The Video Nasties #49 – The Child (1977, Robert Voskanian)

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‘Hope you’re not a nervous woman.’

Well, it’s fair to say that The Child did not play out as I expected it to. A kind of weird rural gothic chiller that only the independent regional scene in the 70s could produce, The Child would play nicely on the bottom half of a double bill with Axe. I’d go as far as to call it a poor man’s Axe, even though I know that description is likely to send most of you running for the hills. But I liked Axe, and while this isn’t as successful, it still creates a nice creepy atmosphere before turning into a full on Night of the Living Dead rip off.

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The beautiful but ultimately pretty useless Alicianne is on her way to stay at the Nordons, who’s daughter Rosalie she will be looking after. Rosalie has never been the same since her mother died, but she seems to have made a few new friends down at the local cemetery…

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This is one of those films that operates on one simple equation – the more fog there is, the creepier things are. Now I’m no mathematician, but that equation sounds just about perfect to me. The opening shots of the graveyard have more dry ice than the entire Hammer filmography, and when a little girl holds out a cat and gnarled hands reach out from behind a gravestone and grab it you know you’re in for a treat.

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Things slip off the rails for a while when Alicianne arrives and the film grinds to a halt, though there’s just enough to hold my interest. Like Axe, The Child is full of self-consciously arty touches, from tilted camera angles to its excellent avant garde score. The voices are all dubbed and sound like they were recorded down a phone line from the bottom of the ocean, lending the characters a strange, distant quality in keeping with the offbeat atmosphere of the movie. Nothing much happens during the second act, and I felt my attention wandering. Even the first murder is seven long minutes of build up leading to a poor payoff. I was beginning to think I had misjudged the movie, but then it’s revealed that Rosalie’s friends are zombies – zombies! – who seem to do her bidding, killing those that upset her. Then things get really weird.

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If nothing else, this is the only film I’ve ever seen where a woman slow dances with a corpse in a fog enshrouded graveyard. It might also be the only film I’ve seen where a teddy bear cries blood, but I’m not 100% sure on that one. Alicianne and Len try to escape from the chaos and find themselves besieged by zombies in a barn in an exciting scene that ignores all the arty trappings from earlier and goes for the crowd pleasing gross out and is all the better for it.

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The makeup on the zombies is cheap looking but oddly effective, making them look more like filthy, leering skulls. Just don’t pay too much attention to the actors playing them, who hobble about with their arms raised like a kid in a white sheet on Halloween. The gore is fun but unconvincing, and it’s a mystery how anyone could imagine this film was liable to deprave and corrupt right up until the last minute, when something happens that you don’t see everyday in horror films. I won’t spoil it, because I rather enjoyed The Child – if you can get past the talky first 50 minutes you’re in for a low-key treat.

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The Video Nasties #48 – Cannibal (1977, Ruggero Deodato)

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‘This lousy jungle is extremely dangerous!’

At last! At long last, the big reunion you’ve all been waiting for! Me Me Lai and Ivan Rassimov finally get to recreate their sizzling hot chemistry that thrilled you in Deep River Savages. What’s that? You don’t remember? Oh well, take my word for it.

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Cannibal (I’m not going to include the exclamation point every time) is an important film in the small world of the cannibal movie. Five years after Lenzi’s passable movie, Deodato takes the same leads and almost the same plot and ups the gore and horror levels, giving the genre a new direction that subsequent films would really run with.

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This one is another ‘true story’ apparently, and who am I to disbelieve it? It tells the well known story of Robert Harper, who crashed his plane in the jungle and found himself kidnapped by cannibals. But you know all that anyway, don’t you? After all, it’s a true story.

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The first half hour is easily the strongest part of the film, so much so that you might think you are going to be watching a different, better film. Robert and his friends find themselves deep in cannibal territory, and spend the night in their plane, unwittingly surrounded by the bloodthirsty natives. It’s a good, scary set piece and I can’t help wishing the whole film had been four people trapped in a plane overnight, besieged by cannibals. Instead, the lone female of the group heads out to pee and is promptly eaten, as is to be expected. The cannibal scenes are shot with the sort of shaky cam that Deodato would later perfect in his masterpiece Cannibal Holocaust. But just when you think it’s getting good, things go rapidly downhill for Robert and the movie.

