Amongst the collection of films Tarantino mulled but never made was a spin-off to Inglourious Basterds – Sarah has been charting what happened.
Spoilers for Inglourious Basterds lie ahead.
Whilst modern cinema appears dominated by sequels and franchises, Quentin Tarantino is one director who doesn’t really follow this trend. This summer’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood was the one non-franchise film of the summer to break $100m in the US, and he retains the ability to make compelling films, that also find a wide audience.
But that’s not to say he hasn’t considered the occasional sequel or spin-off. If you take Kill Bill out of the equation, it’s clear that most of his major characters tend to only be in one movie. But to give one example, we could have seen Brad Pitt and his squad again, albeit in supporting roles, if he’d followed through on his idea for an Inglourious Basterds spin-off.
Tarantino originally wanted to create a much bigger universe. Inglourious Basterds wouldn’t have just followed Lt. Aldo Raine and his team of Jewish-American soldiers killing Nazi officials and trying to bring down Hitler’s government. That would only have been part of it. The other part would have followed a platoon of African-American soldiers who are treated unfairly by the military and take their revenge. Tarantino wasn’t even going to make a film at one stage. He planned on developing a mini-series but couldn’t finish it. As we know, he decided to go in a different direction and made a standalone film about the Jewish-American assassins. That meant that everything about the African-American soldiers had to be cut from the final movie.
Over the years, Tarantino has considered going back to the story of the rogue African-American soldiers. He thought about it just after he made Inglourious Basterds, and after he finished Django Unchained, the story of a blaxploitation protagonist going against a slave owner to save his family. Tarantino also briefly considered it after making The Hateful Eight. It would have been a satisfying conclusion to Basterds and Django: two films that revised history so that two of the most oppressed groups in history could defeat their oppressors.
These films were only very loosely linked by theme. With this story of an African-American platoon, Tarantino could have tied everything together. The theme of black soldiers in World War II defying authority would expand on Django’s central idea of a blaxploitation protagonist taking on those in power. As for Inglourious Basterds, the tie in would be even more obvious since Lt. Aldo and his team would have apparently featured as supporting characters.
Tarantino wanted to call the film Killer Crow. It was a reference to the Jim Crow laws which enforced segregation in America. At that time, an all-black unit was pretty much the norm in the army. Tarantino’s story aimed to turn the status quo upside down. The name ‘Killer’ Crow even hints at this.
The story would have followed a platoon of black soldiers in France who are treated appallingly by the American military. After the Normandy invasion, they were assigned the task of guarding German prisoners. But they find themselves given empty guns and no live ammo. The white Americans simply don’t trust them. The black soldiers are also tasked with collecting all the dead bodies and taking them to the area where the Germans are burying them. They later get court-martialled and are sentenced to be hung but make a miraculous escape. The platoon takes matters into their own hands and kill the racist soldiers and officers on the military base.
Tarantino revealed some details to The Root in 2012 (in a video that was here, but has since been deleted). “They basically — the way Lt. Aldo Raines (Brad Pitt) and the Basterds are having an ‘Apache resistance’ — [the] black troops go on an Apache warpath and kill a bunch of white soldiers and white officers on a military base and are just making a warpath to Switzerland.”
So it was historically inaccurate, pretty violent and the good guys beat impossible odds. Vintage Tarantino. The story tied Django and Basterds together, but it was actually going to be a prequel of sorts in that it was set before Lt. Aldo and his squad killed Hitler and ended the war. Lt. Aldo, Eli Roth’s character Donny ‘The Bear Jew’ Donowitz and the rest of the squad would have met African-American soldiers when they were behind enemy lines in Italy.
Tarantino had already written half the script as part of his earlier mini-series idea. He needed to write the second half and expand key storylines so that the finished movie would have a cohesive story and not seem like a subplot to Inglourious Basterds. Brad Pitt and Eli Roth were both excited about the possibility of returning. Roth revealed his feelings about the prequel in an interview with Movieweb in 2009, shortly before Basterds came out. “If the movie does well, he will make the prequel…Both Brad and I want to be in it. Brad and I were in Cannes screaming, “Prequel, prequel, prequel!”
Roth also suggested that Tarantino could make more than one sequel to the film. In fact, Tarantino had written five or six different stories about the Basterds spanning the 50s and 60s. At that point, Tarantino wasn’t sure which ones he was going to adapt into films or if he was going to adapt any of them at all. If he had made the prequel and adapted some of the stories, he could have created an Inglourious Basterds cinematic universe of sorts. But it’s been ten years and Killer Crow still hasn’t been made.
So what happened?
Well, Tarantino basically lost interest in finishing the story. He moved on to making The Hateful Eight and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, another film that revised history. His lack of interest isn’t the only problem. After so many years, it would be difficult to get all of the actors back, and even if Tarantino managed it, he’d have the huge expense of digitally de-ageing them all. So, as interesting as it sounds, the chances of Killer Crow actually being made are pretty much zero.
We’ll just have to imagine what could have been, and add it to the list of unmade Tarantino movies…
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