Monday, May 05, 2008

SS GIRLS (1977)

I cannot say I love Nazi exploitation films because I really don’t. But I can say I have enjoyed my latest trip down this swastika covered path. Not because it was a good movie but because it was hysterically inept. Comedic, even. I have come to believe the Bruno Mattei was put on this earth to make bad films. It’s like a calling. Some mad god somewhere looked down from on high and bequeathed us mere mortals the most hack-tastic Italian director it was possible to create. And he didn’t just make bad horror films- oh no. He crapped out movies in nearly every genre. Until recently I thought he was just a bad filmmaker who often ripped off other films. But the more of his movies I see I realize that maybe ALL he was capable of was ripping off other films! And I don’t just mean rip off in the standard Hollywood way of “Get me a film like that pronto”. I mean as in bold faced Xeroxing of entire sections of other people’s movies and calling the resultant copy your own. I am willing to bet that there is not a single movie to his credit that isn’t a direct copy of another film.

Now- sometimes that can be good.

A few years ago I picked up a bootleg of one of his early 2000s films because it sounded sordid and strange. It turned out to be a scene by scene copy of the Nicholas Cage film 8MM. And when I say copy I mean not just the idea or plot—I mean everything! The only exceptions were a few things that must have been too expensive to shoot on his budget and the fact that the main character was a woman. He may have even pitched it like that- “It’s 8MM with a sexy woman instead.” Boom! A new Bruno Mattei classic is made!

8MM was bad enough without Mattei getting his hands on it- or at least you might have thought so. But strangely, watching this example of his hackery was kind of fun. It was like playing spot the rip off while wondering if this movie might have the balls to actually follow through on its slimy premise. Of course it didn’t. But I have to admit that as bad as 8MM was if I had to choose between watching Joel Schumacher’s Hollywood junk or Bruno’s junky Xerox I’d go with slime master Mattei. At least with his film there is the feeling that something truly nasty might happen.

The truth of the matter is that every filmmaker steals. It’s how things get done. But the idea is to bring something of yourself to your variant. Not Mattei. When he makes a copy of DAWN OF THE DEAD that sucker is going to be a low rent version with silly nature footage and a ripped off score. When he makes a Rambo rip off its going to be confusing but thatched huts will blow up. And when he makes a Nazi film he’s going to copy SALON KITTY because that film made big bucks. Which brings us to SS GIRLS. This film is a silly, silly thing. Like many of the Nazisplotation films of the 1970s it wallows in deviant sexual acts all while imperiously condemning those engaging in such terrible things. Of course, the film just wants to present a parade of naked bodies in faked couplings with a backdrop of Nazi paraphernalia to make it look like Germany in the mid 1940s. The hairstyles make that leap impossible (for me, at least) because I just don’t think most German soldiers were able to blow dry their hair on the front lines. But what the film doesn’t have is a lot of the usual torture and violence that is almost standard in these movies. Not that there isn’t some gunplay and a few murders but there are no hot irons pressed against flinching flesh or other types of bodily cruelty. I was glad of this as I’ve had enough of that kind of crap over the last few years in HOSTEL, SAW and their various knock offs.

I was going to provide a synopsis of the story but its really not necessary. If you’re the slightest bit interested in seeing this you don’t need one and if you aren’t then laying out the tale isn’t going to sway you to check it out. It is what it is. Take it or leave it. That may be a good way of looking at any of Mattei’s movies now that I think of it.

This film is more widely known as PRIVATE HOUSE OF THE SS and that’s as good a title as any I guess. But as I giggled my way through it I came up with a better one- CORK SPITTING NAZIS. Why this odd title you ask? Because that is the single most repeated action in the entire movie! If a champagne cork was pulled out with teeth and spit across the room once in this film it was done a dozen times. It got to the point that I was completely surprised when someone managed to drink alcohol and NOT spit a cork. And when, of course, the cork spitting was finally used to show one character’s contempt for another I openly applauded. It was nice to see the spitting have some reason behind it. Plus the character in question was insanely overacting so spitting was the least of his etiquette crimes in the scene.

I guess I can recommend this film to the select few people out there that would find this kind of thing entertaining. I know I did. I just don't know what that says about me.

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