Monday, December 3, 2012

The Wild Eye Releasing Fever Dream Marathon Part 1: Blitzkrieg: Escape From Stalag 69 and The Disco Exorcist

I’ve been sick for the last few days.  Not really sick, just a cold.  No big deal.  It did get me thinking, however, about the last time I was sick.  Back in September, just before Netherworld started, I got sick.  Profoundly sick.  Fever, chills, hacking up chunks of lung, can’t breathe, can’t hold food in either end, praying for death kind of sick.  It’s a miserable state of affairs, but an interesting situation that can arise only out of such illness sometimes rears its head.  There is a phenomenon that I like to call the Fever Dream; and while it may not be nearly as enjoyable, it is far more powerful than any psychedelic drug experience known to man.  This is what happens when lack of sleep, a high fever, and copious amounts of medications combine.  It’s a condition where you slip back and forth between being awake and dreaming vividly without knowing where the boundary lies or being able to distinguish which one you are doing at the moment.  I’ve only been sick enough to experience it a handful of times.  If you think I sound crazy or don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ve never truly experienced the flu.  Just wait.  Captain Trips is coming.  M-O-O-N, that spells Super Flu.
Well, on this particular day my fever kept bouncing back and forth between 103 and 104.  I hadn’t slept in two nights because every time I dozed off, I would cough myself awake.  I was full of Mucinex DM (which for some reason f**ks me up worse than a fifth of anything), that prescription codeine cough syrup (sizzurp – as in sippin’ on some - for my ghetto readers), and both the Daywalker and Nightbreed varieties of the mighty –Quil.  I was out of my mind.  There was no hold on reality.  In short, I was more or less tripping my balls off. 
It was in this state that I decided that I should delve into my screener pile, in particular a killer stack that Wild Eye Releasing had sent me.  These guys really hooked me up.  They sent me a box of flicks including Hack Job and I Spill your Guts (which I’ve already reviewed here on SOC), a cool documentary about Rock and Roll Comics, a XXX Thriller parody from the 80’s that I’ll review when the time is right (meaning I’m holding onto it for viewing in Jimmy Bickert’s backyard drive-in), and the four flicks that would comprise my hallucinatory journey through low budget Nazi-sploitation, sexploitation, goths-ploitation, and ape-sploitation nirvana.  What follows is a chronicle of this whacked out odyssey as best as I could reconstruct it from my nearly illegible and incoherent notes.  Let the “ploitation” begin!
I started off with  Blitzkrieg: Escape From Stalag 69.  Hell yeah, Nazi time!  For the record, “Hell yeah, Nazi time!” is an exact quote from my notes.  It took up half of a page.  I worry about myself sometimes.  This is the flick I initially contacted Wild Eye about.  As I’m sure you Cellmates are aware, I love me some Nazisploitation.  I’ve waxed poetic about my love for Third Reich cinema before, so I’ll spare you.  With a few notable exceptions, however, it’s a subgenre that is sadly neglected these days, so I was truly stoked to discover a new addition to the annals of Nazi nastiness.  The first thing that struck me about Blitzkrieg was actually on the back of the box. This movie is 2 hours and 15 freakin’minutes long.  To the best of my knowledge, that makes it the longest Nazisploitation flick of all time.  Yes, Schindler’s List was longer, but that’s not the kind of exploitative, offensive Nazi flick we’re talking about here.
Synopsis: Enter Stalag 69, where torture is just the Beginning for this bloody band of Nazi Butchers! Germany, 1945. Stalag 69, a POW camp ruled by the sadistic SS commandant Helmet Schultz, is nothing but a blood-soaked playground for this perverse Nazi monster who uses his American, Russian, and British prisoners in cruel and ghastly biochemical weapons experiments. When a group of young, wanton USO girls are captured and fall into the hands of Schultz and his battalion of butchers, the brutality is turned up and the unsuspecting girls are gored, gouged and ground up - all for the pleasure of Schultz and his SS brothers and sisters. Now it's up to the rag-tag survivors of the camp to strike back against their captors and Escape from Stalag 69, alive or on a slab!
I came into the flick expecting all of the hallmarks of Nazisploitation, meaning nudity, torture, sleaze, and bad taste.  I definitely got all of that.  There are multiple castrations, flogging, nipple-ectomies, branding, humiliation, and various other tortures.  It also contains one of the greatest cinematic sequences of the past decade.  I won’t spoil it all, but it begins with an I Spit On Your Grave homage and ends with a bare ass naked woman running through the woods with a machine gun mowing down Nazis.  Read that sentence again.  If that isn’t enough to sell you on a movie, then the way your mind operates is completely foreign to me.  Violence and sleaze; check.
What I wasn’t expecting from this film was an actual story.  A lot of story.  A whole freakin’ lot of story.  This movie is HEAVY on the dialog.  For the most part it’s pretty well written, but it’s also pretty long winded.  As the movie progressed, however, I noticed something happening.  I was getting more and more into the story.  I knew exactly where it was going, but I couldn’t help but get swept up in it.  I don’t know if it was my altered state of mind or the deliberate way of building the plot, but I never had the urge to hit the fast forward button once in two and a quarter hours.  The last time a movie that long kept my attention that well was I Saw The Devil, and that was my #1 flick of last year.
