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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Gestapo's Last Orgy (1977) review


THE GESTAPOS LAST ORGY 1976 L'ULTIMA ORGIA DEL III REICH

Daniela Levy (Lise Cohen), Marc Loud (Conrad Von Starker), Maristella Greco (Alma)

Directed by Casare Canevari

The Short Version: Incredibly offensive and morally reprehensible entry in the mercifully short-lived naziploitation sub-genre that oozed out from the seedier side of the Italian film industry in a two year time span of 1976-1977. However, Canevari's movie attempts a bit more than just salacious perversions and outrageous sadism even though these occasional provocative moments are totally overshadowed by the films cavalcade of cruelty.

***WARNING! This review contains images of a sensitive nature that the easily offended may find disturbing***


Lise Cohen, one of many Jewish female prisoners held captive and tortured at Naugen, one of many Nazi death camps, survived by having a secret love affair with Nazi commandant, Conrad Von Starker. Unable to break her spirit, the Commandant fell in love with her. Years have passed and the war is over, but Lise still remembers the horrors she witnessed during that time. She decides to have one last secret meeting with Von Starker on the site of the former Nazi camp where thousands lost their lives.


From the director of the thoroughly bizarre spaghetti western MATALO! (1970), comes this thoroughly disgusting, occasionally poignant entry in the short-lived naziploitation sub-genre that "enjoyed" a mercifully brief run in the late 1970s between the years of 1976 and 1977. No doubt these films saw greater interest outside of Italy and Europe in general, they maintain a curious attraction for a small contingent of cult movie fans. Along with Bruno Mattei's shockingly well made WOMEN'S CAMP 119 (1976), Canevari's movie also displays some honest moments of professionalism even if the film is overpowered by its flood of unpleasantries with the centerpiece being an 11 minute sequence that still manages to disturb and would surely offend and shock those not accustomed to witnessing such movies.


The scene in question is the dinner scene. A group of Nazi doctors and military personnel gather for supper and to discuss the Final Solution. Numerous ideas are bandied about as to the most efficient method of racial genocide. The one that is ultimately decided upon is that those of the Hebrew race be herded in slaughterhouses and treated as cattle, butchered into cuts of meat to be consumed by members of the "New Germany". One Nazi doctor protests and is soundly excused from the room. This plot device of the sympathetic Nazi echoes John Rabe, a Nazi who stood up against the Japanese cruelty during WW2 and condemned much of the senseless violence to Hitler, himself.


There's also a minor subplot dealing with a doomed love affair between a female prisoner and a Nazi soldier that ends just how you'd expect. Sadly, the script doesn't find the time to dwell too long on this story arc.


The round table of Nazis get their first taste of this new food source and all seem to deeply enjoy the experience. Their pallets satiated, this prompts the ghoulish doctor who thought of the idea to pronounce, "There's nothing better than a pot roast of unborn Jew!" The women servants surrounding the table pass out from the sight of these deplorable people subjecting themselves to cannibalism. Having a warped epiphany, the sordid seven decide to pour the remains of the human roast over the naked body of this unconscious lass, then place her body inside a makeshift coffin, cover her in cognac and set her on fire! After feasting on this barbaric banquet, the group becomes sexually stimulated (every act of sadism resorts in arousal it seems). A Nazi enjoys one of the servants while fondling the charred and half eaten corpse of the cooked slave and Von Starker's first encounter with Lise sees him force her to orally satisfy him. Later in the film, she excites him by fellating the barrel of his Luger pistol!


It's not known if the Nazis resorted to, or experimented with cannibalism during the war, but the Japanese did gleefully feasting on the corpses of their captives. The male genitalia was of particular interest to the Japanese soldier believing the male member to increase virility. As the war came to an end, rations became thin and cannibalism was a means to satisfy hunger, but an imperial decree ordered that anyone Japanese caught eating his own would be executed. Canevari's movie is the only naziploitation movie that skirts the subject of cannibalism as part of the Final Solution.


