The 25th Reich (2012)
By: Fin H. on September 12, 2013 | Comments
Monster Pictures | Region B | 2.35:1, 1080p | English DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 84 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Stephen Amis
Starring: Jim Knobeloch, Serge De Nardo, Angelo Salamanca, Jak Wyld, Dan Balcaban
Screenplay: Stephen Amis, Serge De Nardo, David Richardson
Country: Australia
The latest addition to the kitsch Nazi sci-fi resurgence of films, The 25th Reich has been heralded by less discerning reviewers (possibly after blunt force trauma to the cranium) as a perfect replication of 50's B-moviedom, distinguishable from a genuine product of the McCarthy years only by its CGI. Allow me to dispel this myth by reporting that it looks as thoroughly modern as anything you are likely to see this year.

The initial setup has a squad of American troops stationed on Aussie soil during World War II who are sent out into the country to put down their regiment's runaway mascots: a pair of pumas (gratingly and repeatedly referred to in the opening monologue as "poomas"). This is a homegrown production so the beginning amounts to a handful of Australian actors, sporting seppo accents of wildly varying quality and consistency, playing soldiers on a bushwalk. The only actual American amongst our filthy five is Jim Knobeloch (King Kong 2005, Iron Sky), playing Captain O'Brien, apparent C.O. and former matinee idol. Knobeloch is a capable enough lead, exuding a certain gravitas and an old Hollywood sort of air (particularly with that pencil-thin 'tache, which gives him a very Charles Bronson look). The rest of the cast is composed of a quartet of stereotypes plucked from the cinematic WWII GI lucky dip. We have the laconic Italian New Yorker, the nerdy Jewish kid and the loathsome redneck twat. Jak Wyld, in particular, as the bigoted Corporal Updike, has an accent which intermittently appears and then melts away like the alien from Predator. Also along for the stroll through the Grampian Ranges is Sergeant Weaver, a cigar-chomping, round-lensed-sunnies-wearing tough guy, armed with a Tommy gun and the most convincing accent of the whole mob. He spends his time being faintly reminiscent of Telly Savalas and being oddly protective of the cumbersome "radio transmitter" that the squad are lugging.

After a bit of tramping about the bush, establishing character and exchanging some authentic-sounding hard boiled 50's style banter, the boys are hurled back in time. We know they've gone back in time because they're beset by a pair of CGI "marsupial lions" which sort of bring to mind He-Man's trusty steed, Battlecat, and make one long for the infinitely more convincing sabre toothed feline rendered by Ray Harryhausen in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. Then follows a swift change of management and an update of mission objectives ("stop time Nazis") before CGI nature attacks again, in the form of a sun-blockingly vast swarm of giant mosquitos (who are presumably on the prowl for an equally vast herd of colossal, blood-rich animals to make them ecologically viable). Tempers flare and the squad is split into partisan factions, giving Corporal Updike free rein to indulge in the sort of sociopathic shitheel behaviour cinema-goers have come to expect from folk with pronounced southern US accents (even ones which disconcertingly vanish at regular intervals). Anyway, the guys stumble upon a flying saucer and it all builds towards a climax for which the makers smash asunder their CGI piggybank and go for broke. As you might reasonably assume, this of course includes a scene of forced sodomy by a giant mechanical Nazi spider.

Despite the heightened expectations of a film that might be piqued in some viewers by such a bizarre sentence, The 25th Reich adds up to very much less than the sum of its parts. The haphazard approach to pacing and structure is a yoke around the neck of this movie from which it never quite breaks free. The climactic battle, for example, never really feels like the "boss fight" that it should; rather, it has the feel of perhaps a penultimate scuffle before we get to the real showdown (possibly involving a gargantuan cybernetic fascist crab which makes obscene phone calls). This is a shame, as The 25th Reich has many beneficial assets at its disposal. The props department have outdone themselves, the cinematography is impressive and the script hits the required note of unabashedly cartoonish retro bluster. In spite of anything it may have going for it, however, the film never seems to really go anywhere and, after lumbering in various directions for an hour and ten minutes, commits the cardinal sin of serving up a dissatisfactory ending which merely hints at the sort of balls-out robo-Nazi action of which it should by now be ladling out great steaming bowls. Maybe the filmmakers felt that this would be an appropriate way of signing off, in the manner of the cliffhanger 40's serials ("Will Captain O'Brien and the men stumble into the sort of kick-arse film the audience had every right to expect? Tune in next week…"). This seems like the likely explanation, as it would take a heart-breaking level of optimism to have believed that The 25th Reich was surely destined for a sequel.
The Disc
Well, whatever shortcomings the film might have, Monster's widescreen 2:35:1 blu-ray presentation of The 25th Reich looks undeniably fabulous. The colours are acute and vibrant and the picture is razor sharp (ironically further undermining any claims that it resembles a period piece). Apparently it was shot in something called Megarama. The DTS HD 5.1 soundtrack is impeccable, too, although Ricky Edwards' strident score is faintly irritating in that it constantly seems to threaten to turn into The Imperial March from Star Wars but, excruciatingly, never does, opting instead to throw in dashes of cheesy, self-conscious 50's theremin.

Extras include a trailer, some improvised first audition footage from actors Jak Wylde and Dan Balcaban, and a few featurettes. Behind The Reich is a short behind the scenes doco. Monster Magic is a dry, fairly technical look at how various CGI creature effects were achieved. It seems mean-spirited to gripe about what they managed to accomplish with what was clearly a very limited budget, but it's also sort of depressing to see how much time and effort went into creating those bloody crappy lions. Making Of Mozzie Sequence is a similarly technically-minded examination of the giant mosquito swarm set piece, of which the crew seem extraordinarily proud.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Time travel! Nazi robots! Giant prehistoric beasts! An extremely promising concept, being tackled by what is clearly a talented team, is fumbled and brought crashing down on its arse by… Inept pacing! Structural problems! Profoundly underwhelming conclusion! There are plenty of praiseworthy elements floating around in Stephen Amis' nostalgic sci-fi adventure flick, but some choice ingredients can't make up for the fact that the whole thing feels a bit half-baked.
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