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Kung Fu Christmas #3: Drunken Monkey

Posted by On December - 4 - 2010
Although I do have several reviews written, I was not able to get anything posted yesterday as you readers may have noticed! Unfortunately I left many of my reviews on another computer that I can’t get to right now. Such a bummer! Oh well, I do have this new-school meets old-school Liu Chia-Liang flick for everyone to enjoy today! Read on and discover Drunken Monkey!

The Plot: Bil Man (Lau Kar Leung, aka. Liu Chia-Liang) is a kung fu master who specializes in Monkeyish Fist, but during work hours he also happens to be the head of a successful delivery service. When Bil’s own brother turns against him, in order to make the delivery service into a trading post that doubles as a illegal opium den, he tries to murder Bil with the help of his new opium masters. Bil is severely beaten, but he manages to escape and find solace with his adopted daughter Siu Man (Shannon Yao). The two do well in hiding out, until the young Chan Ka-Yip (Lau Wing-Kin) and his grand-uncle Tak (Wu Jing), who is roughly the same exact age, find their hiding place and desperately want Bil Man to teach them Monkeyish Fist. You know, Chan Ka-Yip has the grand dream of drawing out an instructional booklet dedicated to Monkeyish Fist, but it will take a grand master to teach him the moves that he is missing. As these two bumbling fools stumble upon Bil, they also bring unnecessary attention that may very well jeopardize Bil’s new place in life!


Drunken Monkey

Posted by On December - 4 - 2010

Drunken Monkey (2002)
Director: Liu Chia-Liang
Writers: Keith Li
Starring: Wu Jing, Liu Chia-Liang, Gordon Liu, Wing-Kin Lau and Shannon Yao

The Plot: Bil Man (Lau Kar Leung, aka. Liu Chia-Liang) is a kung fu master who specializes in Monkeyish Fist, but during work hours he also happens to be the head of a successful delivery service. When Bil’s own brother turns against him, in order to make the delivery service into a trading post that doubles as a illegal opium den, he tries to murder Bil with the help of his new opium masters. Bil is severely beaten, but he manages to escape and find solace with his adopted daughter Siu Man (Shannon Yao). The two do well in hiding out, until the young Chan Ka-Yip (Lau Wing-Kin) and his grand-uncle Tak (Wu Jing), who is roughly the same exact age, find their hiding place and desperately want Bil Man to teach them Monkeyish Fist. You know, Chan Ka-Yip has the grand dream of drawing out an instructional booklet dedicated to Monkeyish Fist, but it will take a grand master to teach him the moves that he is missing. As these two bumbling fools stumble upon Bil, they also bring unnecessary attention that may very well jeopardize Bil’s new place in life!

The Review
Drunken Monkey is a title that has been on my to-watch list for years at this point. It was the first big martial arts film produced by the Shaw Bros. in a very long time, was directed by veteran Shaw Bros. director Liu Chia Liang (aka: Lau Kar Leung) and featured everyone’s favorite bald shaolin master: Gordon Liu! I am not sure what actually took me so long in getting around to finally watching the film, but now that I have done so I do regret putting it off for such a long time. Although Drunken Monkey isn’t likely to blow any minds due to its fairly cliche paternalistic nature, but this old-school meets new-school take on the kung fu genre makes for a fairly interesting watch. Liu Chia-Liang, who has been making films within the genre throughout all of the various changes that this field has seen, manages to craft an innovative and nostalgic tale that displays the finer points of each successive movement within the kung fu film genre.
Starting with the very opening of this film, it is very obvious that Liu Chia-Liang wants the audience to know that this is indeed a Shaw Brothers production. Mona Fong is once again producing and that familiar pattern of genre structure is in full force. Drunken Monkey opens with a demonstration from all of the main cast members in grand Shaw tradition, as they stand in front of a blank background while going through their martial arts movements. This new set isn’t quite as drab as the old Shaw openings used to be, as we get to see some really finely detailed props that read off the credits standing in the foreground that gives it a slightly modern feel in the midst of this celebration of retro styles. This intro is then slam cut next to a shot that features a very low canted angle, which is the sort of shot that defined the nineties in terms of martial art epics. These shots were so incredibly common in the Once Upon a Time in China series, Fong Sai Yuk and Iron Monkey, that once you see them you immediately know that this is a Hong Kong production and you can generally tell what era the film comes from.