The opening is also a potent sequence for different reasons as we watch Von Starker driving through the German countryside back to the scene of his crimes while audio from the Nuremberg war trials plays in the background. He drives to a remote location to pick up Lise, bearing a cold, emotionless visage. We learn in a dialog exchange that Lise was instrumental in getting Von Starker off during the court hearings. By the end of the movie we learn why, but it isn't difficult to surmise her reasons. They wander the grounds of the now deserted torture and indoctrination camp. Here is where the story begins. Lise finds a harmonica in the grass which prompts the flashback where we, the viewer, are subjected to a number of obscenities that cross the boundaries of good taste despite the film being strikingly well made at times.


The movie also has a strong air of political propaganda that is just as repellent as any of the ghastly images that are shown on screen. A group of naked Aryan men are shown a slide show demonstrating the supposed "inferiority" of Jewish women comparing them to sub-humans much in the same manner as the Japanese treatment of the Chinese. Von Starker details to them that several slides of two women in a '69' position are actually mother and daughter! Wishing to not be separated, it's stated that they were tied together and left that way till death! Another series of slides shows us a completely naked female who suffers from coprophagy. She's seen eating and wiping her body with excrement and even becoming sexually aroused by it. Intermixed with these shots are some of the men also becoming aroused at what they're seeing. However, the scene blurs whether or not the men are becoming excited because they're seeing images of a naked woman, or that she's enjoying covering herself in shit.


Prior to this, the sequence attempts some out of place and bewilderingly bad comic timing as the close up of a man's bare ass farts into the camera and another man, his arm in a cast, pokes his thumb into his buddy's rectum! After the slide show, the scene then turns into an overlong mass orgy as the men assault a line of naked Hebrew women. The dialog in this scene, like much of the imagery throughout, is repulsive and even more so that we see potential soldiers "programmed" to think and feel a certain way about a race of people. How ironic that Von Starker, in contrast to his tirades at how Jewish females are not deserving to live, that he should fall in love with Lise and that his emotional attachment to her is his undoing.


Canevari covers all the naziploitation bases here. The basic framework of the film is borrowed from Liliana Cavani's THE NIGHT PORTER (1974), about a death camp survivor entering into a sadomasochistic relationship with her nazi torturer. Some of the methods of death and suffering are taken from history, but the camera doesn't linger the way it does in other films. The editing by Enzo Monachesi is accomplished and shows just enough of the detestable acts to thoroughly upset the stomachs of viewers. Often we see intermittent shots of the cruelty wedged between quick shots of onlookers observing the carnage.


The script, like other Italian examples of this form, managed to squeeze in a character that closely resembles Ilsa Koche, most notoriously detailed in Don Edmond's ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS (1974) and its sequels. For Canevari's film, his Ilsa inspired character is named Alma. She enjoys feeding menstruating prisoners to her dobermans, and, like every other German in this movie, becomes aroused by the act. The script also contains some of the real Ilsa's vile activities such as the flaying of skin to make ornaments much in the way Wisconsin ghoul, Ed Gein did to a number of decayed corpses in the 1950s. The plot device of Lise's unbreakable spirit mirrors that of one of the women tortured profusely in Edmond's ILSA film.


Daniela Poggi, the actress playing Lise, appears to be the only person involved in this production to have survived the holocaust of Italian genre filmmaking going on to have a long career afterward. Adriano Micantoni as Von Starker also had a long career, but prior to this movie, which was his last. He was in a handful of forgettable sword and sandal movies and spaghetti western dreck. His small role in TRINITY IS STILL MY NAME (1971) is likely his most high profile picture.


If THE GESTAPO'S LAST ORGY (1977) isn't the most vile example of this lamentable sub-genre, it comes horrendously close frequently bordering on the pornographic and often mixed with repugnant acts of brutality. Not every scene elicits disgust, though, as the low budget is evident in one of the torture scenes where Lise is hung upside down completely naked (as usual) and threatened with having her head devoured by flesh hungry rats. As the camera closes in on the little devils, it's clear these aren't actually rats, but harmless gerbils. Overall, this production is a powerful, reprehensible viewing experience that puts many of the other naziploitation movies to shame.


