Vanessa Bogart: A Nazi Gets Beaten to Death by the “Bear Jew” in Inglourious Basterds

Some of the most complex interesting villains are the ones that either come with a touch of humanity, or they are so clever and interesting that they reach a certain level of “cool.” Nazis are not those villains. “They are the foot soldiers of a jew hatin’ mass murderin’ maniac and they need to be destroyed.” Nazis aren’t Mr. Freeze or the Joker, they aren’t Hannibal Lecter. They are the disgusting punching bag that we never tire of seeing getting what they are owed and when it comes to Nazis getting their dues, few things are as satisfying as Inglourious Basterds. 

After a long and intense introduction laying out the heart-wrenching state of things in Europe and see the sickening delight “The Jew Hunter” takes in his job, we are primed and ready for a little comeuppance. That comeuppance comes in the beautiful form of Donnie “The Bear Jew” Donowitz (Eli Roth) and his baseball bat. He is a boogieman to the Nazis and a hero to the Jews. He is an executioner that takes immense and justified pride in the damage he deals to those that die at his feet. He has a singular desire when he sees a Nazi. “He bashes their brains in with a baseball bat, what he does.”

I love this scene for many reasons, including but not limited to how much Eli Roth pulls off those suspenders. I love it because of the build. The moment that it appears that the Nazi “wants to die for country,” death comes knocking. Literally. Before you ever see The Bear Jew, you hear his bat knocking in the pitch black tunnel. The tension heightens as Lt. Raine (Brad Pitt) reveals the violent death the Nazi faces if he doesn’t not change his tune, but he still refuses. Instead of just having the Bear Jew just run out and deliver the fatal blow, we get to witness the Nazi officer facing death. We get to see a Nazi looking into a dark tunnel, knowing that his life is coming to an end.

So often, we have seen the reverse. We have seen the gut-wrenching scenes of the Jewish death camp prisoners approaching the gas chambers, but Tarantino gives us a Nazi, vulnerable, unarmed, and staring death in the face, knowing that no one will save him. Donny softly grazes the Nazi’s temple. He raises his bat, he looks into the his eyes so that he knows that a Jew is about the deliver the killing blow, and delivers beautiful, brutal justice.

Jack Giroux: Nazis Face the Father/Son Might of the Jonses in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones shoots through three Nazis with a single bullet! It’s one of the many joys of this high-spirited set piece, in which a whole lot of nasty Nazis are disposed of, both brutally and playfully. Even Professor Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery), blows up a whole truckload of them. The good guys beat the Nazis with their fists, but they also outsmart them as well. It’s an incredible set piece with so many moving parts that flow perfectly together. The chase is jam-packed with great moments, from the bullet ricocheting throughout the tank, the “pen is mightier than the sword” joke, the zoom in on Indy when he approaches the edge of a cliff, the pleasing sound of our beloved hero throwing a nice, clean punch at a Nazi – there’s so much to love in this scene.

Fighting the Nazis bring Indiana Jones and his father closer together, too. Nazis getting punched isn’t just eye candy in The Last Crusade – it’s also important for the film’s relationships. Spielberg turns fighting Nazis into a bit of father-son bonding, with the two having to work together. Afterward, more than ever, Henry Jones Sr. shows how much he loves his son, who just saved his life. While defeating so many Nazis.

Chris Stipp: Nazis Look Just Plain Incompetent in The Blues Brothers

In 1980, John Landis gave us The Blues Brothers. I’m not sure of the exact number, but the exact figure of movies that can be called a “musical crime comedy film” is probably in the single digits. Like a great record, there are no bad cuts in this movie that is filled with as many great lines as there are great performances.

One of the things that I remember most from seeing this movie as a kid was its depiction of Nazis, as it might have been my first real exposure to Nazis that existed outside of the pages of my history books, if I’m being completely honest. I think it’s almost amusing in a way that, even then, that the mere sight of these grown men marching seemed rather anachronistic and weird. That Jake and Elwood, two of the best ambassadors for the city of Chicago, had an exchange that merely helped to lampoon what was, in real life, a watershed moment in the battles for free speech as the National Socialist Party of America (the Nazis, natch) petitioned the court to walk through the predominately Jewish community of Skokie, Illinois in 1977. What came out of that legal wrangling left enough of an impression on Landis and Dan Aykroyd that it helped inform the script for Blues Brothers and gave us the following exchange with Jake and Elwood:

Elwood: Illinois Nazis.

Jake: I hate Illinois Nazis!   

Throughout the movie Nazis are lampooned time and time again. In a true pièce de résistance, their car ultimately freefalls from an obnoxiously impossible height at the end of the movie and as they meet their deaths in the most comedic way possible, one of the Nazis confesses his unrequited love for the other.

A troubling post-script to all of this was that, even though the movie was about the repudiation of the very ideas that the Nazis espoused in the movie, it had deal with the casual racism of movie distributors. As Vanity Fair wrote some years ago:

“In the weeks preceding the movie’s theatrical-release date (June 20, 1980), Landis screens The Blues Brothers for major theater owners—“the guys with white belts and white shoes,” as he describes them. […] The owners, who call themselves “exhibitors,” are Hollywood’s ultimate gatekeepers. They hold a movie’s fate in their hands. “Most of them said, ‘This is a black movie and white people won’t see it.’ Most of the prime houses wouldn’t book it.”

This didn’t stop the film’s release, though, as even with the resistance they faced, the movie would end up grossing $115 million and was one of Universal’s biggest hits.

inglourious basterds theater scene

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