Tuesday, 9 February 2010

SS Girls (1976)

Too subtle. More swastikas.

Nazisploitation is a sub-genre that polarises even the most ardent lovers of sleaze. I must admit, although a steady diet of exploitation films has left me an empty shell of a man, this is one form of 'sploitation that still leaves me feeling a little icky inside. Born out of the women-in-prison genre, it sprung up in the wake of two highly-influential films. Firstly there's Tinto Brass' 1974 masterpiece of arthouse sleaze Salon Kitty, which is beautifully shot and surprisingly lighthearted, if a little overlong. Secondly there's 1975's infamous Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS, a nasty piece of work that is exploitation filmmaking at it's most sleazy and shameless. Most Nazisploitation films took their cues from one of these films, although most were closer to the quality of the latter.

Bruno Mattei has always been willing to latch on to any popular sub-genre and punch out a couple of shameless rip-offs, so it's not surprising that he managed to crank out two Nazisploitation films, one from each end of the spectrum. SS Girls (or Private House of the SS as it's called on this print of the film) is definitely the most lighthearted of the two, and one of the most shameless rip-offs of Salon Kitty in a genre of film composed almost entirely of Salon Kitty rip-offs. Most of the famous scenes from that film are recreated here, so if you ever doubted the artistic merit of Brass' opus, pop this in and you can see the Salon Kitty that could have been if Tinto Brass had a $500 budget and a mild head injury.

In the waning days of WW2, Hans Schellenberg (Gabriele Carrara) is a top Nazi official tasked with rooting out traitors within his ranks. To that end, he meets with Madame Eva (Macha Magall), hires a team of ten prostitutes and, with the help of his sexy assistant Frau Inge (Marina Daurina), trains them to become "perfect sex machines", so that they can seduce Nazi officers and trick them into revealing their true feelings about the Führer. He also trains them in armed combat, so it's a solid and tactically sound plan that couldn't possibly go wrong.

What follows is a ridiculous training montage where the girls dress up in togas and perform aerobics, stick-fighting, fencing and marksmanship. There is also the sexual component of their training, which is overseen by the white-labcoated Dr. Jurgen, played by Mattei regular Luciano Pigozzi. He insists that he will act as their father during their operation, albeit a father who forces them to have sex with a succession of grotesque freaks, including a fat hairy man, a deformed hunchback and even a German Shepherd. Don't worry, it's just implied; the dog is simply lying on top of the girl while she sensually rubs it's head, but they both look like they are enjoying it anyway.

After their training is completed a handful of suspected traitors are invited to the mansion for some R&R. Once suitably soused and sexually satisfied, the Generals start mouthing off to the girls about how good ol' Adolf is completely unhinged. The next morning Schellenberg surprises them with a political trial, condemning them to death while dressed as the Nazi Pope. This eccentric scene is made moreso by Gabriele Carrara's performance, which is completely off the chain. I guess because he doesn't look threatening at all (he looks kind of like Crispin Glover with an even dorkier hair cut), he overacts to a terrifying degree, mugging and shouting and turning every scene into delicious high camp. Highly enjoyable. It's like Nicolas Cage times ten.

The Führer is pleased with Schellenberg's progress and sends some more treasonous Nazi officers his way: General Oscar and his two bodyguards, Wang and Kominski. Nobody should be looking for historical authenticity in films like this, but these guys are particularly ridiculous. Oscar is murderous psychopath who wears a blacked-out monocle over his sightless eye, while Wang is an Asian (?!) Nazi officer who carries nunchucks and a samurai sword and wears a headband with a swastika drawn on it in felt-tip pen. After the usual debauchery, including whipping, orgies and cocktails made from cognac and human blood (freshly squeezed from a prostitute, so there's probably some bonus syphilis in there too), the three of them are chased into the gardens and shot by Schellenberg's diminutive balding enforcer.

Schellenberg celebrates his success by watching Inge and Eva make out in front of some huge swastikas, which is admittedly pretty awesome, and gets himself so excited that he starts ranting crazily and declares himself the next Führer. I think we've all been there, saying something we regret in the heat of the moment, but unfortunately Inge uses his treasonous outburst later to try and blackmail him into sleeping with her. You might wonder what the hell is wrong with Schellenberg that he'd need to be blackmailed into sleeping with a super hot Nazi dominatrix. Well, apparently she's got some minor scarring on her cheek and that's enough for Schellenberg to hysterically scream "You're a beast! I loathe you!" and spit in her face. Ouch.

By the end of the film the Russian tanks are rolling into Berlin (or rather "tank", Mattei could only afford one) and news of Hilter's death is broastcast over the radio. Those left at the mansion decide to partake a drunken orgy followed by mass suicide, but not before wrapping up a subplot about a handsome SS officer that I had long since forgotten and/or stopped caring about. The parties so far have all been marked by the international sign of debauchery: pulling corks out of liquor bottles with your teeth (done at least four times by my count), so when the officer does so while surveying the aftermath of their suicidal orgy it has a sadly ironic ring to it.

Unlike other Nazisploitation films, which tastelessly dwell on scenes of torture and misery, SS Girls seems quite fun in comparison. Fun for a film about Nazis, rape and mass suicide anyway. It's still incredibly tasteless, make no mistake, but there are many colourful scenes of naked, drunken revelry and, thanks largely to Mattei's incompetent direction, would-be-disturbing scenes of torture and sexual abuse are rendered giggle-inducing. In conclusion, an entertaining piece of sleazy Euro-trash cheese.

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