Saturday, November 01, 2014

WINTER OF DISCONTENT: The Gestapo’s Last Orgy


Welcome to the fifth annual Winter of Discontent, a two-month trawl through everything sleazy and salacious, dubious and disreputable, venal and virulent. Let’s start as we mean to go on: with a video nasty. 

To the best of my knowledge, Cesare Canevari’s ‘The Gestapo’s Last Orgy’ is still banned in the UK; although in today’s climate of file-sharing and multi-region DVD players, “still banned in the UK” doesn’t really mean much.

Canevari has a pretty short filmography – nine titles over 19 years according to IMDb – and ‘The Gestapo’s Last Orgy’, made in 1977, was his penultimate stint in the director’s chair. He would follow it, six years later, with ‘Killing of the Flesh’, a late entry in the giallo cycle; I’ve not seen it, but it’s reputed to be one of the sleaziest examples of a genre not exactly renowned for restraint or demureness. Canevari’s earlier work includes ‘A Man for Emmanuelle’, which predates Just Jaekin’s film by five years and stars Erika Blanc in the title role, and ‘The Nude Princess’, featuring Ajita Wilson and playing out like a comedic reinterpretation of a “black Emanuelle” film.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that Canevari was a quintessential exploitation director.


‘The Gestapo’s Last Orgy’ – the very title an open invitation to censors and outraged moralists everywhere – starts with some portentous voice over as a large black Mercedes navigates some hairpin bends, drops down into a picturesque town and finally arrives at its destination – the boarded up remains of what was once a prison camp. The voiceover consists of a prosecutor putting questions to several witnesses at a war crimes trial. The Mercedes noses the camp gates open and drives into the deserted main square. Actually not so deserted as an attractive blonde appears (quite how and where from, since the camp was securely locked a few seconds ago, is anyone’s guess) and clambers into the car. The driver, an austere looking middle-aged chap, asks how she is and she brushes away the question, instead wanting to know what happened to him. “Nuremberg,” he snaps, “imprisonment, trying to integrate myself into the new Germany. It hasn’t been easy.” Doesn’t look like it, pal, what with the top-of-the-range Merc and everything!

Anyhow, these two take a romantic walk around the remains of the camp and their backstory begins to play out in a series of extended flashbacks. The grey-haired cove is Commandant Conrad von Starker* (Adriano Micantoni, billed as Marc Loud). The blonde is Lise Cohen (Daniela Poggi, or Daniela Levy according to the credits and I can completely understand why no-one wanted to appear under their given names), who we meet on her first day at a women only prisoner of war camp … oh fuck it, let’s get down to brass tacks: a brothel for soldiers on leave from the Eastern front.


Lise’s initiation into camp life includes getting felt up by Alma (Maristella Greco), Conrad’s second in command and his dominatrix lover. Nothing personal; Alma fingers the prisoners every morning to see if anyone’s menstruating. Those who are find themselves fed to a pack of dobermanns. Those who aren't get to be half-naked serving girls at the top brass’s banquets, or are sexually used by the on-leave soldiers. It’s during one of the banquets that Lise witnesses an act of cannibalism and her reaction brings her to Conrad’s attention. Mightily peeved that Lise feels only revulsion and not fear, Conrad sets out to break her. Alma lays the groundwork … or tries to. Her attempts to humiliate Lise fail miserably, while Conrad (watching from the shadows) gets so excited by Lise’s stubbornness that he, ahem, finds himself too late to satisfy Alma after Lise has been dismissed. Furious, Alma whips and verbally berates him and then … hmmm, how do I describe what happens next? Have you ever heard the expression “well fuck me with a swagger stick”? Right, then. I’ll leave you with that image.

Not that Canevari is happy to leave it at that. Indeed, he seems fixated on upping the ante on sexual violence as the film limps towards the one hour mark. Hence Lise denuded and flogged; Lise suspended naked above a box of rats; Lise suspended naked above a pit of lime … one torture after another until she retreats into a cataleptic state and it’s left to the camp’s sympathetic doctor (the “good” German: a rarity in the Nazisploitation genre) to effect her recovery. This he does and is rewarded by an energetic bout of intercourse with the lady (in actuality an interminable three and a half minutes of the two of them rolling around on a bed for all the world as if they’re trying to disentangle from each other rather than reach a state of carnal ecstasy).



Thereafter, Lise seems a changed woman, content to play Conrad’s game and gain his favours, even to the point of turning him against the increasingly jealous Alma. How their in-camp relationship ends brings the film back to its framing device and one more act remains to be played out.

Coming three years after ‘The Night Porter’, Canevari happily pilfers from Liliana Cavani’s erotic drama without coming anywhere closer to replicating its iconography, its claustrophobic atmosphere or its darkly intelligent attitude to thorny subject matter. ‘The Gestapo’s Last Orgy’ is closer in tone and execution to Don Edmonds’s ‘Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS’ (made two years earlier) or Tinto Brass’s ‘Salon Kitty’ (made the previous year). Indeed, the film’s one orgy scene – which takes place very near the start and therefore can’t be the eponymous “last orgy” since Conrad is whingeing about being a pimp rather than a soldier at the end of the film, the narrative of which covers at least ten months – is as static, antiseptic and downright unsexy as the one in Brass’s overlong and self-important opus.

In fact, for a film that runs the gamut of sexual violence, cannibalism, evisceration by starving dogs, copious nudity and casually executed infants, precious little frisson is generated. Some portentous speechifying tries to evoke ‘The Night Porter’ and even Pier Paolo Passolini’s ‘Salo’, but the script – by Canevari and Antonio Lucarella – is a hollow and badly structured thing. Individual scenes feel adumbrated. The editing is wonky throughout. The soundtrack is hilariously inappropriate. The camp itself alternates between being on an island and being accessible by road, depending on whether Canevari wants to show isolationism or vehicles arriving. Or maybe it was down to a bunch of locations that the production designer really liked. Or maybe they got moved on from the island halfway through filming and quickly found somewhere else to shoot the remaining scenes.



Either way, ‘The Gestapo’s Last Orgy’ would be a long hard slog through the worst excesses of man’s inhumanity to man (or more particularly, to women) were it not for how bad it is. Which isn’t to say that Canevari delivers the kind of ineptitude that was the specialty of, say, Bruno Mattei, more that he wants to fool you into thinking there’s some actual honest-to-goodness craftsmanship going on whereas every frame of it, once boredom sets in and you start looking past the nudity and the nastiness, testifies to the opposite. 


*You couldn’t make it up.

1 comment:

http://metalgoddesses.blogg.se/ said...

Let Me In..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAB0hlaPgFc&list=PLcyaz0b_RxPEPeHUuwCcflTci8GNSLzrI