SS Girls (1977)
By: Mr Intolerance on August 7, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Exploitation Digital (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 1.0. 95 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Bruno Mattei
Starring: Gabriele Carrara, Maurina Daunia, Macha Magall, Luce Gregory, Vassili Karis, Tamara Triffez
Screenplay: Giancinto Bonacquisti, Bruno Mattei
Country: Italy
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Tinto Brass has a lot to answer for. Even moreso than Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS or Love Camp 7, his Salon Kitty is fairly responsible for the rash of Italian Nazi sexploitationers from the mid 70s to the early 80s - Nazsploitation. In terms of bad taste, this genre is the one that really scrapes the bottom of the barrel. I'm not saying I don't find these films engaging (I own too many of them for that), but jeez, you can feel mighty guilty after watching them. This is the nadir of exploitation films – there's a reason so many of them were branded "Video Nasties" back in the early 80s, this being one of them.

When the call of the exploitation film sounds, you'd better believe Bruno Mattei answers that call. If a cheapy knock-down of a serious flick can be made, Uncle Bruno will do it, and what's more he'll do it brazenly, with all the sex, sleaze, violence and cheap titillation he can muster, and damn any PC notions of good taste. Mattei is an all-or-nothing director – he goes hard, or he goes not at all; SS Girls is testimony to that.

Obviously barking mad SS officer Schellenberg is given a commission to weasel out the traitors in Hitler's high command. It would appear that several leading generals in the Wehrmacht (the regular army, not Hitler's private bodyguard, the SS) are spreading sedition and treason, and our Aryan nutcase, played practically foaming at the mouth from the word go by uber-camp, manically leering, staring and ranting Gabriele Carrara, has been given carte blanche to find out who, and deal with them, by the Fuhrer himself. Schellenberg has fallen hook, line and sinker for all the usual Nazi clap-trap – we're introduced to him sitting in a cellar playing Bach, to him a symbol of all that is good about German culture; it's a motif we return to at various points of the film.

His plan? To train up a bunch of hookers to screw the truth out of the wayward commanders, as well as turn his courtesans into a mini-army of prostitroopers, who not only use sex as a weapon, but are trained in more deadly arts also. Oddly enough, they are trained to do so in togas (not exactly regulation German military uniforms, but hey, what's a little unreality between perverts?). The training takes place under the sadistic tutelage of Professor Junger (and what's a Nazploitation flick without a mad scientist performing bogus experiments with no rhyme or reason?), Madame Eva (a brothel owner suborned by Schellenberg much as the storytellers in de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom were by the Duc de Blangis and his cronies – played by Macha Magall from SS Hell Camp), and the evil, beautiful, yet facially scarred and self-conscious about it Frau Inge (Maurina Daunia, who you'll recognise from Women's Camp 119, and Escape From Women's Prison), who harbours some pretty lusty desires for Schellenberg, pinnacle of Aryan manhood that he is (in an obviously Italian-looking way…).

Oh, I forgot – the training also includes having to fuck freaks, amputees and German Shepherds (the dog, not some backwards bumpkin from Alsace). These German generals are obviously into some serious debauchery and no mistake! Either that or Mattei was trying to exploit his audience, and that, of course, would never happen. Ahem. I have to say, watching the girls perform callisthenics looks hilariously like a cross between interpretive dance, a seizure and someone having absolutely no idea what the fuck they are doing, and as a result, merely piss-farting around. The whole training sequence is seriously one of the funniest, most jaw-droppingly inept things ever committed to celluloid. If you aren't laughing from the start of this incredibly ill-rehearsed montage to its end, you have no sense of humour. Apparently, the purpose is to get the girls fit, tooled up and ready to fuck anything at anytime "under any condition".

The generals arrive and then the first drunken orgy with semi-naked women begins – the girls have already been briefed about their duties. There's the usual rant about German superiority, and then the generals start acting in a rather decidedly un-master-race fashion, unless the Aryan ideal was to be a fat drunken eating and rooting machine. But I guess that would be the "serious" message of the film – that the decadence and corruption of the Nazis was characterised by this abuse of privilege and power at the expense of others. Certainly the naughty generals do get up to some crazy hi-jinks – and they aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer – the girls do not have the most subtle methods of extracting information. Sample: they need to find out what the generals think about the Fuhrer, so the opening gambit – "What do you think about the Fuhrer?" Oh well, I guess the direct approach works.

Of course, what would a Nazsploitation film be without a ridiculous love story shoe-horned in for no readily ascertainable reason – and the myth of 'the good Nazi' goes marching on (as does that of the 'hooker with the heart of gold' at the same time). I suppose it's to give us characters to identify with, but really, it's as lame as the same scenario in Salon Kitty.

WTF moment: Schellenberg has got the info he needed – every one of the generals has incriminated himself by attesting to Hitler's insanity (well, duh…) – and so proceeds to pass judgement on them. He does this dressed kind of like the pope (with a swastika on the mitre), but wearing a hell of a lot of bizarre facial make-up. Huh? Schellenberg's performance here is even more eccentric and flamboyant than before – this is some serious chomping of the scenery. I don't think Mattei has the word restraint in his vocabulary. In a movie full to the brim with bad acting, this is truly the most inane and histrionic. Schellenberg's diabolical acting is only equalled by his pet executioner Ryker's diabolical laughing.

To give this film some historical credence, Mattei tries to throw in historically accurate personae, in this case Oscar Dirlewanger (Otto, in real life), a psychotic ex-con who headed one of the most feared SS extermination squads, the Einsatzkommando. Schellenberg, possibly recognising a fellow loony, refers to him as "the divine Oscar", a reference to the Marquis de Sade (referred to by the Surrealists as "the divine Marquis") – both were monsters in human form. Hitler wants Dirlewanger dead (killing 15,000 civilians with only the assistance of his two right-hand men, the Russian Kominski and the Asiatic Wang – who wears a Nazi headband that looks like the swastika was drawn on in texta – in Warsaw was seen as going "too far") – and Schellenberg and his whores are to be the executioners.

