Starring Corin Nemec, Ben Cross, James Pomichter, Kirk B.R. Woller, Marian Filali, Harry Van Gorkum
Directed by David Flores
It wasn’t until about an hour into SS Doomtrooper when it finally hit me. I kept trying to figure out what the actual hulking mega-muscled Nazi super soldier (the titular SS Doomtrooper, although it’s never called that or anything else specifically in the film) reminded me of. Then it finally hit it me; the damn thing looks like one of the action figures come to life from the movie Small Soldiers but exploded to about 20-feet in height. The Nazi scientist in the film hasn’t created some sort of gargantuan super soldier; he’s created the world’s largest action figure. That’s exactly, and I mean exactly, what this looks like.
The computer effects bringing the Nazi super soldier to life aren’t even remotely convincing – Ang Lee couldn’t even make a computer generated Hulk completely convincing on a $100+ budget and I’m sure this film was made for the roughly the amount of money that film spent on Sam Elliot’s mustache wax alone – but the computer effects aren’t unrealistic in the usual bad Sci-Fi Channel original movie manner. No, instead of just looking like something that came out of a Playstation video game (although it does look like just that and worse whenever shown physically interacting with live-action characters), the Doomtrooper looks like a huge CGI plastic action figure brought to life, sort of a big computer-generated Stretch Armstrong doll with glowing veins, an arm-mounted weapon, and a helmet straight off a heavy metal album cover.
I’ll say this right now; you’re either going to laugh your ass off at seeing this thing or you’re going to absolutely hate it, and that’s ultimately what’s going to decide whether or not you derive any entertainment value at all from watching SS Doomtrooper. Me, I was highly amused by the immensely laughable nature of this monstrosity, at least for awhile.
It’s the waning days of World War 2. The Allies are marching towards victory. Nazi mad scientist Professor Ullman thinks he can turn the tide by creating a super-sized super soldier out of an ordinary Nazi officer using some sort of Frankensteinish atomic energy process that’s never explained nor should it be. This guy is a mad scientist in the old Atomic Age monster movie vein, so rational explanations are moot.
Ben Cross, once the star of the Oscar-winning picture Chariots of Fire, plays Professor Ullman early on with some major league B-movie gusto, enough to make you regret how increasingly trivialized his character becomes as the film progresses. Ullman cares only about using his work to turn a Nazi soldier into a pro-fascist Prometheus and looks to create a whole army of these Swastika-luvin’ leviathans to help crush the Allies, and if they’re uncontrollable and kill indiscriminately, both Axis and Allies alike, well, that’s just a design glitch that they’ll have to try and work around.
Unfortunately, even a genetically engineered Nazi super soldier can’t hit the broadside of the barn, not even when the target is standing relatively still right in front of it. Halfway through the film it gets frustrated and scraps its huge shoulder mounted arm cannon in favor of just skulking about looking for some clobberin’ time. Fortunately, its atomic nature has also imbued it with an electrocuting death touch too. Too bad the screenwriters didn’t try imbuing it with any sort of personality of its own.
The Americans know the Nazis are conducting some sort of atomic energy experiments inside a super fortress called the Citadel. An air attack would get shot down easily so Captain Malloy (Corin Nemec, fresh off his Mansquito bug-zappin’ duties) is assigned the task of putting together an impossible mission to infiltrate and destroy the Citadel. Malloy assembles a Dirty Half-Dozen (I guess the film just wasn’t budgeted for a full dozen) consisting almost primarily of soldiers currently incarcerated for various crimes that will be pardoned if they accomplish and survive the mission. Each soldier selected by Malloy is there because they have a special skill, but almost none of them ever get to use their skill because most of them are there simply for cannon fodder.
Malloy’s men also aren’t the brightest lot of soldiers. Case in point, despite having seen firsthand that neither bullets nor grenades can do diddly squat to the Doomtrooper, one member of Malloy’s half-dozen decides to just toss down his gun, walk right up to the thing, and punch it in the face. The guy then actually looks surprised when it just stares back at him unharmed and kills him.
Suffice it to say, SS Doomtrooper is not going to win any IQ tests. If you want a perfect example of the film’s mentality then look no further at a hand picked member of Malloy’s bunch named Parker Lewis. Yes, they actually dare to name a character Parker Lewis. As most of you know, Corin Nemec is well known for starring in a Ferris Bueller-esque Fox comedy from the early 1990’s called “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose”. There’s winking at the audience and then there’s this. In the midst of a near death experience, Private Parker Lewis even exclaims, “I can’t win.” This should pretty much tell you that SS Doomtrooper has pretenses about taking itself seriously. If only it could have maintained that cheeky nature all the way to the finish line.
No sooner does Malloy and company parachute behind enemy lines, they’re spotted and the Doomtrooper is released for its first opportunity to see action. This leads to my favorite scene of the film – a truly bewildering decision on the part of the director – where the Doomtrooper has already dispatched with a couple of Malloy’s guys and the rest narrowly escape with their lives. As they momentarily thwart the behemoth’s efforts and dash across the field of battle to safety, the score accompanying this, quite inappropriately, swells into a musical track that would indicate a turn of the tide leading to a moment of victory. From what you see and what you hear, we’re apparently celebrating their triumphant retreat.
Alas, the hokey charm the film exudes during much of its first half fades rapidly as the Doomtrooper becomes just a recurring footnote while the film begins to focus more on Malloy, the French Resistance soldiers they join forces with, and the supposed “suicide mission” that proves to be far easier than it was built up to be. Sure, the rest of Malloy’s bunch pretty much take turns making noble sacrifices along the way but it still seems way too easy. And pretty much every moment devoted to exploring the personality of the various soldiers seems a total waste of time since most have such a short life expectancy.
Worst of all, the finale, the big showdown with Professor Ullman and his monstrous creation within his Citadel lab, is a big fat bust. Not only is Ullman’s comeuppance anti-climactic, after spending the entire film portraying the Doomtrooper as this unstoppable war machine that has endured heavy gunfire, grenades, flamethrowers, tank fire, and massive explosions, its demise at the hands of Corin Nemec is nothing short of pathetic. Hell, Nemec manages to take one of its hands off with nothing more than a knife, and despite having been told the creature’s invulnerability lies in its power of regeneration, no, it doesn’t grow its damn hand back!
My suggestion would be to watch about the first 35 minutes of SS Doomtrooper and then find something else to do. Things start off promisingly enough with much schlocky B-movie goodness to be enjoyed but it all quickly deteriorates into just another ill-conceived Sci-Fi Channel original. Admittedly better than many others and one that moves as a fairly brisk pace, still, the “SS” in SS Doomtrooper ultimately stands for “sub standard”.
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