Readers who were here last Monday may recall a small rant by moi about the stunt casting of Mike Myers -- fresh from the triumph that was The Love Guru -- as a British General(!) in Quentin Tarantino's (then) forthcoming Inglourious Basterds.
As I said at the time, my objections going in to IBs really didn't have all that much to do with the fact that, if the trailer and Tarantino's promo interviews were to believed, the film seemed to have been conceived as an unholy shtup between The Dirty Dozen, Hogan's Heroes, To Be or Not to Be and the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Harrison Ford looks around and says "Nazis -- I hate those guys." But in any case, having caught the film over the weekend I can say, without much fear of contradiction, that the film is actually a lot different than I expected, and although I found it both audaciously brilliant and infuriatingly, at times offensively, adolescent in more or less equal measure, I gotta say Myers is fine in the part. Plus, Christoph Waltz, the Austrian actor who plays the SS colonel bad guy of the piece, is just amazing -- scary, funny, and obscenely charismatic; whenever he's on screen, you can't take your eyes off of him.
Hmm -- how do you say "A Star is Born" in Nazi?
In any case, I can forgive Tarantino almost (repeat: almost) anything -- including an ending that sort of gets away with being both a cop-out and really stupid by virtue of its sheer visual virtuosity -- for the casting (in the same scene as Myers) of Hero of My Youth (and Mel Gibson of his day) Rod Taylor. As Winston Churchill, no less.
Yes, THAT Rod Taylor. The ridiculously good looking and charming Australian star of the 60s that most Americans first laid eyes on in the wonderful (and today, alas, unjustly forgotten) ABC-TV drama Hong Kong, a show which had the misfortune to run against Wagon Train during the 1960-61 TV season. No YouTube video excerpt from it exists at the moment, but please feel free to take a moment here and listen to the show's evocative theme by Hollywood film music legend Lionel Newman (brother of Alfred, uncle of Randy).
Of course, Taylor is probably best known for his work in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and in George Pal's The Time Machine (1960).
You know -- this handsome SOB.
But damned if this isn't him, decades later, lurking in the back of one of the crucial exposition scenes in Basterds and making the most of one tight close up and a couple of lines of dialogue.
Incidentally, I recounted the above to a number of women friends -- most, if not all, of a certain age -- and to a person, they all said "Wotta you mean Rod Taylor is Australian? The guy in The Birds? He didn't have an accent."
So just for the record, here's a pre-stardom Taylor, still sporting the antipodean tones of his exotic homeland, in a scene from the wonderful (and wonderfully cheesy) 1956 post nuke apocalypse/time travel sci-fi classic World Without End (for more of my musings on said flick, just click here.
You can order a gorgeous widescreen DVD of it here. For a DVD of Basterds, you'll have to wait a few months.