After his experiment with Grindhouse in 2007, which some fans loved and some absolutely hated, Tarantino came back strong with another wild idea—a World War II movie in his typically buoyant style, that would actually be an alternate history film while paying tribute to the wartime espionage movies of the 1960s. The title refers to a group of U.S. guerilla fighters inserted behind enemy lines well before D-Day to cause as much fear and destruction among the Nazi forces as possible. The men, with the exception of their leader Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), are all of Jewish decent and have a personal stake in killing as many Nazis as they possibly can. Aldo becomes known as Aldo the Apache, and the legend of the Basterds grows in Germany, until they all have nicknames and nightmare stories attached to them. They routinely scalp their victims and occasionally let one man live to tell the tale, but not before Aldo carves a swastika into their forehead, so they can never remove their Nazi identity. Alongside this story is the tragic tale of Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), a young Jewish girl whose entire family is killed by a famous Nazi investigator, Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) while hiding in a farm house. She alone escapes to occupied Paris where she grows to adulthood running a theater once owned by a woman who took her in. (A lot of this is told quickly through dialog but is much more fleshed out in the original script, which is well worth a read if you’re a fan). When Hitler’s minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) decides to screen his new film, “Nation’s Pride,” in Shosanna’s theater, the various threads of the story all come together in two plot to end the war in one night by taking out the entire Nazi high command at once. Shosanna Dreyfus (Laurent)
During the memorable preparation scene before the premier of “Nation’s Pride,” Shosanna gets ready to the anachronistic tune of David Bowie’s “Putting Out Fire,” as she puts on a red dress, applies makeup like warpaint, and loads a small automatic pistol, which could be either an FN Model 1905 or a Colt Model 1908 Vest Pocket, which she keeps in her small clutch purse.
The two small automatics are nearly identical and were born from the same design by John Browning, which he sold to FN Herstal in Belgium and Colt in the USA. If the movie tried to be authentic, it would be an FN model, considering Shosanna is in Nazi-occupied France. You can tell the difference by the grip designs and company logos, but we never get a good look at them in the movie. It could also be another FN 1905 imitation, of which there were many.
She uses the pistol when confronted by Nazi “war hero” Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl) in the projection room during the premier.
Private Frederick Zoller (Daniel Brühl) is a German sniper who gained fame and glory after he allegedly killed hundreds of Allied troops from a sniper’s hide in a tower with a Karabiner 98k rifle. His story was used as a morale booster for the German troops and his actions are depicted in the propaganda film within a film being shown in Shosanna’s theater.
He develops a crush on Shosanna, which leads to Goebbels choosing her theater for the premier. It also leads to her eventual death, without seeing her plan come to fruition.
During the premier, in an effort to foster a delusional relationship, Zoller comes to the projection room where Shosanna is preparing the final step in her plan. When he refuses to leave, Shosanna leads him on for a moment, then turns on him and fires her pistol into his chest.
But it wasn’t enough to kill him. With his last breath, Zoller rolls over and kills Shosanna with his Luger P08 pistol.
Several of the Basterds also carry Luger holsters on their belts, presumably trophies taken from dead Nazis.
Col. Hans Landa
Being the main bad guy in a movie that actually has Hitler in the cast is no small feat. Col. Hans Landa is a fictional, ruthless, and exceptionally intelligent SS officer who has a reputation for being able to find people in hiding, namely Jews, for the Nazi war machine.
He and the family hiding Shosanna and her relatives are the first characters we meet in a painfully tense battle of wills that takes place inside a small farmhouse in the French countryside.
After breaking down the farmer, Perrier La Padite, Landa discovers the Dreyfus family is hiding under the home’s floorboards. The wicked Colonel continues his play acting with Mr. LaPadite in English, pretending to prepare to leave, until he orders his men with gestures to shoot through the floor with their MP40 submachine guns.
Shosanna survives the massacre and escapes the crawlspace, sprinting across a green field covered in her family’s blood. Landa hears her and goes to the door, seeing her run off. He pulls a Walther P38 pistol from his holster, aims it, and decides not to fire as the girl is too far away. Instead he shouts, “Au revoir, Shosanna!”
The P38 was a 9mm semi-auto pistol developed by Carl Walther as the service pistol for the Wehrmacht at the beginning of WWII. It was intended to replace the costly and difficult to manufacture Luger P08, which was scheduled to cease production in 1942.
Though we don’t get to see him use it much at all during the movie, Lt. Aldo Raine (Pitt) carries a German Karabiner 98k rifle.
Aldo’s gun has the film’s title and the name of their group “Inglourious Basterds” carved into the wooden stock.
Some of the other Basterds carry the same rifle at times, including Wilhelm Wicki (Gedeon Burkhard) and PFC Gerold Hirschberg (Samm Levine). As with the rest of their gear, it was most likely taken of German troops who they’ve killed.
MP40 Submachine Guns
A lot of German soldiers and guards carry MP40 submachine guns throughout the movie, along with a good number of the Basterds, including S/Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), PFC Smithson Utivich (B.J. Novak), PFC Omar Ulmer (Omar Doom), PFC Gerold Hirschberg (Samm Levine), and Oberfedlwebel Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger).