The mix of old and new aesthetics goes strong throughout the film, as we see a broad mix of styles that makes the film seem as if it is throwing everything it possibly could at the audience. While the Shaw studio wasn’t primarily known for it, they did have many strong comedic kung fu films that came from their peak era. However, Liu Chia Liang obviously infuses both the tenacity and stoic honor of the more serious hero films of the film along with what I would consider more of a Golden Harvest era sense of slapstick comedy. The film often fluctuates in its seriousness. Although it is comedic for a great deal of its running time, Liang never lets his audience forget the fact that serious things are at foot here. The stuck-up little brat that looks to paint his monkey style kung fu pictures, played with annoyingly spectacular proficiency by Lau Wing-Kin, provides the primary form of comedy and he usually isn’t so over the top that it becomes unbearable. He and Wu Jing both get to try their hand at entertaining the audience, and while the movie doesn’t come close to finding that pitch perfect blend of action and comedy, the cast do a good job in playing the things that need to be straight, as straight, and those that need to be silly, as silly.
Liu Chia Liang, while not as exaggerated as his old rival Chang Cheh, did love his gimmicks as much as anyone. Drunken Monkey, if you didn’t already get it from the title, is another demonstration of drunken boxing as well as a demonstration for the monkey style of kung fu. Using the momentum for the re-release of Iron Monkey as well as the popularity of drunken style kung fu that was made so popular through Liu Chia Liang’s work on Legend of Drunken Master, Drunken Monkey definitely looked to cash in on the gimmickry of its concept. Within the realm of kung fu cinema this is not an offense mind you, because a good gimmick is the first step in setting your project apart from the masses. After all, we are in this for the escapism and pure entertainment that these massively orchestrated fight sequences provide us, and when the drama of these fights can be amplified through the use of some kind of ‘cool’ outside force: then why the heck not?

The fight sequences as you may can guess, with Liu Chia Liang at the helm, are fantastic. Although I had never really seen anything featuring Wu Jing before, I will definitely do a better job in keeping up with his career because he definitely has the charisma and the ability to be a big star. He shines in his role, consistently throwing out his toothy smile while he hams it up during the sillier moments, but is deadly serious whenever the fight sequences call for it. Liu Chia Liang himself has a large role in the film and although it is obvious that he is getting up in age, he still looks very good here! He doesn’t look a day older than he did in Legend of Drunken Master, and he is still able to move around in a nimble fashion that you can’t help but feel rather impressed by. Gordon Liu also shows up of course, but unfortunately the role can only be considered an extended cameo of sorts. It still goes without mention that he does a great job with what he has to do, he is Gordon Liu after all! The fight choreography is truly where the majority of the stars put in their best work, as they should, with Wu Jing standing out as the young and quick star making a name for himself. Shannon Yao is also very surprising in her role as Liu Chia Liang’s adopted daughter, and she really shows a tremendous amount of talent in order to keep up with all of these legends. The fight choreography itself is fast and brutal, with Liu Chia Liang and company employing a great many tricks from all facets of martial arts cinema. Including modern tricks such as playing with camera speeds and adding powder to the actors so that the punches have more impact. The choreography is extensive and shots go on for as long as they need to be. No fast cuts with two-moves slapped together and called fight choreography here, this is the real deal.

The Conclusion
Although it isn’t perfect and it suffers from being a bit cliche, Drunken Monkey is a very good modern martial arts film that pays homage to the legacy of the great filmmakers involved. I would definitely recommend it to Lau Kar-Leung fans looking to find something that hearkens back to his old days, as it does an excellent job in that department. I give the film a high three out of five stars. While I think it could possibly make it to a four out of five, for right now I have to say the cliche structure of the project might leave it feeling a bit old-hat despite how fun and nostalgic it can be.