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Ol’ Bobby finds himself captured, stripped naked and hung from the roof of a cave. He’s then held captive in a bamboo cage, where he encounters Me Me Lai, the only cannibal in the jungle with breast implants. Romance begins to blossom between the two when she goes up to his cage and, umm, wanks him off. This whole section is a repeat of Deep River Savages’ second act, and equally as uninteresting. Eventually the two escape, Robert dragging Me Me behind him in a pair of bamboo handcuffs so big she could use them as a hula hoop. Romance soon turns into full blown love when Robert rapes her, after the big turn on of seeing a native give birth and throw the newborn into the jaws of a crocodile. Ah, the laws of the jungle!

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By this point, it’s somewhat mind-blowing that this film was never successfully prosecuted. There’s the usual animal violence, more nudity than you can shake Robert’s flaccid penis at and some seriously gruesome gut munching. The climax actually gets close to the kind of intensity that Cannibal Holocaust excelled at, as Deodato lets loose with a show-stopping gore scene that appears to be a real animal carcass with fake human breasts added to it. He’s a sucker for authenticity, that Deodato, but a true story like this deserves nothing less, surely?

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The Video Nasties #47 – Blood Lust (1977, Marijan Vajda)

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‘A regular 20th Century vampire, and us flying to the moon and all.’

There are some Nasties that I can barely fathom how they made the list – The Funhouse, Suicide Cult and Night of the Living Dead are so innocuous, even in 1983. Then there are films like Bloodlust, which opens with a scene of child abuse so uncomfortable, it’s a wonder it got a release anywhere. If this had been released in the UK under its original title it almost certainly would have been prosecuted. That title?

Mosquito the Rapist.

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Werner Pochath, best known to me for his villainous role in the Brandon Lee crapfest Laser Mission, plays an unnamed deaf-mute with some serious sexual hang ups. Having witnessed his sister being abused by their father, he spends his evenings sneaking into funeral parlours and defiling corpses, which somehow takes up the bulk of the film. He slices their breasts, pulls out eyeballs and cuts off heads, before sucking out their blood with a strange forked straw.

And that’s about it.

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Bloodlust is so lacking in dialogue it could often pass for a silent movie. Pochath rides around town on his scooter, gets bullied at work and then messes with bodies. He occasionally goes to a hooker, but gets kicked out when he just wants to cuddle.

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German provocateur Jörg Buttgereit has called this a big influence on his own necrophilia shocker Nekromantik, and both films share a similarly depressing arthouse style. Nekromantik still delivers on the horror and entertainment though, while Bloodlust just kind of wallows around in depravity for a while until you lose all interest. I’m not exactly the kind of guy who’s big on story, but I want a little bit more than we get here. It’s not as if I’m being constantly dazzled by stunning imagery or anything, and the Swiss setting is totally under-utilised. The actors give decent performances, but since when has that been enough to enliven an unpleasantly dull movie?

God, the mid to late 70s were a particularly grim period for films on the Nasties list.

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The Video Nasties #46 – The Beast in Heat (1977, Luigi Batzella)

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‘Now he’s ready to give us a demonstration

that would make the god Eros go green with envy.’

Oh great, we’re back in Italy for another Nazisploitation flick. This one gets off to a great start with a grammatical nightmare of a title card that reads

HORRIFING EXPERIMENTS OF S.S. LAST DAYS

Yes, that’s the spelling. But just how ‘HORRIFING’ are these experiments? At least they can’t possibly be as ridiculous as the testicle transplant from SS Experiment Camp.

Oh, wait.

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This one’s about a demented Nazi scientist who is trying to create an ‘artificial master race’ to act as slaves for their Aryan masters. The result so far is a very small hairy man in a cage, who’s sole purpose is to grunt and rape women. Naturally, the experiment is seen as a great success. We see a nude young woman being given to the beast. The doctor informs us that she is ‘very pretty’, which is handy because she is so out of focus that I couldn’t tell if she was nineteen or ninety.

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The beast has his way with the girl for what feels like an eternity, while everyone stands around watching. I really felt for the actors in this scene. We’ve got a young girl getting raped by a very ugly little man, and everyone else has to stand around and watch it. At least I was able to check my emails whilst this crap was going on. Still, they presumably got paid, unlike me, who’s sitting on my day off from work watching The Beast in fucking Heat. Luckily, I was still laughing at the name of the actor John Brawn, because who doesn’t love a rhyming name? Sometimes, you have to make your own entertainment to get through these things.

