“The Gestapo’s Last Orgy” aka “L’Ultima Orgia Del III Reich”

By Jerome Reuter

(Warning: Some Spoilers)

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The Gestapo’s Last Orgy is without a doubt, the most controversial entry in the Nazi-Sploitation sub genre. We sometimes ask ourselves, when does a film go to far? When does a narrative cross a boundary we’re uncomfortable with? This is one of those films. Many critics and fans of the genre are split down the middle on this one. Some feel it’s an artistic effort, others feel it went too far, and some view it as what destroyed the sub genre altogether. Whatever one might feel about this one, it certainly has achieved an infamous cult status.

Most films of the genre followed two methods of narrative. They either modeled themselves after Salon Kitty, or Ilsa, She Wolf Of The SS. Last Orgy attempted to take things in a new direction, modeling itself after The Night Porter. This is the story of the bizarre relationship between a camp commandant, and a female prisoner. However, the similarities end right there.

Our story begins with the rendezvous at the ruins of an old concentration camp, between ex-commandant Von Starke, and his old lover Lise Cohen. From this point on, their story is told through a series of flashbacks to their time in the camp. The sequences that take place in modern times are actually filmed very well. There’s very little dialogue, and a lot of deep focus photography and Dutch angles. This is one of the reasons many people give this film its artistic credit. I’m not sure I would go that far, but these scenes really give the film a gloomy atmosphere. The entire narrative constantly shifts back and forth during its duration.

Where then taken to the events of the past—and we spiral into the pandemonium reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno. I’m not going to go into every excruciating detail of what happens in the camp, nor should I. For the most part, it’s set up like any other camp you’ll find in one of these movies. The inmates are all female, and suffer at the hands of their captors. However, much like its link to The Night Porter, the similarities end there. Most Nazi-Sploitation films are sex romps, at the end of the day, that’s what they are. The Nazis provide a vehicle for sadomasochistic sex. That’s not the case with this one. Here, they serve as a vehicle for torture, murder, and misogyny. Victims are killed outright, in some horrific ways.

In this one, things went a little to far. From depicting women being burned alive in a gas chamber, to mimicking Josef Mengele’s selection method. Some of the torture segments are genuinely unsettling. One might argue that this is an exploitation film, and that’s to be expected. There’s a factor with this one that cancels out that argument. In every film of this type, the Holocaust was never mentioned. It would be very poor taste to bring up mass genocide in a film such as this. Here, it’s not only brought up it’s exploited to the ninth degree. On several occasions, Von Starke and his cronies berate the inmates for being Jewish, and making excuses for the genocide occurring.

dinner

Which brings me to the films most infamous scene. It also happens to be the first time Von Starke and Lise meet. At a meal hosted by Von Starke, our vile antagonists take part in an unusual dining experience. (I should add, I’m putting that VERY lightly.) A selection of meat is brought to the table, only to be revealed it’s the human flash of camp victims and children. This goes someplace these films never went, cannibalism. In what could be considered a completely tasteless line of dialogue, one dinner guest refers to it as an “unborn Jew baby.” This is why this film goes to far. Someone actually would consider this entertainment. However, I find it completely tasteless.

Which brings me to the meeting of Von Starke & Lise. The cold, hardened commandant is at a loss when she shows no fear, and almost wants to die. This sets up the film’s third act, where Von Starke is determined to make her express fear. What follows are a series of torture segments that include being hung upside down above rats, and being suspended over a pool of quick lime.

relationship

For what it’s worth, it also sets up Lise’s character arc. She shows her true self, someone who would do anything to survive, to save herself. Eventually becoming his lover, and bearing his child. (Only to have it killed at birth for being a ‘half-breed.’) We then shift to the present once more, to our vile lovers locked in embrace among the ruins of the camp. Lise fires a bullet into Von Starke, killing him and exacting her revenge.

So, how do I feel about this one? I give this film credit. It attempted to take the sub genre in a completely new direction. By modeling itself after The Night Porter, it tried something new. However, I will not condone bringing the Holocaust into a narrative that’s supposed to entertain. There might be SOME artistic merit here, but it’s overshadowed by how low this film was willing to sink. Perhaps it’s just as well, by this time the Nazi-Sploitation binge was long overdue for retirement. In a review I came across not too long ago, this film was actually compared to Salo. This is due to the balance of power, and the willingness to exploit it. Comparing this film to Salo is like comparing Battleship Potemkin to Pearl Harbor. (I’ve used this analogy several times before, and I’m well aware of that.) Pasolini was someone who lived under fascist rule, who was well versed in there oppression. Salo is a statement of someone forcing his countryman to look at there past, and acknowledge where they stand

This is an exploitation film, and that’s all there is to it. One that crossed one two many boundaries.

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