Wednesday, November 10, 2010

DVD Review: Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69 (2008)

Wild Eye Releasing

RATING: Unrated
DIRECTOR: Keith J. Crocker
CAST: Charles Esser (Helmut Schultz), Steve Montauge (Wolfgang), Tatyana Kot (Natasha), Edward Yankus (Jack Jones), Giordana Jenell (Frieda), Paul Richichi (The Priest),
TAGLINE: A New Era of Nazi Terror

SYNOPSIS: Germany, 1945. Stalag 69, a POW camp ruled by the sadistic SS commandant Helmut Schultz, is nothing but a blood-soaked playground for this perverse Nazi monster who uses his Americana, Russian and British prisoners in cruel and ghastly biochemical weapons experiments and kill-for-sport pleasure. When a group of young wanton USO girls are captured and fall into the hands of Schultz and his battalion of butchers, the shocking brutality is turned up. Now it's up to these rag tag survivors of the camp to strike back against their captors and escape from Stalag 69, alive or in pieces!

FILM: It is thanks to the folks over at Wild Eye Releasing that cult-director Keith J. Crocker is in my vocabulary. His 1997 film The Bloody Ape is a super 8mm masterpiece of trash cinema. It's great example of a film shot on a pocket change budget with a deep love for lo-fi exploitation, fun stuff. 11 years later Crocker set out to film a twisted WW2 Nazi-sploitation epic that became Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69. Nazi Exploitation and WW2 epics are genres I have little experience with. I've never seen the iconic films of the genre like Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975), Gestapo's Last Orgy (1977) or the original The Inglorious Bastards(1978). It's was a short-lived sub genre of exploitation and grindhouse cinema that reared its head in the mid-70's and continued through the early 80's, but it never really caught my attention. The genre seems to be earmarked by sadistic torture, human degradation, racist cruelty, genocide and perversity. So going into Kieth J. Crocker's Nazi exploitation flick Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69 I had little to put it up against, but I can tell you it's faithful to the genres cliches. On a more personal note - As a young child I loved the television program Hogan's Heroes (1965-1971). It was in syndication in the early 80's when I was in 2nd grade. I didn't grasp that Nazi's were evil figures. The show depicted Col. Clink and Schultz as inept buffoons and I knew nothing of the Holocaust. I'd always been a doodler and somewhere along the way I started drawing swastikas on my homework ...detention! Needless to say my teacher kept me after class and informed me of my errant ways and my days of adolescent Nazi propaganda came to an abrupt end.

The plot of Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69 centers around a POW camp Stalag 69 run by the monstrous Helmut Schultz (Charles Esser) and his sidekick Wolfgang (Steve Montague) whom resembles a more sadistic Schultz from the aforementioned and beloved Hogan's Heroes which itself was based on the WW2 classic Stalag 17 (1953) which Crocker cites as an influence on this film. They are joined in their torturous activities by Helmut's sexy-sadist sister Frieda (Giordana Jenell ). In 1945 the Third Reich is on it's last legs and as Allied forces converge on Stalag 69 the Gestapo has plans to eradicate all evidence of Stalg 69's crime against humanity. It's up to the POW's and a group of USO girls to make a desperate attempt at escape led by the all-American good guy G.I. Jack Jones (Edward Yankos). Also causing a ruckus at the compound is the Russian femme fatale Natasha (Tatyana Kot) who delivers some nasty I Spit on Your Grave (1978) style revenge on her captors.

Stalag 69 is in your face with nudity and not always of the scintillating variety, either. Crocker doesn't want to let us relish in the glory of the naked form and the bodies are scarred, bruised, mutilated and tortured.  It's all disturbing to some degree including the scene where Nastasha escapes the experiments and runs through the forest nude while mowing down Nazis with a machine gun. The torture scenes in Stalag 69 are unnervingly brutal and Crocker and company do an decent job with the gore effects work. It's hard to watch human degradation in any form and Crocker taps into the worst that human nature has to offer and its on display here in all it's shocking glory.
The acting and line readings are suspect and the accents are are over the place. The weakest aspect of the film is the protracted dialogue exchanges and monologues, every character in this film is a long-winded gas bag. Paul Richichi appears in a wrap-around story as a Catholic priest but sadly the outrageous lunacy that made him such an awesome presence in Crocker's The Bloody Ape is not on display and the  climax of the film suffers for it. That combined with the overly long running time of the film made Blitzkrieg a bit of a slog at times. I enjoy Crocker's eye for exploitation shock and awe but he's no Tarantino when it comes to snappy dialogue. The idea of marrying a WW2 epic like Stalag 17 and a mid-70's Nazi-sploitation sounds awesome but the epic running time tried my patience at times.

DVD: The Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69 DVD release from Wild Eye Releasing is presented in a non-anamorphic letterboxed 1.78:1 aspect ratio director's cut with a 2.0 stereo audio mix. Much like Wild Eye's release of Crocker's super-8mm classic The Bloody Ape it is jam-packed with bonus content. A fun commentary plus 16mm test footage. Initially Crocker intended to shoot the film on 16mm black and white, the test footage looks great but proved to be too expensive.


- Commentary with Director Keith J. Crocker, Production Designer Keith Maturro and Actress Tatyana Kot
- Nazis Over Nassau Featurette (38:16)
- Original Schindler's Lust Trailer (7:12)
- Trailers for The Bloody Ape (0:55) and Blitzkrieg - Escape from Stalag 69 (0:50)
- 4 Deleted Scenes (5:49)
- Bloopers (5:47)
- 16mm Test Footage (5:33)
- Cast and Crew Q+A from NYC Premiere (30:27)
- Production Stills
- Short Film Desade '88 (5:56)

VERDICT: Not a prefect film by any means but I did enjoy Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69. This is a sleazy, shocking Nazi-sploitation epic that pushes the boundaries of human decency and it's hard to fault Crocker for being overly ambitious. Nazi exploitation cinema is a sub genre of grindhouse that is spoken of little and few would dare attempt a resurrection in this day and age. *** (3 out of 5 stars)