• Gabe Powers

The Gestapo’s Last Orgy Blu-ray Review


88 Films

Blu-ray Release: October 19, 2021

Video:1.85:1/1080p/Color

Audio: Italian and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono

Subtitles: English

Run Time: 96:13

Director: Cesare Canevari


Beautiful, young death camp prisoner Lise (Daniela Poggi) is forced into a nightmare of brutality, torment, and sexual degradation when the Commandant’s (Adriano Micantoni) vilest urges trigger her ultimate vengeance. (From 88 Films’ official synopsis)


Few things in this world are as patently offensive as the Third Reich and the concentration camps Hitler’s goons concocted in order to systematically murder millions of people. As such, it is not surprising that there’s a substantial grindhouse subgenre devoted to these particular historical atrocities. Nazisploitation sprung from reputable movies, like Luchino Visconti’s The Damned (1969) and Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter (1974), and less reputable S&M softcore and roughies, such as Joseph P. Mawra’s Olga 1964 trilogy – Olga’s Girls, White Slaves of Chinatown, and Olga’s House of Shame – as well as a growing contingent of women in prison movies. American and Canadian filmmakers jumped onto the bandwagon early and stuck largely to the women in prison formula, beginning with Lee Frost’s harmless, post-nudie cutie (a term for early, post-Hays softcore) Love Camp 7 (1969) and followed by Don Edmonds’ Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1975), which is probably the most popular and ‘likeable’ genre entry (both films were produced by David F. Friedman, a one-time US Army Signal Corps member who was tasked with shooting footage of Nazi war crimes).


As was often the case, the most distasteful, button-pushing Naziploitation movies tended to be helmed by Italian filmmakers. This repulsive cavalcade included Luigi Batzella’s goofball gross-out SS Hell Camp (Italian: La bestia in calore; aka: The Beast in Heat, 1977), in which toothy and hairy character actor Salvatore Baccaro played a pubic-hair-eating mutant under the control of SS scientists; Pier Paolo Pasolini’s alegorical arthouse shocker Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Italian: Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodom, 1970); Sergio Garrone and Mario Caiano’s interchangable SS Experiment Love Camp (Italian: Lager SSadis Kastrat Kommandantur, 1976) and Nazi Love Camp 27 (Italian: La svastica nel ventre, 1977); Tinto Brass’ softcore send-up Salon Kitty (1976); and the arguable ne plus ultra of the movement, Cesare Canevari’s The Gestapo’s Last Orgy (Italian: L'ultima orgia del III Reich; aka: Last Orgy of the Third Reich and Caligula Reincarnated as Hitler, 1977). Canevari’s film wasn’t the most sexually explicit or violent of the sadiconazisti (though alternate hardcore footage reportedly shot and not used), but its uncomfortable blend of attempted art film sensibility, raw titillation, and queasy amorallity that festers beneath the viewer’s skin like none other.

Gestapo’s Last Orgy’s success, if you want to call it that, is tied to its verisimilitude and casual cruelty. Despite the director and screenwriter Antonio Lucarella laissez-faire approach to plot, the drama and tragedy feels more believable than almost any other Nazisploitation film. The filmmakers also aren’t concerned with following the unspoken rules of the ‘70s grindhouse or arthouse, which say you aren’t supposed to directly reference the Holocaust (according to Mikel J. Koven’s essay The Film You Are About To See Is Based On Fact: Italian Nazi Sexploitation Cinema [Alternative Europe: Eurotrash and Exploitation Cinema Since 1945; Wallflower Press, 2004], it is the only sadiconazisti to mention the Holocaust or even Jews). Gestapo’s Last Orgy certainly succeeds in conveying the delirious grotesquery of the Third Reich (the inhumanity peaks early when officers and their guests indulge in a stew made from aborted babies, then pour it onto an unconscious woman, douse her in cognac, and set her ablaze) and even feeds the audience’s thirst for revenge. However, its constant bouncing between vulgarity, barbarity, and unearned melodrama quickly becomes almost unbearable. Atrocities are portrayed with the same voyeuristic slant as the sex scenes, unlike, say, Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS, where Dyanne Thorne’s vamping and the ridiculous extremes of her ‘experiments’ permit the audience to giggle, albeit uncomfortably. At a certain point, one finds oneself preferring black comedy and inappropriate camp to meanspiritedness masquerading as profundity.


