Written and Directed by: Rino Di Silvestro
Starring: John Steiner, Lina Polito, and Erna Schurer
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
“I want to drink your saliva, bite your body, suck your blood."
Of all the exploitation sub-genres, Naziploitation is arguably the ballsiest, or at least the one done in the poorest of tastes. It’s the cinematic equivalent of cheap heat: everyone hates a fuckin’ Nazi, and their atrocities are so infamous that translating them into schlock flick villains is equally predictable and outrageous. The rise of this particular genre is one of the damnedest things to emerge out of the 70s—it’s almost as if its pioneers decided to gaze into the abyss of World War II and project the wildest, filthiest, and most perverse stuff imaginable because the Third Reich was a natural breeding ground for it all.
As you might imagine, it’s a genre whose reputation casts a long shadow that sometimes outruns the actual films. Such is the case with Deported Women of the SS Special Section, one of the more notorious titles to arise out of Europe during this time. While there’s no denying the film’s twisted depravity, it’s tough to see it as anything more than base provocation that becomes dull and diluted—sometimes, the abyss gazes back and only offers more emptiness.
I know that sounds like an obvious criticism for this genre. Obviously, many of these films had little-to-no interest in tackling the psychology behind Nazi Germany and existed only to exploit its physical horrors and twist them into a psychosexual maelstrom, but Deported Women aggressively wallows in luridness for the sake of it. Its loose plot revolves around a group of women shipped off to a Nazi death camp, where they’re humiliated and forced to serve as field whores. Depraved commander Erner (John Steiner) lords over the camp with the help of various wicked wardens, all of whom sexually degrade and torment the captives.
So it goes for about 97 minutes. The film can’t be said to have much of a through-line, as it’s essentially a parade of bizarre, disturbing sequences that give way to a jailbreak plot towards the end. Some are more outlandish and memorable than others, but I’ll pick out one highlight in particular that probably reveals all you need to know about Deported Women. Predictably, the male gaze is in full effect, with the camera consistently leering at the often disrobed prisoners (hell, a woman drops trou on a cattle car within the first 45 seconds); however, director Rino Di Silvestro takes it to absurd lengths with a drawn-out scene where the new arrivals are forced to strip and shave their pubic hair. If the film’s aspirations weren’t already apparent here, just know that it actually has no ramifications on the movie at all—none of the women appear to be shorn at any later point in the film.
I could continue rattling off other outlandish instances—the film boasts more than a few, some of which will leave you collecting your jaw from the floor. But what’s more outrageous is how the film never feels all that unhinged, perhaps because it lacks a pulse and any sort of verve. Instead, this is an especially roughshod Eurohorror joint filled with awkward cuts, warbly cinematography, baffling transitions, and a general aimlessness that saps the film of its potency. For all its debauchery, the Deported Women rarely comes alive. Most of those instances in which it does involve Steiner, who is a perverse delight as the camp’s main commanding officer. Basically affecting a riff on Udo Kier’s performances under Andy Warhol, Steiner is the exact sort of campy presence the film needs to keep it from veering into truly disturbing territory—he’s a hoot, especially when he’s ogling after one of the prisoners like a lovesick puppy.
Everything surrounding Steiner is hit-and-miss. His frauleins make for decent Ilsa wannabes, but they mostly serve to provide titillation by bedding the inmates during softcore sequences. Deported Women is slathered in such sleaze and grime, and its best supporting star is arguably the decrepit castle housing its depravity. There’s a tinge of the gothic here to give the film the faintest sense of style and atmosphere. It’s often bathed in a pale moonlight to accentuate the prisoners’ despair; this isn’t so much a traditional Nazi death camp so much as it’s a deteriorating torture dungeon. That the film is set during the War’s twilight seems appropriate, as these Nazis are obsessed with restoring European glory, yet they operate out of its decaying, ancient innards and have relented to a last gasp of madness.
That’s probably giving Deported Women way too much credit and reading too far into things, of course. I’d like to give the film credit for something, especially since my experiences with this sub-genre have been less than stellar. Dismissing it as “not for me” seems too easy because I’m not sure these films were “made” for any sort of audience; instead, they’re more like psychotic projections, bursts of reptilian impulses committed to celluloid. There’s certainly something a little admirable about that, as is Intervision’s decision to champion such efforts with a new DVD edition for Deported Women. The source material for their transfer is appropriately rough and scuzzy, but that just feels right; in Video Nasties, Neil Marshall made a fair point that some films derive power from coarse presentations, and that sentiment applies here. Intervision has outfitted the release with interviews featuring Di Silvestro, Steiner, and film historian Dr. Marcus Stiglegger. This release also boasts a totally uncensored cut of the film that includes the infamous “cork and razor” scene. I’ll say no more. Rent it!
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