Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69 (2008)

BlitzFINALlobby-1Ah Nazisploitation, one of my favorite sub-genres of the Grindhouse niche. After watching the “Ilsa” movies last year, I found the subset to be a very fascinating and varied area with titles attempting social relevance and failing immensely. “Blitzkrieg” is the incredible ambitious and sophisticated dip into the nazi exploitation gallery with a very unusual and original story that hearkens back to Jess Franco and Don Edmonds. “Blitzkrieg” sets down on 1955, a little over a decade after the holocaust where a secret group of officers are busting ex-Nazi death camp owners and arresting them.

Ex-Nazi Helmut Schultz escapes a potential arrest and death sentence and wanders into a Catholic church where he confesses his dealings as a commandant to a priest. Rewind a decade back into a POW camp where director Keith J. Crocker stands firm in referencing some of the most infamous titles of the grindhouse period while competently telling the story of a group of soldiers planning to escape Stalag 69 and trying to conceal it from the vicious guards who take great pleasure in torturing prisoners in an effort to discover their plans.

Crocker enlists some fine talent here as there’s barely a weak performance to be found in the bunch. Charles Esser is great as the evil commander concealing the torture, while Tatyana Kolt is demented and sexy as his sister Natasha. Crocker knows what type of movie he’s making and pulls some neat tricks with the narrative creating an entertaining experience that parallels the actual movies we saw from the seventies. Crocker even goes so far to include intentional tedium in some instances, and keeps his story at a brisk pace, even at a two hour running length.

Crocker never pulls a punch showing some wonderful bits of sex ranging from soft core, hardcore and blatant (often found in Nazisploitation), right down to some brutally disturbing bouts of torture and punishment on the prisoners who try to keep shut even in immense pain. Which is not to say that Crocker has a perfect movie on his hands; for one thing, I never understood why the inclusion of a minority female in the group, especially considering this was the thirties and her insults are oddly out of place with the period. And were African women even allowed to enlist in World War II? Worst of all, Paul Richichi’s performance completely destroys what could have been a great climax with a twist, as he delivers every line and the entire final monologue as if Crocker is holding up cue cards.

His monotonous performance really provides “Blitzkrieg” with a weak link in an otherwise entertaining Nazi torture film. While the caveats are there and plentiful by the second half, Crocker’s opus is much too enjoyable to write off because of them. “Blitzkrieg” is a fun grindhouse homage, and I look forward to seeing what he could do with other titles in the future. I’m always nervous watching an independent movie, especially at two hours running time, but thankfully director Crocker’s “Blitzkrieg” is not a waste of time. It’s a charming, exciting, and well written throwback to the Nazisploitation era, with an intriguing story and a very talented cast on board.