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Just when I was beginning to think I was going to be in for 90 minutes of Sal Boris’ hairy arse pumping away, the scene ends and he’s not seen again for over an hour. Instead, the film turns into a completely straight war movie about partisan fighters. Some of the footage that comprises the rest of the film is apparently taken from the director’s earlier film When The Bell Tolls, a movie I will quite happily never sit through. The old footage can be easily spotted by the difference in stock quality and production value, a dichotomy that is a metaphor for the rest of the movie. Ridiculous camp smashes up against nasty, graphic violence seemingly at random. Thus, a comic shot of a naked girl sneaking out of a Nazi’s bedroom is followed shortly by a baby being thrown in the air and shot with a machine gun. Later, someone throws a bucket of water at a girl, who ducks and it hits the person behind her, while later a Nazi pushes a gun into a woman’s vagina and pulls the trigger.

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The violence is low budget and unrealistic, but it’s also perhaps some of the most warped and perverted stuff you’ll see in any of these films. In addition to the aforementioned scenes, a nude woman (they’re always nude, all the time) has electrodes attached to her crotch and then, in one of the most bizarre moments in cinema history, our horny beast actually tears the pubic hair from a woman and eats it. I’ve seen reviews where people make light of that, and sure it looks fake and silly, but the image of a man’s hand clawing at a vagina until it bleeds goes far beyond the daft gore scenes in most of these films. Luckily, there’s one torture that manages to raise a smile; a woman (nude, ‘natch) being eaten alive by rats. Wait, did I say rats? Sorry, I meant guinea pigs. Guinea pigs! She shrieks in horror while the adorable fluffy pets sit on her chest, twitching their little noses in bemusement.

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Mostly though, it’s a pretty rote war movie with two short horror/torture sequences shoehorned in. Thank heavens that we’re done with it, I don’t know if I could take another Nazi sex movie right now. Okay, let’s see, what’s up next?

Blood Lust, a film that is also known as Mosquito The Rapist?

Fuck’s sake.

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The Video Nasties #45 – The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976, Matt Cimber)

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‘I just have to take a whole lotta pills today,

and tomorrow everything will be fine.’

Holy smokes, this is one downbeat movie. The original poster promises a nude sea witch with a Bride of Frankenstein hairdo holding aloft a severed head, while the tagline screams ‘Molly really knows how to cut men down to size!

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You could be forgiven for expecting a crazy Euro monster romp, in the style of Sergio Martino’s Island of the Fishmen or Amando D’Ossorrio’s The Lorelei’s Grasp. What you get is hopelessly dark tale of one woman’s mental unravelling after suffering horrific childhood sexual abuse. It’s a powerful, depressing film that has its flaws, but also a raw power to shock and disturb all of its own.

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The tagline, despite making things sound a lot more lurid, is actually fairly accurate. Molly is a woman who murders and castrates men, often figures from the world of television. Initially it’s not made clear if the murders are fantasy or reality. The first killing we see (although not the first she’s done) is a double murder that seems to take place out of space and time, disconnected from both the film and reality. The sound design for this and all the fantasy sequences is extraordinary, using massive amounts of reverb to create a drugged up atmosphere, while in the background the sound of seagulls rises continuously to a cacophonous roar.

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This would also be a good time to mention the stunning cinematography by Academy Award nominee Dean Cundey, who would go on to shoot John Carpenter’s Halloween and Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. His penchant for dramatic wide angle framing is evident from the opening shot, which mirrors his later work on Carpenter’s The Fog. It’s easily the finest looking film we’ve covered so far in this book, even if the subject matter is often ugly and distasteful. The whole film takes place in a seemingly deserted seaside town and Cundey, only six films into his career, shoots it beautifully, the desolate locales and run down empty storefronts adding to the alienation of Molly.

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The film also features some of the most bizarre and unsettling imagery in all of the Nasties. A sinister tattoo artist lingering by his store, a psychedelic flashback involving dismembered corpses and one utterly nightmarish reveal in Molly’s childhood closet. I won’t spoil it here, but fucking hell, I did not expect that.