In one quick cut, we see Hirschberg, Stiglitz, and Donny fire their MP40s at a group of German soldiers. In the photo above, Stiglitz is holding his submachine gun sideways so that the recoil fans out the shots, creating a spread effect. This technique was sometimes used with the Thompson Submachine gun.
MP40s play a big role in the finale at the propaganda movie premier. Omar and Donny have the responsibility to plant their bombs near the box holding Hitler and the rest of the Nazi high command. Things don’t quite go to plan, and they run out of time, but they sacrifice themselves and use the two guards’ submachine guns to massacre everyone in the box before their bombs go off, including Hitler and Goebbels.
The legendary MG42 machine gun is featured a couple times in the movie. Most notably we see Hugo Stiglitz carrying one during his first scene at the Nazi ambush. He keeps it hung around his shoulders on a sling.
In a deleted scene that was included in the movie’s trailer, we see Hirschberg running through what looks like the prison where Stiglitz was being held, firing the MG42 as he goes.
The MG42 was a 7.92x57mm Mauser belt-fed general purpose machine gun used extensively by the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS during the second half of the war. Like the P38 and the Luger, it was intended to replace the earlier MG 34, which was more expensive and time consuming to produce. Both machine guns were still being produced until the end of the war.
The MG42 is memorable for its high cyclic rate, especially for a gun using such a large cartridge. It fired about 1,200 rounds per minute, compared to the 850 RPM of the MG34. The M1919 Browning fired about 450 to 600 RPM.
The MG42 was adept at providing suppressing fire and it’s distinctive sound when fired led to its nickname, “Hitler’s Buzzsaw.”
In a brief shot, we see Donny using a sawed-off over/under shotgun during the Berlin jail break where the Basterds recruit Stiglitz Donny uses it to shoot a German guard, a scene that was used quite a bit as a promotional photo.
OSS Glove Gun
Here’s one of the coolest guns in the movie that you probably thought was a prop, but is actually based on a real firearm issued by the OSS during the war.
Donny and Omar each use a .38-caliber OSS Pistol Glove in their suprise attack on the two guards outside of Hitler’s theater box during the premier. They are also seen loading rounds into the single-shot pistols. The trigger is actually a plunger facing the knuckles, and it was design to be punched into the target, just as its used in the movie.
However, the two men are showed “cocking” the guns after loading them. The real glove gun didn’t work this way as the firing pin was reset every time the plunger was released.
The glove gun was designed by U.S. Navy Capt. Stanley M Haight as a response to Japanese ambushes against U.S. Naval Construction Battalions during the war. It was produced by the Sedgley Company
There isn’t a lot of info remaining about the glove gun, but in real life, it was never actually issued to troops or spies, and only 52 were ever made, including prototypes.
Bonus: Aldo’s Knife
Despite the fact that we don’t see Lt. Aldo Raine fire a gun during the movie, his other weapon does get a good deal of screen time: his big ol’ bowie knife.
Aldo carries a stag handled bowie knife on his belt in a prominent position. He uses its tip to carve swastikas in any Nazis that they ultimately don’t kill, including the traitorous Col. Hans Landa in the film’s final scene.
Internet sleuths have deduced that the knife used in the film is a modified Smith & Wesson THBB Texas Hold ’em Big Bowie Knife. The logo has obviously been polished off the blade and the guard and handle have been changed. That said, it could really be any large bowie knife with the same blade profile.
The Basement Scene
In one of the film’s longest and most memorable scenes, a group of Basterds disguised as German officers meet their contact, the actress Bridgette von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) in a basement bar. Unlucky for them, the bar is also full of german soldiers celebrating a birth back home…and Gestapo Maj. Hellstrom (August Diehl), who notices British Lt. Archie Hicox’s (Michael Fassbender) unusual accent.
After a tense conversation, Hicox gives himself away by putting up the wrong three fingers on his right hand when ordering three glasses from the barkeep.
As the Gestapo officer pulls his P38 pistol, Hicox pulls a Walther PPK and aims it back at him under the table. Stiglitz also pulls a PPK and holds it on the Gestapo officer, who refuses to yield, and keeps his pistol trained on Hicox’s crotch.
The little conversation breaks down, and gunfire fills the basement as the two men shoot each other and the drunk and confused German soldiers leap into action with their MP40s and pistols. When the smoke clears, all but two people, including the barkeep and his daughter, have been killed.
Bridget von Hammersmark
One of the survivors of the shootout in the basement is the Basterds contact, von Hammersmark, who is wounded in the leg. She can’t walk, but she quietly gets her hands on Hicox’s PPK without the surviving German soldier seeing her, and waits for just the right moment.
Master Sgt. Wilhelm
After the smoke in the basement clears, Wilhelm, the soldier who was just celebrating the birth of his son, takes up a position behind the bar. He tosses aside an empty MP40 that he shot dry and picks up another fully loaded one and chambers it.
As Aldo negotiates with his from atop the stairwell, Alexander Fehling gives a terrific performance as he weighs the options that might get him out of that basement alive.
Unfortunately for him. Bridget makes the decision for him when she surprises him with the Walther PPK after Aldo convinces him to lay down his submachine gun.