Much like the
unfortunate victims subjects of A&E’s “Intervention,” I surround myself with enablers. “Yes of course” and “that’s an unquestionably excellent idea” are some of my favorite phrases in the English language.
“Love Me Strangely” is a film that’s growing on me the more I reflect on the series of complexities and inversions that it offers. Sure, it’s a tasty morsel of groovy Continental sexiness from the sweet spot of late 60s/early 70s cinema, but it’s also a sinister and ultimately tragic thriller-cum-love-story whose unsettling message has more resonance than it should.
- Annabella discovers that the mayor is taking bribes and seduces him, but… the police already knew that he was corrupt thanks to a series of anonymous letters, and it seems that the crooked senator who set the mayor up was already looking to kill him. Yeah–I know!
- In order to exact her revenge on the Count, Annabella seduces his daughter in a gym sauna with the clever application of warm tea (I don’t understand this either–must be some kind of super-secret lesbonic mojo thang), photographs another of their couplings, and then fellates the Count, causing him to have a heart attack and only THEN revealing the photos. You’re thinking what I’m thinking–the “blow job” step could be eliminated entirely.
- An amoral pharmacist (played by Gabriele Tinti, aka Mr. Laura Gemser) is selling heroin out of his storefront, and Annabella sends the cops in after him–but only after they have sex in the back room of the pharmacy in order to provide her with “a sleeping aid.” *facepalm*
I watch an awful lot of movies that, were they translated into the written word, would overflow with exclamation points and be rendered entirely in capital letters. “Subtlety” is not usually the order of the day in the Tenebrous Empire, where loud screaming, eyeball-assaulting surrealism, and explosions of things that ordinarily would not explode are standard menu items. Based on his performances in films like “Salon Kitty,” “Beast with a Gun,” and “Faceless,” it’s easy to see why I’ve crowned Helmut Berger as King of Pitching a Fit. It brings me no small measure of joy to watch Berger chew the scenery in the way only an extremely gifted actor can–I can imagine that many folks reading this derive similar delight from performances by George C. Scott and Michael Caine at their most unhinged.
The bespangled dhoti pants I saw at Top Shop recently have convinced me that fashion has utterly abandoned me for the time being. Lunatics have taken over the asylum, and I’m left holding a chopped-up “Zombie versus Shark” t-shirt as the only evidence that I’ve purchased any clothing at all in the past several months. In the spirit of escapism (and working through my post-Halloween-partum depression), let’s take a look at some of the incredible fashion statements that come to us from cinema.
I’ve been seriously neglecting my man-crushes around here over the past several weeks, and I’m grateful that The Costuminatrix has brought this to my attention this afternoon. Let’s take a moment out to reflect upon the icy Teutonic gorgeousness of Helmut Berger and his many amazing cinematic fashion statements, shall we?
It should probably bother me that any human being can wear a leather S.S. uniform with such elan, but some human beings were born with the kind of inner dandy that allows them to rise above such limiting factors as “playing characters with deeply problematic political points of view.” I’d posit that Mr. Berger is just such a human being.
I have no problem admitting that I get into a crankier-than-usual mood during this particular time of year. I dislike New Year’s celebrations (friggin’ PARTY AMATEURS) and the cold weather conspires to keep me indoors where I can stew in my own melancholy. In short, I’m not a happy Tenebrous at the moment.
There are some things that help to improve my mood. I’ll share two here. Consider it “a little something for the ladies and also for the gentlemen who are so inclined–hey, I don’t judge.”
Dandyish Helmut Berger:
Pantsless Helmut Berger:
Ohhh Mr. Berger–you achieve levels of fabulousness that mere mortals can only hope to attain. Seriously. When was the last time YOU looked that suave wearing a vest and pantaloons composed of quilting squares? I’ll answer that for you–NEVER.
