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  • Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69

    Posted in: Disc Reviews by David Annandale on April 12th, 2009

    Overall
    Features
    Film
    Video
    Audio
    (out of 5)

    The sleaze of the grindhouse era inspires a special kind of love. Warped, dubious, indefensible, yet real all the same. Part of that love is a nostalgia from those bad old days. But it takes an even more special brand of that special love to seek to recreate forgotten exploitation genres, and yet that is what we have here: the first Nazisploitation flick in close to thirty years.

    With Nazi hunters closing in, former SS commandant Helmut Schultz recounts to a priest his activities as the ruler of Stalag 69. In the closing days of the war, he performs terrible scientific experiments, along with the expected torture, on an international (and co-ed) group of POWs. Said prisoners, meanwhile, plot their escape and their revenge.

    So here we are, back in the underbelly of cinema that gifted us with the likes of Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, though on a budget that makes the Ilsa films look like Schindler’s List. In point of fact, the suburban rec-room aesthetic of a number of the sets put me in mind of a strange bit of She-Devils of the SS – not the Erwin Dietrich film from 1973, but zero-budgeted bit of VHS flotsam from the 80s, that I’ll be damned if I can find out anything about. At any rate, writer/producer/director Keith J. Crocker revisits all the sex and violence of the subgenre, but adds both length and campy humour. Clocking in at an astounding 135 minutes, Blitzkrieg is half again as long as its models, and that’s a very long time indeed. The humour, meanwhile, has the effect of transforming the film into a torture porn version of ‘Allo ‘Allo. The wisdom of such a move is debatable. Are we then supposed to be laughing at the mutilated women on display? Not even Ilsa, The Wicked Warden raised that problem. I can’t help but admire the enthusiasm and energy that went into this project, and I applaud its perverse affections, but I also cannot help but wish a greater self-awareness were present as well.

    Video

    This is, when one gets right down to it, an amateur production, so it would be unfair to berate its technical shortcomings too harshly. And when it comes to the picture, at least, it has to be said that those shortcomings are fairly minimal. The non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen image is relatively free of grain, bearing in mind that the film was shot on 16 mm. Yes, there is some rawness here, an noticeable pixelation, but the picture is quite watchable, and with strong colours.

    Audio

    Things are much rougher here, with lots of harsh buzzing of the dialogue. Even worse, at least one scene has a sound mix so muddy and botched that it is almost completely unintelligible. I don’t think this is a problem of the transfer as such, but whatever the reason, listening to the film is a fairly painful experience.

    Commentary track: The participants are Crocker, production designer Keith Maturro, and star Tatyana Kot. They’re a cheery bunch, with plenty of stories that reveal quite a bit about the nature of low-budget filmmaking, but was it necessary to shout quite so much?

    Special Features

    Nazis Over Nassau: (30:12) The independent film equivalent of the standard promo featurette. One gets the sense that there were more ambitious ideas about what the film was about than are actually conveyed by the finished product.

    Cast and Crew Q&A from the NYC Premiere: (30:18) This is mostly Crocker holding forth. It does look like a good time was had by all, and the glee is rather infectious.

    Schindler’s Lust Trailer: (7:12) A black and white piece that was the initial conception for the film.

    Bloopers: (5:46). Poor Kot rarely has her clothes on in these.

    16 mm Test Footage: (5:28) More black and white shots.

    Deleted Scenes: (5:49) Four of them, featuring a killer ape.

    Production Stills.

    Trailers for Blitzkrieg and The Bloody Ape.

    Final Thoughts

    I’m afraid I left the most alarming news for last: there is an approving blurb on the back cover from none other than Uwe Boll. This is not a sign that the apocalypse is near. It is the plain evidence that the end has arrived.

    Posted In: 1.85:1 Widescreen, Action, Disc Reviews, Dolby Digital 2.0 (English), Drama, DVD, Mature, Wild Eye

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