With all the current hue and cry over The Interview -- the comedy that Sony won't be releasing on Christmas Day -- I am once again reminded of Hitler -- Dead or Alive, an ultra-low-budget 1942 B-movie starring Ward Bond as an ex-con who tries to collect a bounty on Adolf Hitler. No, I'm not making that up.
Back when I taught a college course focused on war movies, I often screened the final minutes of this obscure oddity, to give students an inkling of American attitudes during the early days of US involvement in World War II. Because even though the movie was an unabashedly cheesy Poverty Row production -- it dared to be a fantasy-fulfilling slice of cheese: At the end of the flick, Hitler is shot by Nazis who don't recognize him after Bond and his buddies shave off Der Führer's mustache. Again: I'm not making that up. Start looking around the 1:04 point in this video, and you'll see what I mean.
When I saw Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, and marveled at the movie's climactic killing of Der Führer, I couldn't help thinking of Hitler -- Dead or Alive. But I swear: I didn't know Tarantino actually was a fan the '42 film until he spilled the beans to Playboy in a November 2012 interview:
When it came to Inglourious Basterds, there was a movie done in 1942, Hitler —Dead or Alive. It was just as America had entered the war. A rich guy offers a million-dollar bounty on Hitler’s life. Three gangsters come up with a plan to kill Hitler. They parachute into Berlin and work their way to where Hitler is. It’s a wacky movie that goes from being serious to very funny. The gangsters get Hitler, and when they start beating the fuck out of him, it is just so enjoyable. They shave his mustache off, cut off that lock of hair and take his shit off so he looks like a regular guy. The Nazis show up, and Hitler, who doesn’t look like Hitler anymore, is like, “Hey, it’s me!” And they beat the shit out of him. I thought, Wow, this is fucking hysterical.
Yes, it is. Unfortunately, it looks like we'll have to wait a while before we see whether Seth Rogen or James Franco do anything comparably comical in The Interview.