My only foreknowledge of “Mission to Kill,” an obscure entry into the Eurocrime canon, was that it features the Foppish Force For Awesome that is Helmut Berger. Honestly, that is enough to convince me of the watchability of any given film–the promise of brooding, bitchslapping and tantrum-throwing from the fabulous Mr. Berger is entirely more than I can resist. Fortunately, he’s in fine scenery-chewing form in this film, which is a not-too-bad tale of revenge and organized crime set in the Caribbean. José Gutiérrez Maesso steps into the director’s seat here after having worked on the scripts for“Django,” “Tragic Ceremony” and “Ricco the Mean Machine,” and perhaps-less-shiningly produced the “Exorcist” rip-off scenes inserted into “Lisa and the Devil” to craft “House of Exorcism.” The roster includes character actors and frequent teevee-show-guest-stars Jose Ferrer (notable to me for his role in “So Bad It’s Good” Empire fave “Zoltan, Hound of Dracula”) and Kevin McCarthy (a total “Hey! It’s THAT Guy!” actor with over two hundred screen appearances to his name), who join glamorous blonde actress Sydne Rome (featured in “Pumaman” and “the Killer Must Kill Again”) to round out an actually-pretty-creditable cast.
Helmut Berger plays Clyde Hart, a Vietnam deserter turned organized crime hitman who has had enough of his life as a murderer. He is foiled in his plans to start a new life under a new identity with his lover Anne (Sydne Rome) when his employer, the gambling magnate McLean (Kevin McCarthy) catches wind of his intentions. Things get more complicated still when Police Inspector Reed takes custody of Clyde and involves him in his own plot to assassinate McLean. Anne is persuaded to shack up with brutish underboss Richard in order to ensure her own safety, a move that begins to convince Clyde of the wisdom of Reed’s scheme. The shifting motives of each character combined with the fact that no players are free from guilt make for an interesting crime tragedy.
To be honest, Maesso doesn’t show much in the way of directorial chops. “Mission to Kill” isn’t going to be on anyone’s “lost classics of the genre” list any time soon. The shot-framing is pretty standard, and the amount of helicopter sequences borders on “Night of a 1000 Cats” territory. There’s not much in the way of soundtrack, and while the upbeat island music that accompanies the opening credits sure as hell shows us that we’re knee-deep in tropical paradise, it does little to set the scene for a film focusing on the futility of revenge.
What the movie does have going for it is a leading couple with striking good looks (seriously–the rather energetic seaside makeout sequence a la “From Here to Eternity” provides some nice semi-nude eyecandy of Berger and Rome) and a cast that’s skilled enough to walk itself through a decent storyline. Alas, it’s not enough to really win my affection.
This is a film that would benefit from some well-placed insanity. Sure, it’s insane enough to cast Helmut Berger as a hitman (a move that paid dividends in the trashy and over-the-top flick “Beast with a Gun” a few years down the road), but the movie feels a lot like a flat, made-for-television bit of filler. Wacky dialogue would be welcome, and some more of those full-body Captain-Kirk-style fisticuffs would provide a relief from what threatens to be blandness.
Ah well–such is the life of a completist! It can’t rain groovy all the time.
An evening, not too long after my fateful introduction to Jacinto Molia—a half-empty bottle of Jameson in the center of the Tenebrous Desk. Contemplating the last drops of amber liquid in my glass, I look up to see the Vicar of VHS across the dark, shiny expanse, deep in thought. I am nothing if not appreciative of those who serve the Tenebrous Empire, and I owe the Vicar, who has so generously offered his services as Grand Vizier and able procurer, a debt of gratitude. I had just revealed one of the wonders of my personal film library to the Vicar, and I’m eager to hear his response to Tinto Brass’ 1976 Third Reich epic “Salon Kitty”…
VV: You know, Empress, of all the various and sundry ‘sploitations, I have to say that Nazisploitation is the one I have the least experience with. In fact, you’re initiating me into the genre with this entry, so please be gentle.
I couldn’t help thinking Brass and Co. might have been playing fast and loose with certain historical facts. For one thing, I’m not sure that the S.S. offered team-sport synchronized sex as part of their basic training.
TK: Also, I understand fencing is usually done with pants.
VV: That’s the tradition. But by the point that they got to the naked-fencing—which was, what, about 3 minutes in?—I was already shopping for a new sleaze-meter, as the one I had was obviously not up to the task.
