Thursday, August 15, 2013

Schlockbusted #4: Devils Of War

There was a time during the innocence of my youth when all it took for a Nazisploitation movie to excite me were the default tropes of the format. As long as I got Nazis and zombies, or Nazis and demons, or Nazis and some other supernatural or science fiction element mixed together, I’d usually end up satisfied. Apparently I have now officially seen enough of these kinds of movies to where that isn’t enough anymore; I now require a good story on top of all that. Sickening, I know, and given how poorly written and dependent on fan service many of these movies are, well, it’s entirely possible that I’ve finally managed to watch myself into a corner with this genre. And so it goes with today’s entry in this little impromptu Nazisploitation review trilogy I’ve started, Devils of War, which ten years ago might have knocked my swastikas off with its low-budget charm and earnest sense of badass fun, but try as it might, it never quite makes it over the top.

Devils of War is practically the prototypical Nazisploitation movie, following a rough and tumble squad of U.S. soldiers, each a clich├ęd collection of stock personality quirks, dropped behind enemy lines to punch Nazi demons in the face for America while a devious Ilsa She Wolf type with anachronistically enhanced breasts hopefully gets naked at some point. Hell, this one even has two Ilsas, with the explicit promise of hot She Wolf on She Wolf lesbian action. It bothered me that they never follow through on this, but I think in retrospect it’s probably for the best, as if there ever comes a day when I literally cum watching a Nazisploitation movie, I think even I will have taken this obsession one step too far at that point. And did I mention one of the heroes is a katana wielding bad ass commando who calls himself Black Hercules? So what’s not to like? Well, unfortunately a few too many things that I can’t get past.

I feel bad, because I usually pride myself on being so forgiving of technical flaws and the kinds of deficiencies that are directly related to budget, but at the same time, the best directors and producers can wring every bit of value out of the meekest of budgets and still pull off something great. Devils of War isn’t just low budget, it’s cheap and it shows. I didn’t need much, but if I’m told going in that I’m about to get a movie with Nazis raising demons from Hell, I want to actually see one. And I don’t mean what we get, a bunch of guys possessed by demons so all you have to do is have them snarl and redden their eyes, I’m talkin’ full on Devils with horns and red scaly skin, or if you prefer something more Lovecraftian, I’d even settle for tentacles and teeth. Even something as simple as the Evil Dead style zombie demons would have worked fine, and all it would have taken was a few bucks thrown at the make-up department.

The acting is fairly standard for a low budget schlocky movie like this, not so bad as to call it unwatchable, but bad enough that if you’re one of those douchey people who likes to derive ironic enjoyment from bad acting in bad movies, you’ll have plenty of moments to laugh at. Though it isn’t quite as patently awful as Dario Argento’s Dracula, I got the same sense as in that film that pretty much every time a man and woman were in the same scene together, we were just one inability to pay for a pizza away from the movie becoming a full blown porno. Still, I’m a little more forgiving of it here, because the actors all seem to be having a lot of fun, but still know to play it straight when the cameras are rolling. As amateurish and wooden as they were, I still found something to like in all of these characters, from the grizzled old former chaplain to the comically racist sniper; and of course, Black Hercules.

Though it’s not without its charms, Devils of War isn’t stylish or innovative enough to merit much interest, and as a result its technical deficiencies become the main focus rather than the story or the setting. The casual viewer should follow their instincts and stay away, and even the Nazisploitation devotee should be wary that this is on the low end of the canon, for completists only, if that’s even a thing. I’m probably the closest to it and even I wouldn’t mind if this just completely disappeared off of my DVD shelf and I never saw it again. If you're at all interested sampling this genre for the first time, don't bother with this one, just hit up Nazis At The Center Of The Earth on Netflix, or Frankenstein's Army, or if you want to go classic, any of the original Ilsa movies. If your standards are low enough, and I mean lower than Syfy Channel originals and Asylum low, you might get a kick out of it as a brief pulpy distraction, but even then, don’t get your hopes up, and definitely don’t bother paying anything for it.

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