REVIEW SUBMITTED BY PROF. AGLAOPHOTIS
The movie begins post-World War II. An ex-Major to the Third Reich, Conrad von Starker, meets with a stoic young woman named Lise Cohen which he reveals to have had a relationship with. The two drive to the remains of a women’s concentration camp known as Naugen where they start to have collective flashbacks of the events that lead them to have a relationship. As it turns out, Lise was one of the prisoners there and the camp was being used as makeshift brothel for the soldiers before they returned to the front, the prettiest prisoners being used for sexual purposes. Despite the death and sleaze around her, Lise remains unafraid about her incarceration; no matter what is happening, who is getting killed or how, Lise is ready for death. Conrad von Starker notices Lise’s behavior and is enraged by her attitude: being the Commander of the camp, von Starker feels in control of the prisoner’s lives and having someone who wishes for death when it benefits them is against his ruling. He puts it upon himself to do whatever it takes to make Lise fearful of death, all the while the events building up to the eventual relationship between the two and what has really brought the two together at the camp one last time.
Well this was unexpected blow to my exploitation loving heart: a Nazisploitation sex drama complete with character development and artistic narration amidst the fascist murder and cruelty. It feels strange rating an Exploitation movie on the same merits as a movie that feels almost mainstream in its craft, acting and writing. I’m almost stunned. Well, I can safely start out by saying that as both a Drama and an Exploitation film, Last Orgy is average between the two, both melded together by fantastic cinematography, an oddly soothing soundtrack and an even stranger uplifting presentation that makes this a pretty original film, if not interesting. Before I go any further though, I need to point one thing out: This movie has nothing to do with the Gestapo. I may have bashed on Red Nights of the Gestapo, but at least that was actually about the Gestapo! The Gestapo only gets mentioned once in dialogue, but there’s not a single undercover Nazi cop in this movie.
As suggested, the film doubles as a character study, almost in the same way that Don’t Go in the House
did. We follow the flashbacks of the young Lise as she quite bravely confronts the sleaze and danger around her as well as the back story as to how she came to be like this. It’s interesting watching her character develop, though at times it’s easy to see her as being a stoic and uncaring person; later on when she finally starts to pass from her previous phase, she only becomes more stoic and less sympathetic to those who showed concern for her than she did before. I kept having to remind myself as to why she did this, but I kind of hoped the movie would have subtle hints at the reminder as well.
The character of Conrad von Starker is your typical Nazi camp Commandant: when he’s not waxing warped philosophy, he’s complaining about how he’s become a pimp for the Third Reich and how he wants to return to the front and fight alongside his men. His role as sadist and a lover are separate though: as a lover he actually shows some signs of depth like when he finally realizes just how far he’ll go to make his relationship with Lise last. As a sadist though… he’s a little goofy, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
Then of course there’s the requisite doctor character, this taking place in a prison camp and all. Doctor Kerning is probably the best character in the movie… Hell, he even has the best lines in it! What’s funny to me is that his character is stereotypical to the Nazispolitation genre and even with Men Behind the Sun
: there was the sympathetic doctor collaborating with a fascist Regime against his bioethical judgment. He doesn’t carry as much intensity and graveness as Dr. Meisel nor is he as cunning as the nameless assistant to Dr. Kratsch from SS Hell Camp
, but he’s very charismatic and serves a major role in the transition to Lise’s character and even her own theme song. Yet after doing so, the whole movie takes a far more passive tone and immediately shifts to an eccentric love story between Lise and Not Dr. Kerning.
The film stock is pretty clear for the most part, but the entire movie has this weird BBC feel to it. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but it feels like it needed British accents and silly special effects. Otherwise, the cinematography is pretty damn good with a lot of uniquely placed camera angles, well-done zoom-ins and close-ups. I don’t quite know what to think of the sets and locations though. Naugen looks more like a farm than a stalag with only a few rustic interior shots even remotely similar to a camp. Some of the memorial graffiti shown in the present time does make the location look a little authentic. What throws me off about the sets though is Starker’s living quarters; I don’t find the decadence of a Nazi Officer’s quarters in a concentration camp too unbelievable, but Starker’s is so overly decorated in marble and elaborate moulding it looks more like a mansion bedroom! Who the Hell would build THAT at a concentration camp?! Was that a completely different area all together? I’m guessing so, because the film keeps showing us a castle island in the flashbacks, but none of the characters are shown entering it.
Most people remember this movie for the infamous dinner scene and I can see why: it has a great set-up and it’s incredibly well shot and sleazy. The dinner scene also has one character-actor playing an insane professor who is absolutely golden. The actor’s performance is villainous, grandiose, charismatic and hilarious; the only way the performance could’ve been any more glorious is if Gabrielle Carrara was playing the role. Sadly the dinner scene is hampered by a few things.
What gets to me about the dinner scene is that the main course could have been anything. It’s disturbing thinking about what it’s said to be, but we don’t actually get much evidence of it… which is nothing a trip to the Dollar Store wouldn’t have fixed. I’m guessing the director felt the same way, though, which explains why the scene takes a much more brutal turn and plays out as if Donny Kohler hosted dinner parties. Granted, if this were Don’t Go in the House
, then Tom Brumberger would be around, meaning the burn effects would actually look creepy. I’m sorry, but as much as fat and skin shifts when burned, I kind of doubt cleavage would curl upwards like bananas!! Also, I don’t think using just drinking alcohol would ignite an entire human body like that; yeah, it was a lot of whiskey, but the liquor has to be 1.01 proof in order to double as an accelerant. What, you didn’t have an oil lamp hanging around?