TK: Yes, this film has a way of recalibrating one’s taste for smut. There’s something about the whole “Nazi brothel and political espionage” thing that sets the mind reeling. I mean, I know it sounds like the set-up for one of the great love stories of our time, but director Tinto Brass makes it so much more. Also, he gives us pantsless Helmut Berger as well as leather-pantsed Helmut Berger. Check and double-check, Mr. Brass. It’s wall-to-wall weird sex with a huge budget and a capable cast—it’s the “Cleopatra” of Nazi exploitation films!
Naturally, the part of the film that gets a lot of attention is the infamous Training Sequence, where Berger’s S.S. Officer Wallenberg puts the potential spy-hookers he plans on staffing his brothel with through a series of tests to prove their capacity for kink. They begin with The Most German Sex Ever…”Ladies, you must fuck with TEUTONIC EFFICIENCY”
VV: That was hilarious, the way the S.S. all came marching in, naked, single file. I kept thinking about Madeleine Kahn in “History of the World.” Nobody was smiling, either—just facing a similar line of naked lady Germans across the gymnastic mats.
TK: It was so easy for them to pair up. Put me in that situation and it’d be like a salad bar. One of each pleeeeease.
VV: He did run down the daily specials, as I remember: vaginal, anal, oral, groups…
TK: Although it mainly seemed to be pairs there. * pout *
VV: Well, it was their first day.
TK: Question is–would I take the hott S.S. sex if I knew it would inevitably lead to cripple sex?
VV: It’s a package deal. After the “Triumph of the Will: Hot Cock version” in the gym, they went to the VIP rooms for the real action.
TK: I am still baffled that THE most horrified woman was the one who just had to sit and get eaten out by the cute blonde lesbian. OH NO PLEASE! Don’t throw me in the Briar Patch…! She was, indeed, REJECTED. The Tenebrous Empire would have no part of her either.
VV: I knew when the one girl sank cheerfully into a reverse cowgirl on the double-amputee that we were in for something special.
TK: Wallenberg was totally right with that one.
VV: Agreed. And speaking of Helmut, because I know you want to…I had no idea that “S.S.” stood for “Sexy Silks.”
TK: Oh I KNOW! His outfits were fan-frikkin-tastic throughout. I don’t understand what Teresa Ann Savoy’s problem was. “OK, so I’m totally irresistible to Helmut Berger, he wants me to partner up with him in a life of pure sexy evil…” Where is the CATCH, woman?
VV: Yeah, her motivation was nebulous.
TK: Her acting was nebulous.
VV: Although in their brief encounters, it seemed that Helmut was a bit quick to turn on the showers IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.
TK: AND I THINK I DO. His leather cleaning bill must’ve been astronomical. Not that I know anything about this.
VV: Seriously. Break out the “Son of a Gun” spray.
Is it weird that I totally wanted to know more about Helmut’s wife?
TK: No, I’m there with you. I got that she was “dutiful and discreet,” but I wasn’t aware that was a euphemism for “dyke.” Maybe in the Third Reich that’s how they rolled *shrug*
VV: Now there’s a title I’m amazed we haven’t seen: DYKE OF THE REICH
TK: * runs off to Google that shit *
Much like “vampire bulge,” initial search results are disappointingly tame.
VV: So as a red-blooded supporter of democracy, I was wondering whether I should be finding all this Aryan efficiency sex hot, or whether I was somehow betraying the Greatest Generation in that.
TK: I have no such troubles with doublethink.
VV: I haven’t been that ashamed of an erection since my aunt’s funeral.
TK: But the shame made it BETTER, right?
VV: In this case.
TK: You’ll get used to it. Just keep ogling, the shame will abate. Or so I hear. I… read that in an article.
VV: I also noticed a recurring motif of disfigurement throughout. Seems like everybody had a birthmark, or cleft palate, or dwarfism, etc.
TK: …except the hookers.
VV: Yes, German hookers are perfect. Dr. Mengele proved it scientifically.
TK: Hey, if the Nazis can give us the Volkswagen and perfect hookers…
VV: Who could ask for anything more?