Dinner With A Vampire

Posted by On November - 26 - 2010

Dinner With A Vampire (1987)
Director: Lamberto Bava
Writers: Lamberto Bava, Luciano Martino, Dardano Sacchetti
Starring: George Hilton, Patrizia Pellegrino and Riccardo Rossi

The Plot: When a local talent agency puts on an audition, several young people show up in order to grab a piece of the pie. Apparently the audition is for any and all entertainers, as we see an actress, a dancer, a singer and a comedian all show up to perform in order to gain access to a role in the famed Jurek’s (George Hilton) next feature film. Jurek is a rather creepy gentleman who has his own castle out in the far hills of Italy, where the four lucky winners (three young women and a young man) are invited to come stay. When they arrive, it turns out this might be a bit more than they expected. First they are shown a gruesome vampire film, and when Jurek finally arrives he seems more creepy than suave. As it turns out, Jurek is an immortal creature of the night! A vampire! Tired of his immortality, Jurek wants to die and he asks for this group of young people to attempt to kill him at some point during the night. Will they succeed or will they simply turn into another platter on Jurek’s dining table?

The Review
Although this may be a tad bit on the conceded side of things, but from what I have found on the internet with firsthand experience, I may be the most forefront Lamberto Bava apologist in all of the internet. Boastful? Hardly. I am unfortunately the one guy who apparently has a serious affection towards the man’s work, whether good or bad. Why do I like his films so much? That is a good question. I give this a lot of thought, but rarely come to a solid conclusion. Lamberto Bava is simply my kind of workman director. His projects look good, have flashes of brilliance and can really surprise you when they reach their very best moments. He, unlike Bruno Mattei or Claudio Fragrasso, has never seemed like an entirely talentless slob. Unfortunately in many of his very worst pictures it seems as if he folds over and gives in to budgetary or time restraints. Some of these films seem as if Bava had something bigger to say, but just didn’t have the time or money to do so. Dinner With A Vampire shares some of these elements to be sure, but this project was ostensibly doomed from the very beginning.

Part of a TV project from Lamberto Bava called “Brivido giallo”, there were four features made for television and Dinner With A Vampire was one of the final entries. Made on a low budget, even in eighties Italian exploitation terms, the movie does do a good job in hiding its limitations. Taking place within this castle, which I am sure was not cheap, really helps give the film some atmosphere. The very first thing you’ll notice when watching is how beautiful this castle really is. Every wall throughout is decorated in a different fashion, from textures carved in stone to the massive number of colors that make up the wallpaper. With sets like this, the movie can’t help but look good! Bava himself does a good job in handling the tension and keeps his camera movement fluid amidst all of this beautiful scenery. However, where the failures begin isn’t in the visual flow of the movie, instead it is the narrative. With any foreign film dubbed into English, you have to give a degree of leniency towards possible mistakes but I highly doubt those responsible for the dub could have helped in creating as infuriatingly stupid of characters as this film portrays.

I’ll start from the beginning. When we first meet Monica and Rita, they are introducing themselves to one another before going in for an audition. During this audition we get to see how dreadfully untalented our lead cast are, with Monica’s “dancing” really taking the cake for most pointless talent. Afterward we skip forward a week and apparently Monica and Rita have moved in together! Not only that, but after making the move in just one week they have their phone line established and have already given their new phone number to the talent agency because they soon receive a phone call on behalf of Jurek who wants both girls to come stay at his castle. Right off the bat, this logic hit me as being “wrong” and from there on out I found the film more and more difficult to really get into. Bava seems to try and manage camp comedy and serious bloody horror, but the mix never seems exactly right. Instead the comedy comes off as forced and annoying, especially due to the character of Gianni who is essentially your run of the mill Friday the 13th “smart-alec” type of character. This time around though, the smart alec doesn’t receive a quick death but instead has to become one of our strongest heroes.

George Hilton would probably be the strongest member of the cast. Although many of us are used to him playing the stoic cowboy in many of his Westerns, here he gets to cut loose and provides easily the most interesting role I have ever seen him play. He chews scenery at every given turn, and consistently remains over the top in the role. His being the most interesting part about the cast isn’t really the compliment that it could be, considering the caliber of players he is cast opposite to, but Hilton did manage to provide a good number of the laughs that I had with the picture. His second in command, a reluctant helper who dreams of escaping the castle, also provides a memorable turn. However, I think the only reason I even mention the character is due to the poor Transylvanian accent that he puts on. This could have been a dubbing choice, but I have to side with whoever made that decision because it is easily the funniest aspect of the movie.

