Hey, well, Nazisploitation. Like a festering cold sore on a sordid decade, these women-and-men-tortured-in-concentration-camps romps flooded the market after the surprise success of Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975), with Italy leading the way in tribute (shocking, I know). Now, I’ve thus far only skimmed the surface of a genre I’m none too keen to dive into; that’s where Severin Films comes in, to hold a newbie’s hand and make sure he survives all the grime. The Beast in Heat (1977) certainly has the grime angle covered (and then some) in Severin’s new Blu-ray; softer sensibilities are warned to stay far, far away.
The story hasn’t changed much, just the players: Dr. Ellen Kratsch (Macha Magall – Man, Woman, and Beast) is in charge of Research and Development for the Gestapo it seems, and her lab is quite full. Sure, she handles the requisite floggings and such, but a true trailblazer as herself also offers female genital electrolysis, rats feasting on guts, and her specialty, the titular manbeast who rapes prisoners from his cell in Kratsch’s attempt at creating a super race. (Could be dodgy—I’m pretty sure the beast’s parentage can be linked to a couple of close relatives.)
While Kratsch wiles away in her torture emporium, a group of Italian resistance fighters are making their way to shut down the Gestapo’s operations; will they be able to free the prisoners and rid their territory of Nazi scum?
We’d have to ask director Luigi Batzella (here as Ivan Kathansky), because The Beast in Heat is two, two, two movies in one! All of the freedom fighter footage is from his 1970 film When the Bell Tolls, and all the nutty doctor footage was newly filmed. That’s not completely true; there is some horribly grainy stock footage inserted into the freedom fighters’ footage, resulting in an exploitation Turducken.
So how does it all play out? Well, it should go without saying that The Beast in Heat is an actively bad film, from the performances (with the exception of Magall, who seems to be enjoying herself), to the dubbing and direction. The real question is whether or not the exploitation lifts it up into the enjoyably absurd; after all, none of this can (or should) be taken seriously, and the answer is yes. There are many moments in the film I’ve certainly never experienced before, regardless of the talent (or lack thereof) on display; genital jumper cables come to mind, as does a baby being thrown in the air and shot down like a little clay target. I’m not necessarily endorsing these behaviors, but I’ve simply never witnessed them before. There comes a point early in the film where you either retreat completely or let it wash over you like a bad acid trip you have to ride out; I’m a rider-outer apparently, because I was in for every comically depraved action depicted even as I shook my head in amazement.
For those like me looking to go deeper into the scuzz and slime, Severin Films once again has you covered:
Now, if the features cupboard seems a little bare, keep in mind that Fascism On a Thread is a full-length documentary on the subject, and a damn good one at that. Starting out with artier aspirations, the sub-genre quickly fell into the fast, furious, and lurid waters of exploitation in search of commerce; this is essential viewing for the curious and the knowledgeable. Following that is Nazi Nasty, a half hour chat with author and Severin vet Stephen Thrower, who talks about the film and others of its ilk. As always, he’s very funny and informative. Things are rounded out with a trailer.
As disreputable as the sub-genre is, the only way to look at Nazisploitation in general and The Beast in Heat specifically is with a sense of detached bemusement, and a begrudging appreciation for the hustle—not only from the filmmakers, but Severin Films as well. As the saying goes, don’t hate the players; hate the game.
Movie Score: 3/5, Disc Score: 4/5