There is this odd segment throughout the flashbacks and present time where characters from the past are being lead through the present scene by boat, controlled by some old guy in seventies civies. It’s actually a little distracting when this happens because it’s hard to tell if it’s happening in the past or present; from an artistic perspective, I guess it’s not supposed to really be happening, the story is just introducing us to a new emotional state for the heroine or a new character is being remembered. I just couldn’t get used to it though, kept asking myself ‘Who the Hell is that old guy in the boat?” What made this all the more confusing is the fact that both Starker and Lise look almost exactly the same age in both flashback and present time; the only difference is the slight change in hair color. It makes it hard to tell when everything is a flashback and when it’s a more surreal shot. Also, the scale of time feels a little off in the movie because Starker is seen driving a ‘60’s Mercedes, but he mentions a long five years since his trail… eh, I’m looking into this too hard.
I can say though that the brutality in this movie is a little off. At moments it can be brutal and crazy, but never brutal and crazy enough. The darkest the movie gets is early on when we see female prisoners being put to death in the furnaces and a pregnant woman is among those who are killed. Beyond that, there’s not much else to elevate the brutality, but the movie keeps trying. The chief Kapo Alma (Maristella Greco) keeps a group of dogs at the camp who are trained to eat women who are menstruating, but the mauling scene is so chopped-up and gentle-looking they might as well have just thrown in the ‘dangerous’ German Shepherd from Cabin Fever
into the pen!
It is impressive watching a Nazisploitation movie that doesn’t resort to stock footage. Actually, neither did Red Nights of Gestapo
; I guess if it’s got the word Gestapo in it, then the filmmakers won’t try to put in stock footage. Also, much like that movie, Last Orgy
does have its own theme song complete with lyrics, or character theme song. It’s pretty good and only serves to highlight the already effective soundtrack… well, mostly effective. At times, the soundtrack uses violins and guitars really well, especially when Lise’s character develops; its all very peaceful and very nice and calming. At times, the violins emphasize on the appropriate sadness surrounding the camp, but it rarely sounds dark or dangerous; the only time the soundtrack ever sounds that way is in Alma’s theme… which is barely a minute long. The rest of the music, I don’t know… the scenes where the Nazis are being cruel to the prisoners mostly consist of bombastic drumming and trumpets. In context I guess it’s a decent balance, but when it’s played during the film’s first orgy scene, it’s actually kind of funny.
The movie just drips with sleaze, so I’ll give it that credit. There’s tons of uncomfortable nudity in the film and quite a bit of abuse, though like I said, it never quite goes far enough. The aforementioned first orgy is unintentionally funny, not just because of the music score, but because it’s got quite a sense of humor to it all: it opens up with a bunch of naked Nazi soldiers lined up which is ample opportunity for the filmmakers to cut to close-up of one of their butts just as he farts.
Let me give you some time for that to sink in.
Then the soldiers are subjected to a slideshow of different women doing sexually perverted things, one of which consisting of scat porn… or some really mess milk chocolate. The soldiers are then ordered to jump and rape several of the young camp arrivals, but by that point I was still recovering from laughter.
What I love about the torture scenes is just how gentle and surprisingly inventive most of them can be. There’s a scene where the Commandant threatens to force Lise’s face into a terrarium full of rats, but they’re not really rats… they’re mice! Simple, tiny as Hell, pet store mice! They aren’t even Satin Mice for Christ’s sake; at least those grow a little big. They could only be less intimidating if they were hamsters! Alma seems to be the only real form of brutality in the movie; there is a cool looking mustachioed Nazi officer (who kind of looks like one of my best buddies if he were in his forties) who beats some of the women, but half way through the movie the evil bastard is just forgotten about. Aside from the rather bland dog mauling, Alma later reveals her hobby of turning human body parts into clothing and furniture, but one of them consists of a lampshade made from the skin of a man’s chest (complete with nipple) women’s underwear made from women’s hair! Damn, now I guess I know where all those Master of the Universe guys got their underpants from. Unfortunately, that’s as far as it goes! I’m serious, there’s nothing else beyond that! The family from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre had furniture made out of assorted species’ bone… and a skin lamp shade is the grossest she can come up with?
The brutality of the movie consists of Torture Porn and really, that’s all it comes down to. The movie suggests child brutality along the same line as Women’s Camp 119
, SS Hell Camp
or Men Behind the Sun
, but unlike those movies we don’t actually see it happen or see the end result… it’s suggested, but we don’t really KNOW that. Considering how farm-like the camp looks, maybe it was just forced labor.
The Shriek Show DVD features something I didn’t quite expect for an Italian movie or even a Nazisploitation movie for that matter: the movie in its original Italian audio release! This was actually quite a treat because it allows the viewer to juxtapose the audible performances between dubbed and original. Plus, it makes the review easier to note on the actor’s performances when you actually hear the original language they speak in. That said, the original Italian audio makes many of the performances much more effective: Maristella Greco sounds incredibly sexy and sinister and Adriano Micantoni sounds just right in that gruff authoritative way. Maybe because, as good as his English dub actor is, I kept expecting him to say ‘boy-howdy’ with every exclamation.
I still feel awkward rating this one. Maybe I’m just overly expectant when it comes to the genre to see dark and violent sleaze, but this one is comparatively less graphic. The most graphic it ever gets are the S&M orgy and the dinner burning scenes which, as I suggested, are partly laughable. However, I have to say that it’s a very well shot and cleverly written movie that not only delivers the nudity, but also the sleaze. It’s a unique combination, so overall, check it out.