Friday, 28 May 2010

Salon Kitty (1976)

Dubious historical accuracy.

Since I reviewed SS Girls, Bruno Mattei's highly entertaining exercise in Nazisploitation, I figured I might as well review the film it shamelessly rips-off, Tinto Brass's 1976 classic Salon Kitty. This film tends to get overshadowed by the infamy of Brass's subsequent epic disaster Caligula, but it's a fairly interesting and influential film in it's own right. Like Caligula it's based on actual historical events, as in there really was a Salon Kitty that was used by the SS to gather intelligence from German muckity-mucks, but the rest of it is sexed-up bullshit.

SS officer Helmut Wallenberg (Helmut Berger) gets the bright idea of using prostitutes to spy on German military officers and political figures, so he rounds up a bunch of sexy, young National Socialists willing to drop their panties for Deutchland. After the girls are stripped naked, a bunch of lucky German soldiers are marched in for an acrobatic if emotionless orgy in front of some giant swastikas. Filmed, for scientific purposes I'm sure. It should be noted that throughout this exercise (and indeed the entire film) the dudes are completely flaccid. How's it going to look when the Führer watches the recording and sees your floppy, very un-patriotic weiners? Poor form, gentlemen. I realise this is endemic in all softcore films, and it's not like I'm super-keen to see a bunch of German bratwursts giving the old Nazi salute, but it's an anatomical inaccuracy that really destroys my suspension of disbelief.

After this initiation, there's a training sequence where the prostitutes are conditioned into the rigours of the sex trade by boning a succession of grotesques, including pervy fat guys and hunchbacked midgets. No German Shepherds though, so score one for Mattei's version. Mattei is always willing to go for that extra mile of tastelessness. The girls are graded for performance, and one girl is rejected after she balks at having sex with a hot lesbian, which is pretty pathetic considering one of the other girls was happily performing reverse cowgirl with a double amputee. You fail at whoring.

After they are molded into SS super-hookers, he enlists the help of Madam Kitty Kellerman (Ingrid Thulin) to set up a brothel catering to the German political elite. When Kitty meets the girls she is unimpressed. Sure, these girls may be great at having efficient, German sex with orgasms you can set your watch to, but they lack the verve and style that is the hallmark of top-shelf prostitution. Did somebody say... hooker makeover? After a montage of hair styling, cosmetics, and pubic hair grooming, Salon Kitty is open for business. In a clear breach of hooker-client confidentiality, the rooms are bugged and their conversations with clients monitored for any signs of dissent or treasonous behaviour. Apparently in Germany dudes get all chatty-Cathy after sex and start talking about politics instead of rolling over and going to sleep like they do everywhere else.

Naturally German officers were expected adhere to the tenets of National Socialism, but some of these guys take their love of the Nazi party a little too far. One guy can't get off unless the girl goose-steps across the room wearing swastika-themed stockings and armbands while Nazi propaganda is projected onto her face. Wow dude, maybe you should take up some other hobbies. I suggest baking, since for some reason this guy's other fetish involves a baguette shaped like a human phallus that he bought from "finest bakery in Germany" (I'd like to see the look on the baker's face when he placed that order). He puts it in between her legs and starts licking it, but when he bites off the tip it seems the poor girl reaches her psychological breaking point. Freaky German sex with amputees and midgets? No problem. Erotic baked goods? Now you've gone too far. She flips the fuck out and has to be carried away on a stretcher, foaming at the mouth. Kitty places the ruined phallus on top of her body as she's being carried away (what, you think she's going to want to finish it later?) and when it falls off, the testicles breaking off and rolling down the hallway like a couple of errant dinner rolls, she starts yelling at the girls while waving the dick-baguette around like a club. This is not something you see every day.

The prostitute that plays the biggest role in the film is Margherita (Teresa Ann Savoy), a young girl who joins Salon Kitty as a way of rebelling against her stuffy, bourgeois parents. Take that, dad! There's an overlong subplot about her falling in love with a German officer played by John Steiner. The guy starts mouthing off about the Führer and later we find out that he was executed for treason. Way to go, dude. It's his death that tips her off about the spy operation, which she doesn't know about even though all the girls are SS spies hand-picked for maximum dedication to National Socialism. She teams up with Kitty and an Allied spy to gather some treasonous dirt on Wallenberg and take the whole operation down.

Luckily it's not too hard to find dirt on Wallenberg. He's clearly insane and power-mad, his wardrobe is a dead giveaway in itself. We all know that the SS had the sweetest uniforms of all time, but Wallenberg takes it to a whole other level. He has all-leather numbers from the House of General Zod (he dry-humps her while wearing one of these; I'd hate to be his dry cleaner), he has SS-themed silver jumpsuits like a Nazi David Bowie. Somewhere amid the non-stop cavalcade of awesome Nazi fashion he spouts off some treasonous rubbish, which Margherita records and passes along to one of Wallenberg's superiors, a freakish looking mountain of a man WHO SHOUTS EVERY LINE AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS. Consequently, Wallenberg is gunned down while he is tackle-out in a public bath house.

Really, I can't say enough about the costume and set design in this film. They are fantastic. Acting is suitably melodramatic, particularly Ingrid Thulin's flamboyant Madam Kitty. Lots of boobs, wangs, etc. The major problem with this film is that at 129 minutes it is way, way too long. The film is packed with cabaret acts that are fairly entertaining but rapidly begin to grate (particularly the dong-flashing can-can). Like Caligula, Tinto Brass's particular brand of excess and self-indulgence is both it's strength and it's weakness. And it seems Tinto hasn't learned his lesson either, since now he's talking about doing another big-budget mainstream-crossover porn, utlising new 3D technology. Good luck with that, bro.

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