TK: I’ll take a little Ethnic Cleansing if it means a sweet ride. IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.
VV: AND I THINK I DO.
Loved the informative science as well: “Even this nasty-ass dissected hooker with her spleen hanging out is more perfect than this black dude with a ginormous WANG.”
TK: Everything I needed to know about history, I learned from Tinto Brass movies.
Also, the Bread Penis scene…?
VV: Glad you brought it up… * ruffles notes * Let’s see, what did I write down here…Ah yes, here we go:
W. T. F.?
TK: But… you’d get some serious street cred for driving a hooker at a Nazi brothel out of her mind. Who knew all it would take was a bread penis?
VV: It’s so simple, I’m amazed it hadn’t been tried before.
TK: So, when was the last time you drove a hooker mad?
VV: What day is it today?
TK: But… I mean, how did you go about doing it? Because I’m working on my technique.
VV: Sadly, bread penis didn’t enter into it.
VV: Basically I bent her over a sawhorse, shackled her wrists to her ankles, and then made her watch THE SINFUL DWARF three times in a row.
TK: You mean–that movie * I * currently have sitting on the Tenebrous Teevee Stand?
I should be worried.
VV: I think you have built up an immunity to such poison. But to the uninitiated, it’s no wonder they go cuckoo.
TK: Running screaming into the night, or more like “carted away?
VV: Well, they can’t run, cuz of the shackles.
TK: Ahhh… I’ll watch it sans-shackles, then!
VV: Speaking of which, I should go change her water…
TK: You’re entirely too kind.
VV: ANYWAY, back to Deustchland Deustchland Uber Anal…I can’t get over the training sequence and subsequent “limits-testing” in the VIP room. Brass must have had a great time coming up with things an S.S. guy would make a woman do to prove her belief in National Socialism. I was impressed that he gave us everything from retarded gypsy to lesbian German to the ever-popular hunchback dwarf.
Excuse me, NAKED hunchback dwarf.
TK: Uhmmm… “I would not hit it.”
VV: “YOU ARE REJECTED.”
TK: Damn damn DAMN!
This is why I need to be Empress. No problem with REJECTION, no dwarf-fucking. I want to run the brothel. It’s a better fantasy.
VV: You in the Kitty role works out much better.
TK: Also, I would get to be played by Ingrid Thulin, who is fucking fabulous. I could perform cabaret, smoke expensive cigarettes, wear amazing outfits…
VV: I admit that I kinda wanted to try on some of Helmut’s SuperNazi outfits
TK: Believe me; I’m saving up to find just the right tailor. Everything can be improved with embellishment and leather. Believe it.
VV: He should totally be the villain in the Captain America movie, fuck the Red Skull.
TK: He could just swan around bitchslapping people and throwing hissy fits. I’d totally watch that movie.
VV: He’s awesome at that.
TK: He’s the best there is, mein freund.
VV: There were some great minor characters here too we haven’t mentioned, too. Like Wallenberg’s assistant, Lieutenant Half-Nose Who Shouts Every Line.
TK: Oh GOD I love the half-nose guy! Step one would be to tell him to dial it back to, say, six from the ten he was occupying.
VV: I totally believed his character
You WILL believe a man can shout!
You WILL believe a Nazi in a merry widow!
TK: SEE the majestic parade of penises!
VV: GASP IN ASTONISHMENT at the Cock-Cock Can-Can!
TK: REVEL in pubic hair of every color!
VV: Then of course the “hero-defector” character, the one who wanted to assassinate Hitler. He was the moral center of the work. But dumb. I mean stupid do you have to be to think that everything you say in a brothel, TO A HOOKER, is going to be sacrosanct and never get out? “They won’t tell. It’s the hooker code.”
For the only heroic character in the piece, dude was startlingly ineffective. All he did was fuck Teresa Ann Savoy a lot and then get hanged.
TK: And waste champagne by upending a bottle over his head. I would have hung him for that. There is no wasting of champagne in the Tenebrous Empire.
VV: Agreed. If you’re going to pour it on someone, pour it on the Emotionless Whore of the Third Reich. See if you can get her to change her expression.
