By Al Kaufman
First, two confessions:
1) I believe Quentin Tarantino to be the greatest living American director behind Martin Scorsese.
2) I embarrassingly admit that I have yet to see Inglorious Basterds.
Without first seeing the movie, the songs on the soundtrack will need to stand on their own. In most cases, songs that end up in Tarantino films take on new meaning. Can a person who has seen Pulp Fiction hear Urge Overkill (or even Neil Diamond for that matter) sing "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" without picturing Uma Thurman slinking around her living room? Can someone who watched Reservoir Dogs hear Gerry Rafferty (with his first band, Stealer Wheels) sing "Stuck In the Middle With You" without seeing Michael Madsen casually cut off a cop's ear?
While Inglorious Basterds takes place in Nazi occupied France, the beginning of the soundtrack has the feel of a desert border town like that in the Tarantino-produced From Dusk Till Dawn, or the open land surrounding Michael Madsen's trailer in Kill Bill II. The short instrumentals sizzle and crackle, in anticipation of the action that is sure to come.
The German songs that make up the middle of the soundtrack sometimes come dangerously close to something one might hear in Mel Brook's The Producers. There is no "Springtime for Hitler" here, but if Germany had a vaudeville in its heyday, these jaunty tunes were played there.
The rousing closing pieces, most notably Ennio Morricone's "Rabbia e Tarantella," convey images of large marching and fighting scenes. It is easy to close your eyes and picture thousands of Nazis goosestepping across the screen, or just as easily picture them all getting slaughtered.
Tarnatino respects older, obscure music as much as he does old, obscure films, and it shows. In addition to some beautiful score pieces, he brings the funk to World War II by including Billy Preston's "Slaughter" and throws in the wild card of David Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)." He uses the Cat People soundtrack version, the one Bowie was so disappointed in that he redid it for his Let's Dance album. However, it is easy to imagine both of these Preston and Bowie songs ending up in epic scenes that will rival those of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. Can't wait to find out.