Wednesday, 9 July 2008
Kaput Lager Gli Ultimi Giorni Delle SS / Achtung! The Desert Tigers
Kaput Lager Gli Ultimi Giorni Delle SS
The title card is odd, half in German and half in Italian.
Wouldn't a kaput lager be a broken camp?
Maybe if it's the last days of the SS then it might make sense.
Whatever, it certainly cues us in as to the kind of thing to expect from this late Nazisploitation entry from Luigi Batzella, directing under his Ivan Kathansky pseudonym, and starring Richard Harrison as the heroic US commando, Gordon Mitchell as the camp commander and Lea Lander as the sadomasochistic lesbian doctor.
Rather than the European theatre of war, our location is North Africa, as a mixed group of British and American soldiers, along with some Arab alllies, mount a daring raid on a German base.
Some murkily photographed confusingly directed action scenes follow, the kind where the confusion seems less the filmmakers's attempt to convey the reality of a firefight than basic lack of ability.
A dangerous mission
An over-confident doh! moment
Major Lexman (Harrison) and company lay their demolition charges and blow stuff up, but are captured as they make their getaway and sent to the nearest POW / concentration camp, where von Stolzen (Harrison) gets a chance to strut his stuff and ve have vays voice, ordering that a Jewish prisoner be whipped regardless of the small detail that he is already dead.
Next, the action shifts to an Arab settlement, where the Nazis drag off some women, whom they take to Dr Lessing (Lander) for her inspection and approval. The story's location again makes things a little odd, as Lessing spouts the obligatory Nazi racial inferiority stuff as if her prisoners were the more usual Slavs or Jews. Then again, it could be the filmmakers' attempt at subtly critiquing the notions of race, along the lines of Arabs also being a Semitic people, although this would probably once more be to grant them too much credit.
Later, von Stolzen takes Lexman around the camp's dungeons, including the castration of some Bedouins who attacked his staff car, while Lessing turns her attentions to the Jewish virgin who has conveniently been brought to the camp for normal service to be resumed. The girl's humiliation arouses Lessing, who then tries to get it on with the English nurse / prisoner, Clara, begging that she be whipped. “I've been dying for it for so long,” she explains, in what is presumably not intended as an ironic reference to the Nazi's actual treatment of homosexuals nor as a commentary on the attraction / repulsion dynamic often bubbling away barely beneath the surface of fascist sexual ideologies but rather as the checking off of another generic requirement or two.
The wonders of point of view: note how we are positioned on the same side of the bars as the prisoners, looking out at our / their tormentors.
The worst crime that the film commits is not this parade of bad taste – this synopsis only takes us about one-third of the way in – given that this is after all what we expect from a Nazisploitation movie and watch it for. Rather, it is being boring.
Yet, this is also a charge that could be levelled against most entries in the filone, with their tendency to present a few moments of jaw-dropping what-were-they-thinking material strung together with longer passages of utter banality.
The obligatory degenerate Nazi orgy scene
As such, the real problem is that even the sex, sadism and sleaze set-pieces just aren't that memorable, lacking the delirious qualities of their counterparts in SS Experiment Camp – no line here comes close to topping the all-time classic of “you bastard, what have you done with my balls” – and Batzella's more notable contribution to the cycle, The Beast in Heat, which may have an equally awkward mix of Nazisploitation and war movie tedium but at least has those completely over-the-top performances from Macha Magall and Salvatore Baccaro to enliven the former aspect.
The whip and the body...
In this regard, the biggest surprise is perhaps the presence of Lander, given that she is better known for her appearances in classier fare like Blood and Black Lace, where she appears as Lea Kruger, and Rabid Dogs.
That Lander appeared as Lea Kruger can be put down to her more famous cousin, Hardy Kruger. Seeing as he disliked playing Nazi roles because they reminded him of his own time in the Hitler Youth and Wermacht, one wonders if he had any thought of his cousin's involvement here, or just recognised it as part of the reality of being a working actor in Italy circa 1977.
Marcello Giombino provides entertainingly cheesy score as appropriate to the proceedings as it would be inappropriate to anything more serious, complete with kitschy lieder playing over Lander's sexy scenes as a twisted leitmotif.