Review: The Bastard

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The Bastard is an interesting film that I can not find much about. It looks like it has been released under The Cats, Sons of Satan and The Bastard. It looks to be an Italian film, but filmed in New Mexico. The version I saw is in English, but looks to be voiced over in areas, so may have originally been filmed in Italian in parts.

The film is from writer and director Duccio Tessari and was released in 1968. This film definitely has the feel of a grind house, drive-in, B-movie which actually makes for a more interesting viewing today. This story seems to be a simple revenge plot, but is much more intricate and subtle story hiding in a bloody late night film.

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This film starts with a simple but violent smash and grab heist of jewels.  Giuliano Gemma plays Jason, our protagonist. He soon “gets ride of the competition” in a quick series of car chases and shot outs. These early scenes seem to be confusing, in that we don’t really know who these people are other then Jason. These scenes seem to be there to satisfy the grind house crowd with some bloody violence and action. In this part of the film, Jason contacts his girl, Karen, played by Margaret Lee.

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Jason soon contacts his brother, Adam, played by Klaus Kinski. Adam is the man who put together the jewel theft. Then we meet their mother, played by film noir great Rita Hayworth. When Adam double crosses Jason with the help of femme fatale Karen the plot really starts rolling.

Though some blurbs on this film says Adam left his brother Jason for dead, this is not true. He humiliates him and has a doctor cut his wrist. on his shooting hand, making him useless in the criminal world. Jason is soon rescued and rehabilitated by Barbara, played by Bond Girl Claudine Auger.

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This story is very noir, with a twisted family lead by Rita Hayworth. The title The Bastard comes to light later in the film when Hayworth talks about Adam and Jason being half-brothers. Jason’s father proposed to her the day Adam’s father was killed in the electric chair. She said no and Jason’s father went out for the night, knowing they would kill him. She lost both of her son’s fathers on the same day.

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In this film Rita Hayworth is at the end of her film career. She would only make 3 more films after this one. Hayworth is around 50 years old in this film and her beauty is still there, but not burning as bright as it was in her classic older films. This aspect is brought up through out the film. She plays her role a little over the top, but is playing an alcoholic mother who realizes she is past her prime. At one point in the film, she looks at photos on the wall and talks about how beautiful she used to be. The photos are actually from her past films, like Gilda and Cover Girl. I didn’t know if I should feel bad seeing “the fall” of this great star or if I was seeing a brilliant performance from an amazing actress. I prefer to believe it was the latter. She may have already been showing early signs of  Alzheimer’s disease here.

This is a bit of a hidden gem I think fans of 1960’s neo noir and grind house films will enjoy. I also think fans of Rita Hayworth will enjoy this film as a last glimpses of her greatness.

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Favorite Tidbit: Rita Hayworth’s part originally went to another classic film noir great, Joan Crawford. She dropped out due to disagreements about the script. Maybe she was not brave enough to portray a woman that realizes she is past her prime.

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