TK: Yes, she was a little monotone.
VV: A little? She was like a sexier Robbie the Robot “Danger Will Robinson! My tits are out!”
I have a “Lost in Space” fetish. So sue.
TK: “Lost in Space” fetish–they would’ve accommodated that at Salon Kitty. That was in the training room they DIDN’T show.
“She vill not fuck zee robot–REJECTED.”
TK: Moving on…in addition to its mélange of cripple-fucking and ass shots, this movie was an ode to the garter belt, was it not?
VV: I am a big fan of the garter belt. Therefore this movie’s constant bombardment of garters and stockings made view Fascism just a leetle more kindly.
TK: It’s tricky that way, right? It’s like, on one hand–Nazis. On the other hand–GREAT hooker makeovers.
VV: It’s a side of history you don’t often get to see.
TK: I’m planning on keeping the hooker makeovers and ditching the genocide in the Tenebrous Empire.
VV: No one credits the Nazis for their fabulous dance numbers.
TK: Also—the garter belts *stay*.
VV: Agreed. And a bread-cock in every pot!
TK: I’m… dubious about the bread-cock, though as my Grand Vizier, you do have something of a say in this matter.
VV: “As God is my witness, I will never not have a phallus-shaped loaf of bread again!”
TK: You just want a new way to drive hookers MAD.
VV: You’d have preferred a vagina-pita?
TK: Isn’t there something more sinister and fabulous we could come up with? Meh–who am I kidding. I just want to REJECT people while staffing the Love Train.
VV: So, what leads to immediate REJECTION in the Tenebrous training rooms, one wonders?
TK: Insufficiently fabulous panties–REJECTED
VV: You are indeed a harsh mistress.
TK: I think the refusal of lesbianism is really the only thing I can take directly from the movie that would be of great import to the Empire, in terms of REJECTION. I would just make them fuck cripples for LOLs.
“Naaaah, you were totally hired anyway–I just wanted to see if you’d do that.”
VV: I think I told you earlier that I loved Kitty’s last gown there–the one with the insane fan sleeve.
I was thinking, “Why would you wear something like that?” And then the window blew open and she was completely safe from flying glass. Form + Function = Fabulousness.
TK: It’s really a very sound concept indeed. That, I respect. Besides, she was totally dragtastic. I’d love to see this movie re-made with an all-drag cast.
VV: So would the guys be played by women?
TK: YES! Precisely.
VV: Where are you going to find a hunchbacked female dwarf at this hour?
TK: Ohhhh… you raise a valid point. They’re just not producing hunchback dwarves at the rate they used to.
VV: * would hit that *
TK: I’ll send you one as a bachelor party gift upon the eve of our evil nuptials.
TK: What does the Vicar REJECT?
VV: Let’s see…
Birthmark in the shape of Pennsylvania—REJECTED.
Tattoo of Willie Nelson – REJECTED.
Circus-style Lady Beard–TAKEN UNDER ADVISEMENT.
Lemmy-style warts — LEAVE YOUR NUMBER AND WE’LL LET YOU KNOW.
TK: Maybe I should lead this part of the enterprise? You clearly can’t be trusted with this.
VV: You’re much better at it than I am, I admit. You must be REJECTING, like, twenty people EVERY SINGLE DAY.
TK: Just while riding the subway in the morning.
TK: So… maybe you can be in charge of interior design of the evil brothel? You seem to be really good at evil interior design.
VV: Well, you know, I do what I can. A few chains here, a couple of torches there. I find a Wheel of Anguish can really tie a room together.
TK: You also have a keen appreciation for cabaret acts.
VV: It’s true. I appreciate showmanship.
TK: And boobs.
VV: Well, the boobs go without saying, now, don’t they?
TK: See, that’s the kind of insight I’m talking about. You’re a natural.
VV: I do think that I saw more penises in this movie than I’ve seen in one place my entire life.
TK: I definitely saw more penises than I have ever seen in the sum total of my entire life. I felt so virginal.
VV: *raises eyebrows*
TK: Quiet, you.