New Issue of ULTRA VIOLENT plus My Latest Painting

Fans of horror cinema rejoice–the latest issue of Ultra Violent Magazine has returned from the printer and is available for purchase. In-depth interviews with cult personalities like Peaches Christ, Geretta Geretta, and Richard W. Haines sit side-by-side with tons of reviews and exclusive photos. I’ve contributed an article on the history of the masked supercriminal, from Fantomas to Diabolik and beyond.
In lieu of a clunky transition saying something about how Helmut Berger played Fantomas in a miniseries made in the early 80s, I shall just say that one of the good side effects of having contracted the plague recently is it made me house-bound enough to finish up a painting of that actor I’d put aside. Slap your eyeballs on my latest acrylic-on-canvas portrait:
Helmut Berger [Acrylic Portrait]

15″ x 20″, acrylic on canvas

Fuck Yeah Helmut Berger

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.

So really, I was unable to say no to Darius Whiteplume, pal of the Empire and author of the eclectic and fabulous blog Adventures in Nerdliness, when he invited me to co-curate a Tumblr blog dedicated to one of my long-time favorite actors, Helmut Berger. In the tradition of other similar celebrity-celebrating Tumblogs, this effort is titled Fuck Yeah Helmut Berger. We welcome submissions, so if you’ve got some Berger-related material you’d like to share with the internet, let me know!
Taking advantage of Tumblr’s Wild Westier attitude towards NSFW content, I’ve posted some material that I’ve held off on sharing here on the Love Train. That cover up at the top, showing Mr. Berger with Diabolik’s girlfriend Marisa Mell, gives just a taste of the photo-spread I scanned in last night for your fapping delectation. You’re all extremely welcome!

Love Me Strangely (aka "Un Beau Monstre") [1971]

“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.

Helmut Berger plays Alain Revent, a sleekly beautiful young man whose wife perishes after a drug-induced topple from their swank apartment balcony. His neighbor Nathalie, played by Virna Lisi, witnesses the tragic event and, fascinated by Alain’s brooding sensuality (who wouldn’t be, even with the Errol Flynn moustache?), begins to fall in love with him. After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, Nathalie begins to suspect that there is a perverse cruelty to Alain’s personality and is torn between her love for him and her sense of self-preservation.
The film’s structure is an unusual one–there’s very little in the way of dialogue for almost the first half of the movie, relying instead on a montage of Alain and Nathalie’s courtship overlaid with a sweeping love theme. “Stay,” performed by Wallace Collection and written by veteran film composer Georges Garvarentz, was apparently a radio hit in France after the release of this film. You’d better get used to this song, because you’re going to hear it A LOT:
Upon first listen, “Stay” is tender pean to unending love, but it takes on a sinister cast as the movie progresses and twists into a tale of obsession. Allow me to be very direct here–I sighed a little bit when I first heard the main theme. It’s soupy, it’s corny, it’s downright schmaltzy, but it also possesses that earworm quality shared by the most memorable pop ballads. By the film’s closing image, this song is another character in the story–a violin-sweet Greek chorus of sorts.
"Love Me Strangely"
The decision to remove most of the dialogue from the build-up of Alain and Nathalie’s romance means that Berger and Lisi need to convey their tenderness and desire entirely through facial expressions and body language. Make no mistake–if you want somebody who can give a significant look over the dinner table, you simply CANNOT GO WRONG in casting Helmut Berger. In the same way that the female sex symbols of the 60s and 70s have a unique “X Factor” in addition to their beauty, Berger has a sexiness of screen presence that few male leads can offer.
"Love Me Strangely"
This kind of sexiness is significant here, because one of the interesting things that happens in “Love Me Strangely” is that it’s most assuredly NOT the Bluebeard story of a brutish, foul, yet wealthy man terrorizing a series of unfortunate wives–Alain’s character fills the role generally reserved for the femme fatale. While it begins to seem that Alain is a similar scoundrel to the character of Gregory Anton in “Gaslight,” mercilessly driving his wife to madness for his own financial gain, Alain’s motives are not nearly so clean-cut. His mysterious history, fluid sexuality, and Byzantine mind games make him a dangerous combination of “Wuthering Heights'” Heathcliff and Glenn Close’s bunny boiler Alex from “Fatal Attraction.”