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With all this drama going on, it would have been easy for the film to topple over into camp. The first fifteen minutes seem to be heading that way, with music that sounds like a Halloween episode of Little House on the Prairie and an insane montage of musclebound beach hunks working out, close ups of their dicks barely covered by tiny speedos intercut with their violent deaths. It’s almost silly, but somehow, through a combination of restrained direction and believable performances, director Matt Cimber manages to pull it off.

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But much of the credit has to go to Millie Perkins as Molly. Playing a woman whose mind is slowly unravelling to the point that she is committing murder could have led to an over the top piece of showboating from a lesser actress. Instead, Perkins underplays everything perfectly. At first she seems like a poor actress, distracted and unemotive, but once you see what she’s doing it all clicks into place. It’s an incredible bit of screen acting (I’m serious!) and it’s only made better by Lonny Chapman as her boyfriend Long John. During the protracted mental breakdown scene, Chapman barely says a word. Instead, the camera holds on his face for long seconds, as Molly talks, constantly changing subject and forgetting what she’s saying. He remains stoic, but the heartbreak is there in his eyes. A lesser actor would probably have gone bigger, but somehow these two carry the entire third act of the film, an extended sequence of someone watching their loved one die.

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Look, let’s get one thing clear – if you’re here for thrills, move along. It’s a slow, meditative film about repellant subject matter (child abuse) that offers no easy answers and no happy ending. But if you’re willing to set sail and take the journey, The Witch Who Came from The Sea is one of the most powerful films on our list. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you…

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The Video Nasties #44 – Werewolf Woman (1976, Rino Di Silvestro)

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‘Look! I’ve something to show you. This breast!

Pretty nice, huh? Don’t you admire a lovely breast?

Doesn’t it excite you?’

Sometimes it’s the films you least expect to enjoy that turn out to be the most fun. Call it a case of lowered expectations. Werewolf Woman does not initially sound promising. For a start, the etymology of the word Werewolf is from the old English ‘wer’, meaning ‘man’ as in ‘man wolf’, which gives this the film the title Manwolf Woman, which makes no sense. It’s also a rape revenge movie, and they are never fun. Sometimes great, but never fun. Until now!

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What we have here is a sex/horror hybrid that delivers equally on both, starting with a jaw dropping opening credits naked fire dance from our star, Annik Borel. Halfway through she turns into a werewolf, or at least a naked woman covered in fur with a little button dog’s nose and nipples that are literally about two inches long. The makeup job is cheap, but Borel sells it with her intense stare. Some villagers are on her trail, having heard the howl of a werewolf, though it’s unclear what the difference is between the howl of a wolf and the howl of a werewolf. I guess you have to be a real werewolf connoisseur to recognise it. A villager tries to grab her and she throws him to the ground and splits his skull with an axe. At this point, I literally couldn’t be happier.

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It turns out that this is a dream flashback in the mind of Daniella, who is the descendant of the Manwolf Woman. We soon discover – from a doctor no less – that lycanthropy has been proven, and sure enough everyone from the girl’s father to the police to the medical professionals all instantly believe a werewolf is at large. Hey, it was the 70s, everyone was nuts. Daniella experiences some creepy visions, including one of herself with bleeding arms that is amongst the most haunting imagery in the Nasties and we discover that while she may not actually be a werewolf, her man-hating ways cause her to murder anytime someone makes advances on her.

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And so the rest of the film follows Daniella across the country, seducing and then murdering all she encounters, male or female, until she meets a stuntman (!) at an abandoned Wild West village (!!). He is the first person who hasn’t tried to rape her, and so she waits until he’s up a tower and shoots him. He falls to the ground laughing and we realise he was demonstrating one of his stunts. And so begins the silliest and most wonderful love montage in cinema history! They’re running on the beach. He’s jumping through a window! They’re swimming. They’re having sex! It’s absurd and I love it and I realise I’ve actually started to care about Daniella, despite the fact that her whole journey seems to be a metaphor about women as wild animals who need to be domesticated. After giving up killing and taking up being a full-time housewife, her idyll is shattered when three thugs invade her home and you know the consequences can only be tragic.

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Apart from occasionally being sidetracked by some tedious business with the police, Werewolf Woman is as fast moving and consistently entertaining as the Nasties come. The sex and nudity are plentiful, the violence savage and bloody. The music veers from Goblin-style jazz rock to bluegrass harmonica, often in the space of one scene. And goddam it if I didn’t actually feel for poor Daniella when those assholes show up, just as she’s getting her life together.