There are moments of decent gore, more than one would expect from a made for TV project, but it isn’t enough to really save the project from its own genre-film dependency on cliche material. The FX work ranges, from very good to utterly atrocious. The creature FX for Jurek when he is fully transformed, it is quite phenomenal for a low budget project like this. I was almost blown away by how good the Jurek monster looked. However, in every other way the creature makeup is very plain. I am not usually one to complain about how terrible vampire fangs are in any given movie, but there are some really bad fang-effects in this one. You can get a slight taste of it in the above picture of Hilton exposing his fangs.

The Conclusion
Although I am a big fan of Lamberto Bava, this was one that even I could not defend all that much. Bland in every facet that doesn’t revolve around George Hilton, I was left quite bored throughout the majority of the picture. For a Lamberto Bava completest, this is probably worth tracking down but if you’re simply a vampire movie fanatic you can avoid this one. I give the film a two out of five.


Raiders of Atlantis

Posted by On November - 20 - 2010

The Plot: Our film opens in the distant future of 1994, where we follow mercenaries Mike (Christopher Connelly) and Mohammed (Tony King) as they are paid by a colonel to kill a man for $50,000. After pulling this job successfully, the two plan on getting away and heading to Trinidad until the heat blows over. At the same time, we follow Dr. Cathy Rollins (Gioia Scola), a expert in pre-Colombian dialects, who is brought aboard a rig located in the Atlantic ocean. She is brought in by the US government who has placed Dr. Saunders (George Hilton) responsible for her. Saunders asks Rollins to decipher a tablet that is dated over 12,000 years old and was recently found on the ocean’s floor. After some quick research, Dr. Rollins decides that this tablet could very well prove the existence of Atlantis itself! When the scientists begin diving for more research and using a submarine to possibly lift Atlantis, the great underwater paradise rises from the ocean’s floor. When it rises, the rig is destroyed and leaves Dr. Rollins and a select few stranded. Mike and Mohammed, on their way to Trinidad, find them floating and soon this group is off and traveling. They stumble upon San Pedro island where Manuel, Mike’s friend and guide, goes insane and tries to kill them. On San Pedro, the island has been turned into a war zone, bodies are strung up on buildings, and the streets are empty. A gang known as The Interceptors are killing off the entire population. Now Mike, Mohammed and the two doctors have to find a way to survive and put an end to this curse from Atlantis!

The Review
Ruggero Deodato is a filmmaker of special interest to me. He seems to be a filmmaker who always wanted to do more and make films that were better than his particular staple of genre cinema, but failed more often than not. With that said, his films are almost always genuine in their entertainment value and he has never delved completely into hack territory from what I have seen (and I have seen more than your common fan). Deodato’s main calling card has always been and always will be his greatest success: Cannibal Holocaust, but his filmography is littered with works of interest for fans of Italian trash cinema. With even his worst films, such as the dreadful Body Count, his work had a viable atmosphere that retained at least some level of respectability. Between the years 1980-1985, Deodato made his greatest and most consistent string of films. With Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park, Raiders of Atlantis and Cut & Run Deodato ostensibly solidified his name in the pantheon of great Italian genre filmmakers. Looking at this list of films, I absolutely see that with each successive film his work was becoming more and more diluted, but Raiders of Atlantis catches Deodato before the well had gone completely dry.

While Cut & Run is likely my least favorite of this impressive run, I give it credit for its rather clear narrative comportment. With Raiders of Atlantis, a film I find infinitely more entertaining, I can not deny how utterly ridiculous this whole project is. From a critical standpoint, no this is not a “good” movie. The special effects are laughable, some of the acting is atrocious and the general plot is made up entirely of head scratching moments that deny probability. Yet, when this movie finally decides to get up and start moving, it does so with a unabashed sense of urgency that can’t be denied. The first half of Raiders of Atlantis is comprised of establishing information primarily, but it still comes off entirely as fluff. We know next to nothing about the characters of Mike Hall or his companion Mohammed/Washington, despite their being our leads. So, it becomes rather difficult to say that the first half is dedicated to character exposition when we aren’t entirely sure what it is that our lead characters do for a living. It is obvious that we watch Mohammed and Mike commit murder and we see them collect money for doing so, apparently from a colonel, but how did they get wrapped up in this business? Are they mercenaries? What has happened with these men to have lead them to this? Do they have families? How long have they been doing this? Are they cruel? There is very little time spent explaining who these men are, despite it being crucial in understanding the characters.