"Love Me Strangely"
The sophisticated Parisian world that Alain and Nathalie inhabit is brought to life with some SERIOUSLY funky set design and costume choices. Much of the story takes place inside Alain’s flat, which is a study in psychedelic excellence from the glassed-in reptile habitat that separates the living room from the rest of the apartment to the foot-pedal-operated entertainment center. There’s a sequence that walks a tightrope between intimate and ridiculous in which Alain puts on a shadow-show for Nathalie, mimicking caressing her body with the shadows cast by his hands–all accomplished thanks to the swanky foot pedals that dim and raise the lights in his living room. Technology, man–is there nothing it can’t do?
"Love Me Strangely"
There are colorful characters throughout the film who come in and out of the lead couple’s lives. Between Nathalie’s sexually predatory friend, Alain’s male lover Dino, and Charles Aznavour’s turn as the concerned police inspector, there’s enough additional texture to keep the plot percolating along. There’s even a “blink and you’ll miss him” appearance by genre vet and Jess Franco regular Howard Vernon, who appears early on in the story. He’s a little like a storm crow presaging the bad junk to come…! And it would hardly be fair of me to not mention the big psychedelic shindig that Alain hosts–while it doesn’t contain a person in a turban as all the BEST big psychedelic shindigs do, it still passes muster in the “zany fashion” category.
"Love Me Strangely"
Fans of Eurotrash potboilers will find enough in “Love Me Strangely” to occupy their attention. It’s not a flashy murder mystery, nor is it the product of an obsessed auteur, but there’s enough dark romance here to make it a nice change of pace from some of the more out-there offerings in that particular cinematic universe.

La Puritana (aka Scorpion’s Kiss) [1989]

CAUTION: This review gets a lot more spoilery than the reviews I normally write, so if you had a grey-market copy of “La Puritana” sitting at home, waiting for an evening when you were in a mood for a revenge story/80s prime time soap opera mash-up, you might want to skip this review. For the remaining 99.99% of my readership, carry on as you were.
"La Puritana"
The first image of our film–it’s pretty much downhill in terms of “Good Taste” from here.
Eurotrash cinema wears many faces. There’s the surrealist dreamscape film; the gore-soaked splatter epic; the thinly-veiled, churned-out rip-off capitalizing on a hit film’s success; the boobs-a-poppin’, pants-droppin’ sleaze story. “La Puritana” has its feet planted firmly on the soil of this last type of movie–it’s a softcore porn with a revenge storyline and giallo trappings. Produced as it was in 1989, almost twenty years after the best gialli had been made, this isn’t an example of the finest suspense cinema Italy had to offer. What it DOES have to recommend it is one of the silliest plots I’ve seen in a while and characters motivated entirely by their respective ids (even more so than usual).
Lady Lawyer Annabella Allori (played by a dramatically surgically-enhanced Margit Evelyn Newton) arrives in a sleepy Southern Italian town and embarks on a mission to avenge the death of a family who had been misused by… well, by pretty much every other character we get to meet in the movie. Drug addict Gabriele has left Annabella an audiocassette (remember those things?) containing his recounting of his and his mother’s abuse at the hands of various wealthy and powerful men. Dispensing with any appearances of subtlety straight away, we learn that the mayor has pimped weak-willed Gabriele and his alcoholic mother to a Count, a drug-dealing pharmacist, the local priest, and a wealthy physician. It’s almost as if the movie is making a point about the corrupting nature of power, but I can’t… quite… put it together…
"La Puritana"
We get Teachable Moments right from Scene One, in which Gabriele expires in a hospital bed, occasioning precisely NO RESPONSE from the hospital staff (I got yer socialized medicine RIGHT HERE, lieblings). On the plus side, apparently there are BARS in Italian hospitals, because we’re treated to a scene in which Annabella shares a cocktail with Dr. Carlo (played by a rather puffy but still mostly-awesome Helmut Berger), surrounded by a bunch of doctors STILL WEARING THEIR WHITE COATS. “I’ve got a three o’clock triple bypass; this calls for a J&B, barkeep.”
"La Puritana"
Also, I’m thinking that Italian Law School is pretty darn different from American Law School, because Annabella spends the film clad in an array of eye-popping but not-ready-for-the-courtroom outfits, including her Barbie cleavage bowtie skirt suit. Seriously. This is the kind of clothing that Joan Collins would deem far too loud for her to don. Power shoulders, pulse-quickening prints, and plastic tribal jewelry define the aesthetic of this film’s fashions. And that’s to say nothing of the nigh-upon-Trojan layers of makeup worn over the lead actress’ distractingly nipped-and-inflated features.
"La Puritana"
I’m tap-dancing around the meat of the story because I feel like it’s important to set the scene, but it’s high time that I reveal the element makes this movie special. As in: the “Special Education” kind of special. Annabella uses her sensuality to exact her revenge, enticing the scoundrels who participated in the destruction of her friends by having sex with them. Not just flirting, holding out the promise of sex, only to pounce at the last moment with her virtue intact–girlfriend does the deed. WITH ALL OF THE VILLAINS (except the gay one, because our scriptwriter is at least a little bit grounded in reality). But here’s the incredible thing–she doesn’t actually NEED to seduce anyone! In fact, she could skip having sex with these guys entirely and the plot would still work. But then we’d be deprived of several oily and literal sex scenes that play out like penetration-free moments from one of those “couple’s pornos” with the tacked-on plots that can be used to trick unwilling spouses into viewing hardcore sex.
Back to our movie, though! Let me break down for you exactly how Annabella could have avoided having sex with any of these evildoers:
  • 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*
My fave REVENGE moment comes when Annabella reveals her intentions to cause the death of a gay, pedophiliac Catholic priest. Shrieking in terror, he runs out the door of the church and IMMEDIATELY falls under the wheels of a car. I mean, credit where credit’s due–Annabella may have questionable reasons for seduction, but her psychic powers can-NOT be beat.
"La Puritana"
In a genre distinguished by its stupid plots, this Italo-thriller out-stupids most of its competitors. Credit where credit is due–“La Puritana” wears its intentions to show lots of nudity on its sleeve and the absence of tension, directorial style, and common sense don’t work against this prime directive. Also on the up-side, even though Helmut Berger is looking worse for the wear here, his ass looks way better than any middle-aged man’s ass deserves to look. Gold star for that!
"La Puritana"
"La Puritana"
BONUS MATERIALS: above is a shot of leotards, for those of you who are reotarded for leotards. You know who you are.