The acting is all over the place in fact.  Some of the performances are outstanding.  Special credit goes to Tatyana Kot as Natasha.  She spends 90% of her screen time naked and being tortured.  This shoot had to be grueling for her, and she handles herself with a great intensity.  I enjoyed Steph Van Vlack as the sadistic Dr. Zuber a lot.  The very sexy Tammy Dalton was pretty good as Candice.  I sure do wish director Keith Crocker could have talked her into a nude scene, but I digress.  Then there are the others.  Charles Esser as Helmet Schultz fits in both the good and, um…”other” categories.  Sometimes he is so over the top that it seems like he thought he was in a comedy.  Other times he’s got such earnestness in his delivery that it’s obvious he’s playing it seriously.   It’s a really bizarre dichotomy that works…sometimes.  I’m not gonna name names, but aside from those I’ve mentioned, most of the actors and actresses in this flick either seem to be half asleep or are trying to chew straight through the scenery.  There’s no middle ground.  The mixture of the “upper and downer” acting schools makes these scenes the cinematic equivalent of a speedball.  Well, that may be stretching it.  A Jagerbomb perhaps.  Some of the best entertainment in the whole flick is watching them struggle with the various accents of this “international” cast of characters.
There is definitely some dopey moments here.  A 70’s style soul mama with a tramp stamp is doing in a WWII concentration camp comes to mind.  There’s also enough torture and sleaze to satisfy the prurient interests, enough of a story to engage those interested in plot, and enough camp appeal to make it all just plain fun.  Blitzkrieg is ambitious as hell in scope, and it succeeds to a point.  Yeah, it’s long, but it never stops being entertaining.  It’s dirty, sick fun with a little respectability thrown in; and it’s a worthy addition to anyone’s Nazisploitation collection. 
Next up I popped in The Disco Exorcist.  Right away I was torn on this flick.  On one hand, I’ve had just about enough fake film grain filters to last me for the rest of my natural life.  This flick is awash in digital attempting to look like analog.  It manages  better than many, but I still could do without it.  One strike.  On the other hand, it is a longstanding cornerstone of SOC film theory that, 9 times out of 10, boobs within the first minute of a movie means that I’m gonna like the flick. They actually occurred at 1:14, but let’s not get technical here.  At this point, my brain decided to argue with itself about what my expectations were for this film based on these two divergent facts.  Do boobs supercede fake grain, or vice versa?  This continued until the counter on the DVD player suddenly informed me that I was 20 minutes into the film and my brain was too busy debating with itself to register anything I had just seen.  Dammit.  Time to take more medicine (my mind can’t argue with itself if it can’t form coherent sentences) and restart the movie.
Synopsis: Suave swinger and womanizer Rex Romanski loves and leaves evil black magic priestess Rita Marie. Naturally, Rex incurs Rita's lethal wrath by spurning her. Can Rex figure out a way to stop Rita's subsequent rampage of revenge, murder, and destruction as well as reclaim the soul of his new porn starlet gal Amoreena Jones before it's too late?
Despite my not liking the fake grindhouse look of the flick, it didn’t take it long to win me over.  Whereas Blitzkrieg tried to at least put up a front of playing it straight, Disco Exorcist gets down and revels in its cheese and sleaze.  There is copious nudity, some fairly messy gore, and some truly inspired references to classic 70’s horror and exploitation cinema.  They honestly didn’t need the filters, because the art direction is spot on in capturing a 70’s low budget feel. 
Many of the cast members come from stage acting backgrounds, which would explain why the acting is of a much better quality than probably any other film in this little marathon.  Ruth Sullivan steals the show as the evil and vengeful Rita Marie.  That scene of her writhing around naked and bloody in the center of a pentagram is a thing of beauty.  I found myself wishing that this flick had backed off of the laughs a little at times and gone for some more actual horror moments; but she is genuinely creepy, pulling off the whole Fatal Attraction meets Witchcraft thing beautifully.  I’d love to see her in some straight up horror flicks. 
Basically, this movie is an exercise in bad taste, humor that is goofy without being too stupid, tits, gore, and lots and lots of sex.  Ladies, for those of you who complain about the female to male nudity ratio, there is a lot of swinging meat on display for you in this one.  I can see this being a great party movie.  I would have enjoyed it a lot more if they had left out the fake grain and those goddamn “scene missing” gags that I loathe so much, but that’s just my personal preference.  Disco Exorcist is fun.  That’s the best word I can think of to describe it.  Fun.  It feels like the filmmakers had fun making it, and I had fun watching it.

Wanna know how many severed thumbs up Blitzkrieg and Disco Exorcist get?  Wanna know where this insane afternoon of exploitation took me next?  Wanna hear about some gorilla rape and back-from-hell goth bashing?  Of course you do!  Well, you’re just gonna have to wait until tomorrow when The Wild Eye Fever Dream Marathon concludes.  Don’t you just hate cliffhangers?  Look at the bright side though, I’m not making you wait ‘til freakin’ February to see how this turns out like someone else we all know…

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