Raiders of Atlantis is a rare combination of post-apocalyptic stereotypes, some jungle survival and science fiction mystery. Taking place eleven years in the future (why 1994?), the film attempts to grab the audience with its science fiction angle early on. This ultimately fails because setting your movie in such a near-future doesn’t show much change in the landscape. Maybe military killings, such as the one Mike and Mohammed commit, are the usual in this near-future? Well, if that were true I suppose our two heroes would have no need to run off into hiding. It is interesting that we ultimately get to “see” the process of this apocalypse, as opposed to a film being set in the distant future where gangs already traverse the landscape. That unfortunately doesn’t make up for this bizarre version of 1994 that looks a LOT like 1983. No, I’m afraid there isn’t much special about this future world, other than Atlantis being dug up. Mentioning the inevitable rise of Atlantis brings up another inconsistency in the movie that becomes apparent early on, because now I have to mention the special FX work.

Deodato reveals his lack of technique in the world of science fiction as we see Atlantis raised from the bed of the ocean. A director more experienced in this form of special FX may have been able to save some of these scenes, but as it is Raiders… features some of the absolute worst miniature FX on record. You begin to understand how brilliant a filmmaker Ishiro Honda was, that his Godzilla movies and giant monster flicks could still look so good fifty years later, when a movie made recently in comparison could look so awful. In the book Cannibal Holocaust and the Savage Cinema of Ruggero Deodato, the writers correctly described the FX work as “boat in a bath tub stuff”. The “waves” that come rushing towards the camera have no frothy edge to them like you would expect in such a mammoth tidal wave, the props are lacking in detail and the sequences overall come across as embarrassing. Still, for b-movie fans looking for a laugh, there are plenty to be had here.

In completely opposite fashion however, Deodato delivers some of the best action set pieces I have ever seen in an Italian film. There is a great chase sequence that takes place on a bus as our leading man tries to evade a helicopter, but it enters into the realm of ridiculous Jackie Chan style stunt work as we see the character of Mike having to climb on top of the speeding bus in order to shoot down the helicopter. We also see an assassin jumping FROM the helicopter on to the speeding bus in courageous fashion. If that was not daring enough, Mike also has to climb aboard a moving helicopter from atop the parked bus just a few short minutes later. This is simply one sequence in a second half that is filled to the brim with shootouts and various moments of gore thrown in to spruce things up. The gore shouldn’t be overhyped, this being a film from Mr. Cannibal Holocaust himself, but there are a few choice moments throughout; including a excellent decapitation as well as an arrow through the throat.

The Conclusion
There are other interesting aspects I should probably cover. The film features George Hilton in a supporting role, and despite the fact that he doesn’t get to do a whole lot he still manages to be his charismatic self. The backdrops that Deodato shoots in are also pretty amazing and he does a swell job in making San Pedro appear as a nightmarish post-war landscape using very few sets. The bits that ultimately take place on Atlantis, a landscape that deeply resembles the Amazon, are equally as amazing to look at. The general plot for this one might not make sense from even the most basic of points, but all of the tiny little things add up to an entertaining ninety minutes that really shouldn’t be passed up by Eurocult fans. I give it a solid three out of five that teeters on the edge of a four. Definitely check this one out!


SS Girls

Posted by On November - 15 - 2010

Written for Varied Celluloid by Prof. Aglaophotis!

The Plot: It’s war in the 1940’s. The efforts of the Third Reich are being threatened by traitors amongst their ranks. Nazi General Berger is ordered to assign the eccentric Count Hans Schellenberg to assemble a crack team of prostitutes, trained to have sex under any condition and convert his manor into the private brothel Blumenstrauss. It is here in Blumenstrauss that the conspirators are treated to countless delights, to lure them into admitting their turn-coat ways prompting their immediate execution. However, the love blossoming between the hostess and Schellenberg is starting to rub Schellenberg’s ex-flame Frau Inge the wrong way. Will Blumenstrauss continue to stand against the love triangle inside or will it collapse at the end of the war?

