Thumped’s Random Dvd trip: Wherein Hector Grey enters the Xtravision across the road and grabs the first couple of things that appear in the shelf. This week: Blood Creek & My Best Enemy.
Thumped’s Random Dvd trip: Wherein Hector Grey enters the Xtravision across the road and grabs the first couple of things that appear in the shelf.
Acthung! Mein Gott in Himmel! Aieeeeeeeeeeee! For you, ze war is over, Tommy. Will Blood Creek and My Best Enemy sate our need for Nazis?
Ah, the Nazis. They offer us so much. You literally could not make this shit up. Debonair and sadistic, clad in their Hugo Boss uniforms, snapping riding crops off the backsides of wenches, torturing prisoners, smoking with a practiced aloofness, armed with the coolest gun on earth: the Luger. Then there’s the whole killing and genocide, the questionable manifesto, the trail of destruction. They’re cinematic gold. Every aspect of cinema can have a Nazi angle. Obviously they work well in war movies, and spy ones for that matter, but there’s the whole dirty sex aspect, the stories of survival and human spirit, the occasional hero, all the rest of it.
And of course, Hitler’s love and fascination with the occult. That’s good for the occasional film, and if you thought that Spielberg pretty much said it all in Indiana Jones you were wrong, there’s much more frivolity to explore in Blood Creek.
It’s 1936 and Dr. Wirth, played by Michael Fassbender, who’s Irish when he’s good, but is German in this movie, turns up at a farm in West Virginia, to an ex pat German family, the Wollners, who, due to the fact that there’s a depression on and need the money, have agreed to put him up while he studies some rune stones in the area. He explains that long before Columbus landed in American soil, the Aryan Vikings did, and the proof is in these rune stones that they’ve left dotted about the place. The Wollners found such a stone when they were building their barn, and have it in the basement of said barn. It becomes apparent that Wirth is creepily obsessed with the stone, and , duhn duhn duhn! All is not what it seems.
So far, so where are the guns, the cattle-trains, the Messerschmitt Bf109es? Where, in short, is the cool shit? Perhaps the answer lies in the right now, as Evan, who is to be our protagonist, is grappling with the disappearance of his older brother and war hero, Victor. There’s some character exposition in the dialogue with his unwell father, played by Gerard McSorley, coughing and hacking and still clearly reeling from having been in Trapped, and it’s clear that the missing son is the preferred one, even though it’s Evan who’s been there, man, to take care of him, man, and all that shit that’s pretty honestly superfluous. Anyhoo, guess who turns up, only Victor, all scarred and angry and out for revenge and stuff. He gets his bro to get the guns, and the pair of them head off in a canoe, down the titular Creek no doubt, all riled up and with some killing on their mind. Lawks! The very farm that Victor was imprisoned and tortured on is none other than the Wollner’s farm from earlier on when the film was all sepia-toned and what have you. Jiminy! And what’s more, the Wollner’s are still there, nary a day older. Crikey!
Fassbender, the occultist Nazi, has stopped them in time, so that they can forage for hapless wanderers for him that he can then drink their blood. They are trapped here by this weird monster, who they have in turn trapped with some hieroglyphics they’ve scrawled on the wall, thus forbidding him entry to their farm house, or egress from the farmstead. How like a German monster to follow the rules to the letter. A scrap ensues, and our heroes take refuge in the farmhouse, with an angry, mummified Nazi going all Munich putsch on them outside.
Joel Schumacher, author of this film, has been around for a while, and has made a lot of films at this stage, a number of which gobble about and get agitated around Christmas time. Having made the Lost Boys back in the mists of time, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d dealt with the whole vampire schtick, but perhaps he’s gone senile and has forgotten. After all, there’s ample evidence of senility here. There’s a touching lack of care in the whole thing, a kind of haphazard b-movie milieu, with its gratuitous swastikas, the idea of the Reich living still in a basement in Hicksville (and other places too), the all too easy allegory of Nazi as Vampire and special effects that were done up on a ZX Spectrum over a weekend. An undead horse who sticks his head through the kitchen window to take a nibble at one of the characters is a particular highlight. It’s magnificently silly, but using Joel’s nous at pacing a film, just about raises it above minor schlock. The studio ditched this movie pretty much as soon as it was made, and it could be considered an ignominious blip on the cv of Schumacher, were it not for the fact he made Phone Booth, The Number 23, Batman Forever and the rest. This isn’t, by quite the chalk, his worst movie. But it could well be his daftest.
My Best Enemy is an Austrian movie, and one might think as they have created the top Nazi, surely they can plumb the depths of their hidden basements and come up with the best Nazi film. Alas, no. The year is 1938 in pre Anschluss Vienna, and Victor Kaufmann is a well-to-do art gallery owner, who welcomes back his friend and brother from another mother, Rudi, on his return from having been away working in Germany these last few years. They booze, exchange stories and act like long lost buddies, but it’s all a ruse. Rudi is now an SS officer, and Victor is of course a Jew, but one with an original Michelangelo drawing secreted somewhere in his house. Rudi, the fink, rips off his erstwhile mate and his family, taking what he believes to be the Michelangelo and as an added bonus, gets promoted. Once the Germans roll into town, vague promises of exit visas are forgotten and the Kaufmann family are carted off to a camp, leaving Rudi with his feet under their table and his mickey in Victor’s girlfriend. Sweet deal.
Five years later, and the drawing is revealed as a fake. With Il Duce due a visit to Berlin in a week to feast his fat eyes on it, Rudi is charged with retrieving the original. This is where it gets silly and becomes a caper movie. The central premise is riddled with holes, for when Rudi gets Victor from a camp in Poland, which were never as fun as they sounded, in order to escort him to a vault in Switzerland, Victor is ruddier and fatter looking than he was 5 years previously. He has all his own teeth and an extra chin. It necessarily facilitates the farce, as he and Rudi exchange identities after a plane crash, but it’s ridiculous. Obviously someone who had been starved for half a decade would not look like an SS Officer, one who it seems has spent the entire war lounging about in Vienna eating wurst and wading around in his own crapulence. Not to mention the fact that as the Krauts try to ascertain which of the two chums is telling the truth, who is Jew and who is Hun, they forget all about the Blutgruppentätowierung, a SS officer blood group tattoo, which went some way to identifying the fuckers after the war. Or indeed the prisoners similar, if utterly different, tattoo.
These are among many, many other oversights, but you’ll have to forgive them to get into this, and maybe not be such a pedantic, callous prick. The film continues in this high farce mode for quite some time, and there’s a general lightheartedness to it all, cartoonish soldiers who have to destroy a chair a Jew sat on, a few extra twists here and there, a general lack of gravity, which isn’t the usual way of things when there’s a guy in some grubby striped pyjamas in the room. Where’s the angst, the crying, the recriminations? Where’s the guy with no teeth wailing because he had to eat his own wives foot? There’s not much, because it’s a twisty comedy drama, that ultimately may have worked better if it didn’t use mass genocide as a handy plot device, but how and ever, isn’t it time we all moved on? ISN’T IT? Well, someone try telling that to Fassbender.