Ludwig [1972]

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.

"Ludwig" Film Still
It would seem that teaming an actor so capable of going so far over the top in his performances with the kind of filmmaker who would dream up a four-hour biopic based on the life of a nineteenth century Bavarian king that popular history remembers as a madman would be a recipe for cinematic insanity. Add to this the fact that Visconti and Berger were romantically involved at the time of this film’s production, thus raising the potential for this movie to be a really really long, really really expensive ego trip of a production motivated more by affection than good sense. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect from Luchino Visconti’s 1972 epic “Ludwig,” except that I’d be spending four hours watching Helmut Berger pretend to be a king while wearing fancy historical outfits and therefore an entirely sound investment of MY time.
"Ludwig" Film Still
“Ludwig” is simultaneously sweeping in scale and emotionally intimate; luxurious in its settings and understated in its performances. It’s a story about art, privilege, sexuality, spiritual love, and profound loneliness. The film attempts to portray the reign of King Ludwig II of Bavaria (spanning the years between 1864 and 1886) in a naturalistic, obsessively precise manner. Best known to most people for having the words “THE MAD” appended to his name as a result of his extravagant patronage and general eccentricity, the Ludwig of this film is a man whose devotion to the arts and lack of interest in affairs of state isolate him from his peers. He’s emotionally fragile and has a naive tendency to deify artists (his exuberant financing of composer Richard Wagner is explored at length), but he’s not mad. Ludwig is portrayed as an idealist whose visions of beauty are eroded and ultimately destroyed by forces both profound (obligations to state and family) and banal (Wagner is shown to be a brilliant artist who is also a ruthless profiteer). His love for his cousin Elisabeth, the Empress of Austria, (portrayed by Romy Schneider in a return to this role) isn’t motivated by physical desire but rather by his admiration for her independent spirit and empathy with his passions.
"Ludwig" Film Still
This is an incredibly lavish production–filmed on site at Ludwig II’s castles (including Neuschwanstein, the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland), the movie includes some of the most painstakingly detailed costumes and set trappings I’ve ever seen. The cinematography is oftentimes dark, punctuated by rays of sunlight, much like a painting by one of the Dutch Masters. It’s an incredibly beautiful movie populated almost entirely by incredibly beautiful actors.
"Ludwig" Film Still
It would be easy for this kind of mise en scene overwhelm the actors, but that isn’t the case here. Visconti’s film proceeds with a deliberate, slow pace that allows the audience to absorb the grand trappings of each scene before concentrating on the performances.
And yes, this is one heck of a slow-moving film. Make no mistake about it–there are spaces of film where it feels like Ludwig’s 22-year reign is being depicted in Real Time. I’ll admit that I found myself checking out during the long scenes of characters discussing the intricacies of continental European politics of the Nineteenth Century.
"Ludwig" Film Still
But, just as I was starting to question the wisdom of undertaking this particular nugget of Italian art cinema, the beauty of Berger’s performance as the psychologically complex king would come through and I’d be hooked all over again. Beneath some pretty significant makeup (including a pretty squicky-looking set of rotten teeth), Berger conveys an impressive range of emotion , sometimes over the space of only a handful of frames. His reaction to a handsome young actor’s soliloquy shows an ecstatic sadness that’s nothing short of heartbreaking:
"Ludwig" Film Still
"Ludwig" Film Still
"Ludwig" Film Still
I talked last week about Endurance Movie-Watching, and I have a feeling that for many viewers, sitting still for four hours to watch a nuanced tragedy of manners might be more than they could or would want to handle. Sad and beautiful and meticulous, “Ludwig” is the Period Piece taken to an extreme. It’s downright academic in its dedication to creating a fully immersive royal world, and the film suffers as entertainment because of this almost clinical level of detail. At the same time, I can’t imagine watching one of the theatrical cuts of this movie–it would lose its resonance and elegance entirely.
For those of you less enthused about watching interminable arthouse fare, check out the Flickr gallery of stills from Visconti’s “Ludwig” here.