The Review
Of what few Nazisploitation movies I’ve seen, I can honestly say SS Girls is one of the most unique. That may sound awkward considering that the premise behind SS Girls has been done before (Nazis rooting traitors out through sex), but its presentation is unlike any other I’ve seen. It isn’t dark and cruel, it isn’t straight forward and serious. No, SS Girls is actually… kind of funny.

SS Girls is the kind of movie that you can imagine being adapted from a comic book because its so zany, over-acted and sexual that it almost mocks the theme of the sub-genre it’s in. Hans Schellenberg is a thoroughly funny and cartoonish character brought to life by Gabrielle Carrara’s attention to physical acting, his enormous Scicilian grin and wild, beady eyes (as well as an almost Joker-esque dub actor). Despite this, he has his intense moments too, particularly when he’s confronted by Frau Inge about their past relationship. Every character in the movie is very much like Hans, though; everyone has either a very humorous or light attribute about them that adds to the movie’s overall theme of silliness and seriousness. There’s one character who is known for mutilating people indiscriminately and mixing women’s blood with his cognac, but rather than coming across as scary he’s just plain nutty. That’s not even getting to his sidekicks, which consists of Crazy Kurt from Women’s Camp 119 and a Japanese Imperial soldier with a Sharpie Swastika on his head band named Wang!

Being a B-Movie lover, I feel the need to point out a familiar face in this movie. If your a fan of Strike Commando, Exterminators of the Year 3000 or Yor: Hunter from the Future, then the character of Prof. Jurgen will look awfully familiar. Just picture him with a scruffy beard and he’ll look just like Le Due/Papillion/Pag. Yep, Luciano Pigozzi is in this movie! He’s actually not too bad in the movie, though it’s probably the most serious role I’ve seen him in so far.

I think the only character who isn’t light or humorous in the movie is Ivano Staccioli who is once again playing a straight-laced high-ranking Nazi officer. He is a lot more animated and shows a lot more range in this than in Women’s Camp 119, so there’s still some fun to him. Plus, I think Bruno Mattei realized how classy this guy looks playing piano because he has Ivano doing the same here as he did in Women’s Camp… although here he’s smoking a cigarette while a drunk Flapper in a sheer dress dances on top of it. Funny enough a lot of actors and actresses showed up here from Women’s Camp: Gota Gobert, probably the only German performer in the whole movie, shows up again though she doesn’t get the best line in the movie this time… in fact, I don’t think she has any lines. She doesn’t even beat anyone up! Marina Daunia is really good in this movie as she brings a lot of intensity and power to the role and still manages to come across as being a longing and sexual person. Yet in Women’s Camp 119 Daunia’s role amassed to a Jewish prisoner who had maybe one line, a few staring shots and some lip syncing… before her character got shot in the head. Even the random Nazi Doctor in the poison bullet scene from Women’s Camp showed up in this as a groping butler. This use of actors reminds me of when I was doing High School plays and the class would be split into two groups performing the same play, but no one played the same character.

The movie is pretty well shot; it has its signature Mattei extreme close-ups and overall smooth camera work to it. Granted, the cinematography isn’t on the same level as say, Andrezej Zulawski; there’s nothing really impressive and the camera tends to go over a few rough pans, but the man knew where to point the camera and that shows here. I think the only time the lighting and shots don’t match up is when Magal is strip teasing in a room lit by red light, but once we get a close-up of her the red light is barely there. The setting is also very good, there’s a lot of fairly impressive architecture, almost like the crew traveled to Loire Valley, found and furnished one of its many lost castles and filmed Nazi Porn there.

