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  Salon Kitty The More I Hear About This Hitler Guy, The Less I Like Him
Year: 1976
Director: Tinto Brass
Stars: Helmut Berger, Ingrid Thulin, Teresa Ann Savoy, John Steiner, Sara Sperati, Maria Michi, Rosemarie Lindt, Paola Senatore, John Ireland, Tina Aumont, Alexandra Bogojevic, Dan van Husen, Ullrich Haupt, Stefano Satta Flores, Bekim Fehmiu
Genre: Drama, Sex, War, Trash, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The year is 1939 and there are rumblings of war on the horizon in Europe as the Nazis in Berlin draw their plans for invasion of other countries together. As the whole nation is supposed to be obsessed with supporting the fascist authorities, those self-same authorities feel their power is unassailable, and that they can demand whatever they want, which results in a brothel for officers in the capital. This establishment will be staffed by young women who represent only the most patriotic of Germans, those who have proven themselves to be at the peak of Aryan physical and mental perfection, all the better to attract the higher-ups. But there is an ulterior motive...

Before he amazed the world with Caligula, and then disowned that as something that was taken out of his hands and re-edited against his will, director Tinto Brass made Salon Kitty, which was the movie that both set him on the path of sensationalist softcore porn, and ensured he would never really be taken seriously as an artist again. His subsequent pronouncements about his favourite part of women's bodies and his endeavours to bring those to the screen also did him no artistic favours, though if you cared little for that kind of endorsement then it would serve as a clarion call to seek out his canon and see what he had served up. In that style, this was considered his best.

Nevertheless, it did arrive with caveats, for this was part of the largely brief run of trash cinema known as Nazisploitation, probably the nineteen-seventies' least admired genre and the sort of thing that you keep under your hat if you find yourself responding to it and want to see more. Mixing sex and fascism was part of the concept that Nazis had to have been sexual perverts, as if their ideological and violent crimes were not bad enough, and that gained traction in the decade of Salon Kitty, mostly thanks to two Italian films. They were The Night Porter, which had respected actors and a supposedly sincere message to put across, and Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom.

That became one of the most notorious efforts of the era with its extreme imagery, and more importantly, perhaps, it made a tidy profit as audiences were curious to see what Pasolini had got up to that was so outrageous, so it did not take long for the cash-ins on this pair of disreputable miseryfests to show up. Salon Kitty hailed from a line that had a bigger budget behind them than the others, not Caligula huge or anything, but they could afford Ken Adam (James Bond designer) to create the sets, for one thing, though the effect was somewhat spoiled by Brass's lazy camerawork which insisted on panning and zooming listlessly across them and the often unclothed performers he had hired to populate them. There was a germ of an intriguing true story behind this, however, that was only occasionally capitalised upon.

Which was the reason for the expensive brothel in the first place. It was under the tutelage of Madame Kitty (Ingmar Bergman regular Ingrid Thulin) that while the Nazis were being indulged, they were also being recorded to find out if they would give away any secrets that could be used for blackmail, even more than revealing to their wives and girlfriends that they had visited a cathouse. And if any anti-Nazi sentiments were exposed into the bargain, so much the better for the Party. Brass dragged this out to over two hours, which was bordering on the insane considering what he did with it, with one main plot, of officer Helmut Berger falling in love with prostitute Teresa Ann Savoy (also memorable in Caligula) and her attempts to sabotage his schemes as best she could as the piece's unlikely heroine, in cahoots with Kitty and in between the madam's Cabaret-style musical interludes. Not boring, exactly, and the transgressive material was present, but you did not trust the film somehow. Music by Fiorenzo Carpi.

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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