Severin Films offshoot Intervision Picture Corp. is back in June with a pair of Nazisploitation DVDs, the first being GESTAPO'S LAST ORGY.
Five years after the war, concentration camp commander Conrad von Starker (TOMB OF TORTURE's Adriano Micantoni, billed as "Marc Loud") has been rehabilitated back into German society due to the inexplicable testimony of former Jewish prisoner Lise Cohen (Daniela Poggi, LAST HAREM). They arrange to reunite at the camp (the seaside fortress used in the oddball giallo IN THE FOLDS OF THE FLESH) and the past comes rushing back while they explore the ruins. 1943 finds Conrad chomping at the bit to be transferred to the front rather than serving as a glorified pimp at a concentration camp that functions as a bordello for rehabilitating the returning soldiers. Don't sympathize with him just yet, as von Starker proves to be quite the nasty character, incinerating a group of women after an orgy (in which he insists that soldiers must dominate but never make love to the enemy) and gorging himself on the human flesh served at a dinner party as part of a visiting professor's (Renato Paracchi, SCREAM OF THE DEMON LOVER) taste test of a plan for using Jewish prisoners as livestock (capping the evening off with a human crepe suzette). Intrigued by new prisoner Lise's unflinching reaction to the atrocities, he balks at her wish that he kill her and get it over with since it would be no fun for him to kill her if she has no desire to live. He and sadistic co-commander Alma (Maristella Greco, HOTEL PARADISE/SAVAGE ISLAND) vow to break Lise's will but she remains un-intimidated by the further tortures she witnesses and undergoes. When she withdraws psychologically, von Starker orders the sympathetic camp doctor (Fulvio Ricciardi, KILLING OF THE FLESH) to heal her. In discovering the reasons behind Lise's death wish, he restores her passion for life; but will that actually limit her chances for survival as Alma grows jealous of von Starker's obsession with Lise and the commander becomes more frustrated at serving as a "governess at a girls' school".
One of the better made of the short-lived Nazisploitation subgenre, GESTAPO'S LAST ORGY has the usual array of sexualized torture methods inflicted upon women but it's actually at its most disturbing on the level of dialogue (quite a feat given the scripting and dubbing of the English dialogue) which casts its villains not only as vilely anti-Semitic but even Sadeian in their outlook; these are characters in power who may be even worse than those who were just following orders or venting repressed frustrations on the powerless. The NIGHT PORTER-esque framing story reveals right away that both have survived the war; however, as the script strips away the ambiguity of their relationship with successive flashbacks, the initially scuttled element of suspense is transposed to the contemporary scenes as we start to ponder the outcome of their reunion and just what of the torments von Starker inflicted upon Lise or her cellmates might have motivated it. The titular last orgy seems to occur early on, and seems a small-scale, less operatic version of a similar sequence in SALON KITTY. There's plenty of nudity, but – gorgeous bodies aside – it's pretty anti-erotic. Statuesque Poggi is required to be emotionally deadened throughout but she is able to garner sympathy with a few conflicted facial expressions, but Greco gives a deliciously showy performance (all the more entertaining as she's dubbed by Carolyn de Fonseca, who you may have heard dubbing Mariangela Giordano in BURIAL GROUND, Barbara Magnolfi's Olga in SUSPIRIA, and Daria Nicolodi in DEEP RED). Micantoni seems to relish his vile character, and is better in the flashbacks than in the contemporary sequences. Director Cesare Canevari's scant filmography did not specialize in any particularly subgenre, including the first "Emmanuelle" adaptation A MAN FOR EMMANUELLE, the arty western MATALO!, the politically- and racially-charged THE NUDE PRINCESS (with Ajita Wilson), and the sleazy, little-seen giallo DELITTO CARNALE (unfortunately the last screen credit for actor Marc Porel who died young at age 34). The scoring of Alberto Baldan Bembo is nowhere near as adventurous as his work on NUDE FOR SATAN or EMANUELLE IN EGYPT, but the theme song "Lise" is absolutely painful – sung by Myriam del Mare with spoken vocals by Ingeborg Jordy – especially when heard in its entirety over a narcotizing sequence of nude rolling about (it's meant to be a love scene but it doesn't remotely resemble one) between Lise and the doctor.
GESTAPO'S LAST ORGY arrived stateside on tape by Video City Productions as LAST ORGY OF THE THIRD REICH (with a cover that painted underwear over the nude female and male bodies in the production stills) – one of the notorious Video Nasties in Britain, it had two banned VHS releases (both of which were incomplete at 80 minutes) – and then on DVD by Media Blasters as part of their "Exploitation Digital" line in a non-anamorphic letterboxed transfer. I haven't seen the earlier disc but Intervision's anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer doesn't look too hot. The film's cinematography is rather dingy in general with only the reds looking particularly vibrant, but the image itself sports some unattractive edge enhancement quite evident in some scenes. One or two shots seem to have been upscaled from a cropped source since faces are occasionally bisected by the top of the frame (in these few instances, 1.66:1 framing might have revealed more but I'm pretty sure they would still seem awkwardly composed). The opening and closing credits are pillarboxed and appear to be upscaled from a fullscreen video source. Running just over 95 minutes, it appears to be fully uncut. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio is fair, unfortunately not muffling the horrid "Lise" theme song.
The only extra directly related to the film is its theatrical trailer (3:38), but the disc also includes an incredibly worthy featurette called "A Brief History of 'Sadiconazista'" (36:28) in which German film studies professor Dr. Marcus Stiglegger – who penned the introduction for NAZISPLOITATION!: THE NAZI IMAGE IN LOW-BROW CINEMA AND CULTURE – discusses the origins of Nazisploitation cinema and the very Italian association of sadomasochism and national socialism. He starts off by informing us that the subgenre's origins were not in films like THE NIGHT PORTER, SALON KITTY, and Visconti's THE DAMNED but in British and Russian anti-Nazi wartime campaigns which featured imagery depicting nude or scantily-clad women being victimized. He also discusses some earlier films that sexualized Nazism, as well as other art film antecedents like Gilo Pontecorvo's KAPO and Wanda Jakubowska's THE LAST STAGE, as well as novels like SALON KITTY and HOUSE OF DOLLS (which inaccurately suggested that the camp brothels were for the soldiers when they were actually for rewarding the prisoners who collaborated). He points out that the Visconti, Cavani, and Brass films (the latter establishing the bordello motif) may have been directly responsible for the subgenre, but that Lee Frost' s roughie LOVE CAMP 7 (1969) was closer in spirit. He traces the inspiration for the Canadian ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS to rumors about concentration camp commander's wife Ilse Koche as well as Israeli Lager pulp fiction. He also informs us that Nazisploitation films were not well-received in Italy at the time and did not play in Germany at all. Although most of them are not particularly good, they attained a cult status in Europe due to their unavailability as well as the banning of some of the titles during the Video Nasty debacle. He cites GESTAPO'S LAST ORGY and DEPORTED WOMEN OF THE SS SPECIAL SECTION as two of the better entries, citing the less racial rather than political relationship between captor and captive compared to THE NIGHT PORTER (Lise is Jewish while Rampling's character was the daughter of a socialist) in the former and the over-the-top gothic horror elements of the latter. (Eric Cotenas)
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