Greatest Fashion Statements in Exploitation Cinema History

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.

"Satanik" Film Still
Lady Diabolik-style striptease outfit from “Satanik.” It pains me in no small measure that I don’t have a job where this would be the uniform. I need to start my lucrative career in cat-burglary STAT. Speaking of which–why doesn’t anybody talk about cat-burglary anymore?
"Blood for Dracula" Film Still
This hair-collar greatcoat from “Blood for Dracula” is only one of the reasons I adore Udo Kier’s portrayal of a foppish, decaying, aristocratic Count.
"Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks" Film Still
Ilsa’s formalwear in “Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks” inspires me to new heights of cutting up my clothing. I’m pretty sure the assistance of her two hench-babes is crucial to being able to get *into* and *out of* this particular get-up.
"Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and Wolf Man" Film Still
"Vengeance of the Zombies" Film Still
[Tie] Turban and natty suit from “Vengeance of the Zombies” and lucha libre masks with business casual attire in “Santo and Blue Demon vs. Dracula and the Wolfman.” What I’m trying to say is: HEADGEAR, gentlemen. Get all over that junk. It’s unpossible for me to choose between the quiet sophistication of a swami’s turban or the rough-and-ready machismo of a Mexican wrestling mask. Protip: Choose one OR the other–both would just be gauche.
"Modesty Blaise" Film Still
The she-sheik getup from “Modesty Blaise” exemplifies how the ladies can work this look into their apparel. Much as I didn’t dig “Modesty Blaise” as a film, I just can’t get the fashions out of my mind! Everyone looked simply gorgeous in this film. Let’s take a moment to collectively swoon over the sheer amount of groovy on display here, shall we? *swoon*
"Salon Kitty" Film Still
Wallenberg’s wardrobe in “Salon Kitty” is jaw-droppingly elaborate and sumptuous in every scene. This character has got more wardrobe changes than Madonna, and I love him for that.
Carol Hammond’s wardrobe in “Lizard in a Woman’s Skin” is actually a look I’ve been striving to emulate for some time in actual f’reals non-ironic real life. I don’t have Florinda Balkan’s icy severity, so I just come off looking like a very small, somewhat spazzy witchfinder general. I like to think that just means I’ve put my own stamp on the theme.
"Virgins from Hell" Film Still
Mr. Tiger in “Virgins from Hell” is the coolest motherfucker on the planet. Make no goddamn mistake about that.
"Beyond the Valley of the Dolls" Film Still
"Case of the Bloody Iris" Film Still
[Tie] Body paint in “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” and “The Case of the Bloody Iris.” No, really–YOU try to choose whether Haji or Edwige wore it better. I double dog dare you.
"Dorian Gray" Film Still
The zebra coat and oversized hat from “Dorian Gray” are just astonishing. It is to my eternal consternation that Baron XIII still refuses to don this outfit, even though I’ve told him that the internet demands it of him.

The Always-FABULOUS Helmut Berger

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?

Helmut Berger in "Dorian Gray"

He looks fantastic as a brooding pimp, whether he’s simply sporting the styles, as shown above, or whether taking it to a rather literal level as commandant of Salon Kitty:
Helmut Berger in "Salon Kitty"

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.

Helmut Berger
Newsboy? Pimp? Pimp moonlighting as a newsboy?  It’s a brave statement, people.  
Helmut Berger
“Help!  I’m trapped in a box!”  Demonstrating the same kind of depth and breadth of range as described above:  a baberbshop quartet member who breaks away to live his dream of performing as a mime!
No.  Not really.  But I’ll confess I’d still watch that movie, just to bask in the gloriousness of those cheekbones (and hopefully to bear witness to one of Helmut Berger’s amazing cinematic hissy fits–nobody throws a hissy fit like he does… except, perhaps, for Udo Kier, but that’s a matter for another post).
And because, my fellow Berger-fans, you’ve been so patient, here’s the Pantsless Part for you:
Helmut Berger in "Dorian Gray"

Helmut Berger Magazine Pictorials

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:

Helmut Berger - Fashion Pictorial

Helmut Berger - Fashion Pictorial

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.

Mission to Kill (aka Order to Kill) [1974]


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.

The Flickr gallery for “Mission to Kill” lives here.

Salon Kitty [1976] with the Vicar of VHS

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.


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.”


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
Unpainted toenails–REJECTED
Bad shoes—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.

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.

Bask in the ‘sploitationey glow of the “Salon Kitty” film still and costume design gallery on my Flickr account, IF YOU DARE.