, but didn't fit in the already-too-long final cut. So into the archives it went, awaiting either the public's demand for a prequel or the DVD release, whichever came first.
But how exactly would that work? The filmmaker acknowledged having half the thing written, featuring "a whole other group of characters, these black troops that come across the Basterds," etcetera. Not to naysay or anything (I'm an unabashed Basterds fan), but I'm not so convinced that their hour or so onscreen in the current film demands some sort of origin or back story beyond the one we already have. Brad Pitt's Lt. Aldo Raine is a pretty one-note gag (a funny, well-done one, but still) that probably couldn't withstand an entire feature, and Roth fares best as Donowitz when his mouth is shut. A Landa origin story, though? As an above-average detective whose means, talent, guilt and ego surge in proportion to his complicity with the Nazi regime? Anything to get more Christoph Waltz out there. Or even a tale of how Bridget von Hammersmark came to spy for the Brits might work.
I can probably be convinced about the other stuff, too. Not so much for the sequels that Roth mentioned in his own interviews, if only because (again: spoiler alert) doesn't everyone pretty much, like, die? You either get Aldo Raine going to Korea or cracking skulls Dirty Harry-style back in Tennessee (bzzzt), or the later exploits of B.J. Novak's Smithson Utivich, who might be one of Lyndon Johnson's earliest advisers dispatched to Vietnam. But Donowitz himself was standing over a theater-exploding bundle of dynamite after shooting Hitler in the face, Shoshanna Dreyfus is done for, and Landa winds up in Nantucket, I presume, with a swastika carved into his forehead (close enough to dead)... Who did I miss?
Or rather, what am I missing? If you've got treatments/ideas, feel free to dazzle me below. Otherwise, I'm content to let Raine have the last word -- "I think this might be my masterpiece" -- and move on.