"The divine Oscar" and his two over-the-top sidekicks turn up, practically wrestling with Schellenberg to see who can eat the most scenery, and so the fun begins and the dialogue gets even sillier, the performances more hyperbolic than before. Cue: drunken orgy number two. Sample dialogue:
Dirlewanger: "Well now, what are you drinking? Is that champagne?"
Prostitute: "Vodka and cognac, it's an aphrodisiac."
Dirlewanger: "Sounds interesting, but have you ever tried mixing cognac with a bit of blood?"
Prostitute: "No."
Dirlewanger: "Just a drop or two in the glass is all that's really needed. It's magnificent! Wait a minute, I shall demonstrate!"

Dirlewanger proceeds to bite a prostitute's arm to make it bleed, and squeeze the blood into his cognac, laughing maniacally, before stopping abruptly through fear – his past is catching up with him, it would seem, and Schellenberg's ridiculously circuitous plan to dispatch ol' Oscar is coming to fruition. Out in the grounds of the mansion-cum-brothel, Dirlewanger is more vulnerable (although with a magic revolver that fires over 11 shots without needing to be reloaded – reminiscent of David Warbeck's magic magnum in The Beyond – it's hard to see how), and some truly dodgy action scenes ensue.

Schellenberg is getting even more bizarre, bedding Inge and Eva at the same time, but with a bit of a self-congratulatory agenda at hand. The chicks make out for a bit, and Schellenberg has a bit of a writhe around, biting inexplicably on a whip, before he gets what I think are the crowning lines of dialogue in the film:

Schellenberg: "The best weapon is terror, everything born of cruelty demands respect, power over humanity is exalting, it must be savoured drop by drop, power over life and death, every obstacle must be conquered, must be eliminated before one can expect to reach the pinnacle of perfection of supreme power – Valhalla! – Yes! I AM that supreme power! Those sons of bitches who play at being Nazis know nothing! I must lead them to greater glory – yes! I am the Chosen One! Germany will not die, it will live again! Come my slaves and feast on your new Fuhrer!" He then shoves the faces of the two girls he's been holding by the hair during this rant  into his crotch. Good times, good times…

Anyway, we're moving towards our climax (no, not that sort), so I'll let the film tell its own tale when you watch it. I think I've avoided spoilers as well as I could while trying to hook you in with its admittedly sleazy charms. Life lessons to be learnt from SS Girls – when being an evil fascist bastard, don't piss off the wrong woman, be careful of how many people you butcher while trying to please your obviously nutty dictator, don't confess things to prostitutes, and ham it up as best you can all the way, gurning for all you are worth with your eyes sticking out like a fighting dog's bollocks. Oh, and it is essential to fiddle while Rome burns. That must be done. Self-righteous pontificating is an optional extra.
Video
The video apologises for its own dips in quality at the outset, saying that any inconsistencies in the appearance of the movie are due its age. Hmm. SS Girls was made in 1976; this hardly makes it Das Cabinet des Doktor Caligari. Matter of fact, it's four years younger than me – I wonder if I can use the same excuse? It's not a terribly sharp picture, in any case, and there's a fair amount of shimmer at varying points of the film; it's minimal with crackle and grain, though. Presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement.
Audio
English dubs do not rock my world. Especially not when they are done in a mono track. Oh well, I guess that Exploitation Digital didn't have the loot to address this – they're hardly a household name, even in the underground film market. Doesn't mean I have to like it. And the evil geniuses at Exploitation Digital manage to have made sure that the closing lines are in unsubtitled Italian. Bravo…
Extra Features
There's a short interview with Mattei, which is worth a look if you're a fan (and if you aren't, you should be). What's amusing about this is that the director of this brief doco has intercut it with scenes from SS Girls that flagrantly contradict almost every point poor Bruno makes (he talks about the authenticity of historical films to be undercut with images of the girls doing weapons training in togas. I especially love his comments about working with people in Hollywood – "Put ten together and you have a team of idiots…they lack that pinch of imagination that gives you an edge" There's also a photo gallery (this kind of waste of space never interests me – I'm a movie fan, I want images that move), the original theatrical trailer, and some other trailers for the equally classy SS Hell Camp (aka The Beast In Heat), Elsa Fraulein SS, Porno Holocaust and Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
SS Girls, one of Mattei's first directorial efforts, and setting the scene for the rest of his career, is a cavalcade of sleaze, nekkid flesh, boobies, violence, political incorrectness and the just plain bizarre. A serious historically accurate document it is not, a guilty pleasure and exploitation at its absolute bottom rung, it is. This is no Rats or Hell Of The Living Dead, in terms of Mattei's output, but it is definitely an entertaining and absurd piece of cheesy, poorly made fodder for the Grindhouse crowd (I mean that in its purest sense, no reference to the Tarantino/Rodriguez film of the same name at all) to revel in the awfulness of. We've all heard the expression "the good bad movie" – this is it. Good fun? Yes, if it's the kind of thing you're into – I'll tell you now, it's not for everyone, and even in terms of the Nazploitation genre it might be a little much for some in terms of bad taste (it lacks the gratuitous sexual violence of SS Hell Camp, though, and in terms of it as a film, Caligula Reincarnated As Hitler (aka The Gestapo's Last Orgy) is a better made text and a more visceral one), but it's still better than most, if at times a bit on the laughable side. But hey! It's a Bruno Mattei film – what were you expecting?

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