Aside from its strong scenes of violence and occasional directorial flourishes, the film also benefits from a reasonably good score by Alberto Baldan Bembo. Some horror fans will likely want to skip over this movie considering the subject matter and its vintage, but the more brave exploitation frontiersmen out there will surely desire to track this one down. For Italian trash fans, viewing THE GESTAPO'S LAST ORGY is a no brainer. On video, the film was available from Magnum Entertainment as CALIGULA REINCARNATED AS HITLER and this version was also on DVD paired with WHITE SLAVE (1986 aka AMAZONIA: THE CATHERINE MILES STORY aka CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST 2). There are two different endings. The seemingly original ending is more Shakespearean in its tragedy and strangely preferable. An alternate ending goes on for four additional minutes and this ending is what's on this Exploitation Digital version. It should be noted, this ending is taken from a vastly faded tape source. Sadistic in the extreme, it's quite possibly the strongest, most powerful and easily one of the most well made films of its kind. That's a recommendation only to those possessing the strongest of constitutions and willingness to spend 94 minutes with one of the best examples of one of the least respectful sub-genres in cinema history.

This review is representative of the Exploitation Digital DVD


5 comments:

Shaun [The Celluloid Highway] said...

Excellent and enjoyable review Brian, your review is a lot more interesting than the film itself. Naturally this was banned as a 'Video Nasty' in the UK in the 1980's, though it was actually the lurid cover artwork of SS EXPERIMENT CAMP that did the most damage for this vile subgenre. I think the influence of Pasolini's SALO is also noticeable. I thought THE NIGHT PORTER was quite good.

Andrew Green said...

I can't believe this movie would be such a disappointment....
Everything about it seems to scream quality!

Fang Shih-yu said...

I saw a trailer for this with a set I got from Exploitation Digital (part of Media Blasters), and it was all I needed to see, venoms5! Faces of Death takes the "higher road", by comparison!

Who fianced this movie...the Vatican? ;o)

Samuel Wilson said...

Cannibal Nazisploitation! Only in Italy, venom,...only in Italy. Except somehow the idea doesn't seem consistent with Nazi ideals of purity. They'd probably feed Jews to Jews first. As for the rest of the genre, I've seen Ilsa and I think I've seen that Mattei film, but it wasn't that memorable. Still haven't worked up the courage for Salo, though.

venoms5 said...

@ Shaun: Thanks so much, Shaun. I do like this film and find it equally repulsive. In regards to the Italian films of this subject matter, I think this is likely the best of the bunch. According to Jay Slater's review of the film in his book EATEN ALIVE! ITALIAN CANNIBAL & ZOMBIE MOVIES, this is the only naziploitation flick to actually use the word "Jew" and the dialog referencing them is quite incendiary. I'll have to revisit some of these again when I get around to its 'Celluloid Sins' entry. Now that you mention it, the dinner scene especially recalls SALO.

@ Andrew: lol, yeah it does seem to try and have something to say about the Holocaust, but at the same time, it wants to exploit it, too. I have a flyer lying around somewhere that advertised its US VHS release from Magnum Entertainment.

@ Fang: I'm amazed this set went OOP so quickly. The single disc edition may still be available. Odd the single disc mentioned it was anamorphic and it's not. Even reviews for the disc state it's anamorphic but neither the single edition, or it's recent release with SS HELL CAMP and RED NIGHTS OF THE GESTAPO or anamorphic.

@ Sam: I wonder if the cannibalism aspect wasn't implemented by the release of Deodato's movie the year prior? Still, the Japanese did resort to cannibalism during the war, and even though it's not as widely discussed, what they did to the Chinese (and also the other POW nationalities) surpassed the horrors of the Nazi tortures in my view. Compared with Mattei's other movies, his WOMEN'S CAMP 119 is like GONE WITH THE WIND. Personally, I think ILSA is the best of these type of films.

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