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Werewolf Woman comes right in the middle of a really long run of dark, humourless Nasties and is all the more welcome for it. If you’re looking for a sleazy good time, you can’t really go wrong with the Manwolf Woman.

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The Video Nasties #43 – SS Experiment Camp (1976, Sergio Garrone)

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‘With all those beautiful women arriving,

I hope it’s a secret mission of a sexual nature!’

Aaaaaand we’re back in the Third Reich, whether you want it or not. Sergio Garrone, best known for his spaghetti westerns, gives us ‘a secret mission of a sexual nature’, so secret in fact that at no point does the film ever tell us what the mission is.

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We know that a group of women have been brought to a Nazi camp for some unspecified experiments involving perpetuating the Aryan race. We know that the doctor is transplanting women’s uteruses for reasons. But none of this really matters, because the experiments are only a part of the story. Instead, we focus on the sinister Colonel Von Kleiben and his unhealthy fascination with the balls of lantern jawed hunk Helmut. Yes, this is a film about the world’s first testicle transplant, and I bet you didn’t expect me to say that.

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It’s not all fun and games though. It’s been a while (not long enough) since we visited Love Camp 7, but now we are of course back in Nazisploitation territory and all the tasteless, humourless nastiness that goes along with it. We open with a nude women being electrocuted, the camera making sure to catch every jiggle of her breasts as she screams in agony, and every inch of nude flesh as her corpse is wheeled to an incinerator. From our vantage point of 2018, it’s hard to imagine that this was ever deemed acceptable to grace cinema screens, but here it is. The sexualisation of the victims of concentration camps. Read that sentence back. What are we doing with our lives people?

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Thankfully, the Nazis are on hand to offer some levity, with such screwball verbal wordplay like, ‘Hey Helmut, don’t tell me you prefer a book to a beautiful pair of thighs…I smell a dusty book and I want to vomit!’ You see, Helmut is the camp’s resident sensitive lover, capable of satisfying two women at once while Von Kleiben creepily watches. Because naturally, Von Kleiben want’s Helmut’s balls for himself, literally, as his own testes were bitten off during an attempted rape.

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All the while, the experiments continue, including such innocuous acts as having sex in water and – shock, horror! – in a bed. I make light of that, but I guess we should be thankful for small mercies. Ten years later, the Japanese film Men Behind the Sun would take the concentration camp torture film to revolting new lows of depravity, so I’m actually glad that the experiments remain so stupid and unimaginative here.

Further detracting from the grim atmosphere is the dubbing job, one of the worst of all the Nasties. Despite being from the same team that seemed to do every Italian movie on the list, the frequent pauses in the dialogue (‘I didn’t like your remark…about shit’) give the sensation that you’re watching an old kung fu movie.

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There are a couple of highly disturbing moments dotted throughout. The first time we see the aforementioned rape flashback, the camera slowly zooms in on the doomed look in the woman’s eyes, cutting away before the assault but leaving us in no doubt as to what happened next. There are also several incineration scenes, but only one of them is scored to a sensationally powerful choral synth track, ending with a fake looking but also truly nightmarish shot of the nude woman writhing in the flames that will haunt you for days. Lastly, there’s a scene of genuine pathos where a young girl is shot and hung upside down outside the girls prison (dormitory? hostel?), the moment eliciting actual emotion from her fellow prisoners.

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But be honest, you’re only still reading to find out about Helmut’s balls. Well, first we have to sit through the surgical procedure in real time, as Helmut’s nads are removed and dropped in one of those big silver dishes usually reserved for bullets being removed from action heroes’ arms. When he awakes, he immediately tries to have sex, and the moment he realises his nards are gone is one of the great moments in cinema. The music swells towards a crescendo, he’s all sweaty and panicking, his woman is trying to reassure him, but then the swinging light illuminates his crotch and…well, her face says it all really. Helmut storms after Von Kleiben, confronting him with the immortal line – all together now, guys –

‘How you been doing with my balls?’

How indeed! The film ends with a moderately entertaining but too short murder spree and escape attempt, which climaxes with our heroes caught in a hail of bullets, and that’s not a spoiler. What, did you expect your film about Nazi testicular experiments to have a happy ending?

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