Starring David B. Stewart III, Angelina Leigh, Martin Slamon
Directed by David B. Stewart III
I’m a complete sucker when it comes to a nice, richly structured “horrors of war” film, and at the risk of sounding like a complete violence-monger, when the possibility exists of some stomach-churning brutality contained within said presentation, my inner gore-geek alarm starts dingin! Unfortunately, there comes a time when what you perceive to be a potential blockbuster of barbarism limps across the finish line worse than a three-legged race horse, then the hopes and dreams for a memorable spectacle have gone swirling into the porcelain. Attention all zealots of hell-infused-horror, I present to you Reichsfuhrer SS in all its less-than-stellar glory.
Directed by David B. Stewart III (who also stars as Heinrich Himmler), the movie focuses on Adolf Hitler’s most ardent subordinate, and his eventual fading ability to take joy in the dispatching of so many Russian POW’s during 1941. The tipping point comes one day when SS General Hans Shellenberg (Slamon) catches sight of Himmler becoming physically ill after a group round up and execution of some detainees – now surely the Fuhrer has no place for pansies, does he? The answer is “nein,” and Himmler is tasked with proving his allegiance to the Reich by murdering a Polish captive named Danuta (Leigh) that is now in his custody. The film runs in broken segments, as we witness Himmler at points, down in the depths of hell after his poison-ingested suicide in 1945, and confronted by Erebus, the gatekeeper of Hell – the interactions are creepy, and the charred succubus and an overcooked wench are simply waiting to torture the soul of a man who took so much pride in murdering so many…oh how the tides have turned.
Now for all intents and purposes, this can be labeled as a horror movie, for that there is no dispute – however, the manner in which the horror is offered up is in question. The elements of Hell and its disciples are present, but the real terror here lies in the atrocities of war, and the repercussions on one’s psyche, and somehow for me the two had a hard time congealing together. The Nazis were a hideous collection of inhuman personages, and let there be no mistake about that, but in this particular submission, I was looking for the same intensity and evil mannerisms you’d expect from such vile individuals, and all I witnessed were a collection of actors that tried in vain to replicate historical characters, with no resemblance in the slightest. Now, I never claimed to be a historical virtuoso, but you’d at least THINK if you were presenting actors as German soldiers, that possibly one of them could offer up a German accent and not sound like a group of bankers hanging out at their employee picnic? Authenticity, people – for even in independent cinema, it can move mountains. Geez, even Hitler sounded like a counterfeit drill instructor in an all-too-brief cameo.
Stewart does however give a decent performance as the introspectively-tortured Himmler, and with a slight tweaking of his regionalism, could have knocked this rendition out of the park, but sadly the notable work begins and ends with him. As far as the gore was concerned, I’ll give an “attaboy” for the blood and guts – while minimal in quantity, there still are a few decent moments within (one prisoner’s arms being filleted was a nice touch). Perceptively, the realism of watching a low-budget presentation is that you’re willing to forgive what is and what isn’t, and while the majority of the scenery was indeed replicated with a touch of the 40’s in mind, the scenes in Hell looked sloppily thrown together with an attempt to enhance via dulled-color lighting and distorted camera visuals.
As the credits rolled, I’m not going to say that I stood up and cheered for this one, and while I’ll throw some applause to Stewart for taking the onus off of Hitler in a Nazi film, there were far too many negatives that counteracted the positives here, and the terror and panic of what I thought was going to be a bona fide tension-wracked horror flick, was reduced to a watered-down peek into the mind of a madman. I’d advise the masses to hunt down the trailer for this one and scour it intently before making the decision to invest the time and energy.