The props in this movie are pretty neat, especially the ones made specifically for the film. Ever seen a Nazi Pope? You will if you see this movie! There’s even this ridiculous sexual Training Montage (guest starring Salvatore Baccaro again) where a woman is having sex with a… uh… I actually have no idea what she’s having sex with. It looks like a starved prisoner of war who is literally just skin and bones making him look like a huge special effect… but its head is moving perfectly and actually looks like a human head attached to the skin and bones body! Speaking of which… there is some bestiality in the movie. Nothing overt mind you, just a bunch of very happy looking dogs laying on top of naked women as they caress their coats. Sadly, the sex can get a little tedious here and there, like one scene where Magall and Daunia are making out during a thunder storm and the scene feels like it goes on for ten minutes. The girls are VERY sexy, though. They found some very lovely looking ladies to be nude in the movie, though if you’re not a fan of overgrown bush… be prepared to see several small forests.

Typical of Bruno Mattei there is a fair share of stock footage, although it’s actually fairly seamless. The stock footage soldiers, complying to their Captain’s orders against on-coming tanks, matches pretty well. For a moment I was actually under the impression that this movie had a budget beyond Nazi uniforms! The stock footage soldiers and action started to bust open when the soldiers attack the Russians in the ruins of a village and the only authentic footage is of the Captain shooting wildly at the camera (in front of a chain link fence that looks like someone’s backyard).

Once again, this being a Mattei film, this movie has a great soundtrack. The score – composed by Gianni Marchetti – mostly consists of saucy Italian Jazz with just a hint of Bossa. The soundtrack makes every scene sexy, intense and overall delicious with its combination of playful female vocals, harmonicas, piano tunes and guitar strings.

Sadly, as much fun as I had watching this movie, I can’t bring myself to give it full credit. I’ve watched enough Nazisploitation films to get the idea that many clichés were required, seeing how most Italian exploitation movies were knock-offs and unofficial sequels anyway. Also, considering this is WWII we’re talking about, most of the time the movie won’t have a happy ending and I get that. However, did THIS Nazisploitation movie need such a depressing ending? Halfway through, the zany sexiness just peters out; it’s like the movie suddenly remembered it was taking place in WWII and realized it needed to be more realistic. Suddenly, characters who seemed so confident or comical break down and become so overly serious and remorseful that they simultaneously become irrational. Hell, even the hookers hop aboard the Irrationally Depressed Nonsense Train when they have no real reason to be depressed in the first place!!

I keep getting the feeling that Bruno needed to give Ivano Staccioli’s characters more back story; it’s like Bruno kept looking at the guy and saying ‘your character will change EVERYTHING in the end’ and Ivano just quirked an eyebrow and shrugged as if to say ‘Sure thing, boss.’ Ivano’s character does have more reason for his actions here than Women’s Camp 119, but it’s still abrupt and hollow. Besides, in Women’s Camp 119 it was thematically appropriate because the movie was dark and depressing to begin with, but this one was the exact opposite. Not that I really wanted a completely upbeat ending – I know not all stories about WWII ended lightly – all I’m asking for is a little consistency.

This review covers the release done by Exploitation Digital. The transfer is pretty good and viewable, although the other source material used to present the movie as it was meant to be seen is a little off. There’s a scene near the end where Ivano’s character shoots an injured soldier and the only line he says is muted much like the deleted scenes in Red Nights of the Gestapo. I’m assuming the line was muted to cover up the original Italian dialogue, yet the ending of the movie leaves the original Italian dialogue in place. It’s too bad they never dubbed it, the last lines would’ve been perfect if they were dubbed… glad I know a little Italian.

I’m going to check out the Shriek Show release of SS Girls, though, because apparently this one is missing a few scenes: much like the DVD releases for Trick or Treat and The Serpent and the Rainbow, the back of the box features two screen shots that aren’t shown in the movie, one of the executioner laughing his head off and the other of the Crazy Kurt guy pointing a revolver at Gabrielle Carrara. There is a pretty good interview with Bruno Mattei on it though, most of which he spends talking about his inspiration for SS Girls and how the Nazisploitation craze sprung up in the first place.

The Conclusion
Well, as much as I practically despise the padding and out-of-place ending of this movie, I honestly can’t help but recommend SS Girls because let’s face it: with movies like Women’s Camp 119 and The Gestapo’s Last Orgy, a sub-genre of exploitation this cruel NEEDS a movie as fun as SS Girls. It’s a well shot, funny, sexy romp into Exploitation. Trust me, it’s the most fun you’ll have in this sub-genre.




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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.