Canevari’s career was sparse and mostly known for sleazy sexploitation, like A Man for Emmanuelle (Italian: Io, Emmanuelle, 1969) and The Nude Princess (Italian: La principessa nuda, 1976). Gestapo’s Last Orgy was his biggest hit in the long run, thanks to continued controversy. The Nazisploitation fad didn’t last long, especially not in Italy, where the next big thing was always around the corner, but it got a second shot on home video, especially following Britain’s Video Nasties debacle. Among the films banned as part of the 1984 Video Recordings Act were four Nazisploitation movies – The Beast in Heat, Love Camp 7, SS Experiment Camp, and Gestapo’s Last Orgy – and, of those, only one, SS Experiment Camp, has been okayed for release during the ensuing decades. Star Daniela Poggi (née Levy) would rather the film had been forgotten, instead of becoming a collector’s item. It was only her second film role and, by the end of the ‘80s, she’d graduated from exploitation filth to a lucrative career as a television presenter that earned her the title of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2001. One sympathizes.



Video

Despite its notoriety, Gestapo’s Last Orgy was barely available on home video. Here in North America, it was never banned or, as far as I know, even censored, and was released on clamshell VHS via Video City Productions under the alternate title The Last Orgy of the Third Reich, but it was a very rare tape to find in rental stores. It’s DVD life has been slightly better, though fans had to endure subpar transfers (via Media Blasters and budget label Ventura Distribution) until Severin’s InterVision imprint finally released an anamorphic version well into the HD generation. UK distributor 88 Films have gotten their hands on distribution rights and chose to make it their US market debut, quite likely because the film is still banned in the UK.


This 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer was restored using a 2K scan on the original camera negative. I feel like I should note that this is the complete and uncut version of the film, though, unlike other famously controversial movies, Gestapo’s Last Orgy has a history of being banned outright, instead of suffering from a series of little trims to content. As far as I can surmise, the supposed hardcore version is either lost or was never officially released. The scan is clean without DNR issues, grain quality exhibits only minor signs of telecine-like sheen, and the details benefit from a lack of oversharpening, which brings out cinematographer Claudio Catozzo’s soft photography. It’s not a particularly vivid film, but there are colorful backdrops and set elements that pop neatly against the neutral tones.



Audio

Gestapo’s Last Orgy comes fitted with the original Italian and English dubs, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio. As per usual, the film was shot without on-set sound and all versions were dubbed, so there is no original language track, but this is a case of the vast majority of the cast clearly speaking Italian on set and many actors apparently dubbing their own performances. As such, the Italian dub is considerably more natural than the English one. The English mix is a little more dynamic, featuring greater range between effects and dialogue, but it is also more distorted when it comes to aspirated ‘s’ sounds and screams. Composer Alberto Baldan Bembo’s eerily romantic and triumphant score sounds practically identical on both tracks and is surprisingly clean, aside from some hiss during vocal performances.



Extras

  • Commentary with Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson – Howarth, the author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films (Midnight Marquee Press, 2015) and Thompson, owner/reviewer at Mondo Digital, offer up another well-paced commentary that covers the careers of the cast & crew, the Video Nasties, and Gestapo’s Last Orgy’s connection to other Nazisploitation films, serious WWII/Holocaust films, other Italian genre cinema, and other exploitation genres, like women in prison movies. They also wrestle with the film’s tonal shifts and whether or not we’re meant to find any of this arousing.

  • Commentary with critic and author Samm Deighan – The associate editor of Diabolique Magazine and co-host of the Daughters of Darkness podcast (with Kat Ellinger) covers some of the same ground as Howarth & Thompson, but also looks at the historical realities of war atrocities (focusing mostly on the Nazis, but not exclusively) and the manner that taboo subject matter is explored in exploitation movies before mainstream filmmakers are comfortable exploring them seriously. She does a great job comparing Gestapo’s Last Orgy to other, often more sexually graphic and violent Nazisploitation, in particular, and notes that it is the only film of its ilk to portray Nazis as antisemites.

  • Alternate Italian ending (5:10, HD)

  • Remembering Albeto Baldan Bembo (24:29, HD) – Film historian, documentarian, and founder of Four Flies Records Pierpaolo De Sanctis discusses composer Bembo’s career in pop, jazz, and film music, album by album.

  • One Thing on His Mind (17:57, HD) – Luigi Cozzi, best known as the director of Starcrash (1979), Contamination (aka: Alien Contamination, 1980), and Hercules (1983), talks about Canevari’s work and their mutual friends/colleagues.

  • English language trailer



The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.


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