Friday, May 25, 2012
Nazis at the Center of the Earth
"Nazis at the Center of the Earth" is perhaps the latest movie from the Asylum, the cheapest B-movie company on Earth. I say "perhaps" because these guys make a movie approximately every two and a half seconds, by the time I finish this review they'll probably already have released "Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies". You may remember the Aslyum from last year's "Titanic 2", a movie that sadly could not offer the fascinating hilarity that its title promised. "Nazis at the Center of the Earth", as usual, is a mockbuster, this time of the German film "Iron Sky", which would be more appropriately be named "Nazis on the Moon". "Iron Sky" isn't out yet in the United States, so if you're looking for a movie where National Socialists invade the Earth from a preposterous direction, "Nazis at the Center of the Earth" will nicely fit that bill. And shockingly, confounding as a matter of fact, this is actually a really really good movie. This isn't just a silly title to throw around at parties to impress people as to how awful your taste in movie is, this is actually a lot of fun to watch. Saying this is the Asylum's best movie is kind of damning it with faint praise, since that means you're comparing it to such crap as "Mega Python vs Gatorsaurus" but really, this is their best movie.
Here's the thing: most Asylum movies mean well, but they're never all that well made. I don't review them very often because its sorta like making fun of the test scores of a kid with down syndrome, really, you have to admire them for even being able to make movies in the first place. "Nazis at the Center of the Earth" was made for less than 200 thousand dollars and shot in twelve days, and trust me, it shows. Most of the time their movies are just horribly boring, punctuated occasionally by random moments of disgustingly bad CG. "Titanic 2" was perhaps the most dull movie I've reviewed here, rivaled only by "J. Edgar". But maybe the Nazis are the Asylum's muse because this time they managed to find just the right mixture of silliness, horror, and total awesomeness to make it not only watchable, but entertaining. Also, Jake Busey is in this. You'll just have to find a way to make peace with that fact.
So anyway, let me start by suggesting that "Nazis at the Center of the Earth" may not be as stupid as the title sounds. Yeah, maybe the Asylum was just throwing darts at a wall with various plotpoint ideas and the darts happened to fall just below "Apes" and to the left of "9/11", but I suspect somebody might have actually done their occultist research here. The idea of a Hollow Earth is a pretty long-reaching one in 19th century mysticism. Basically the idea was at the poles of the Earth there were huge holes from which you could go down down down down to find whole other worlds below. Hitler and his party were born partially from the ideas of the Thule Society, a German occult group that dabbled in everything from the ideas of an "Aryan Race" to the Knights Templar to a Hollow Earth. Conspiracy wackjobs have suggested that perhaps the German 1939 expedition to Antarctica was a plan to use build a base within the Earth and rise again, you know the deal. Basically, read "Foucault's Pendulum". All these theories are a load of crap anyway, but it does explain why the Nazis have UFOs at the end.
The plot is pretty easy to sum up: there are six to seven cannon fodder researchers working in Antarctica when party of the team is kidnapped by Nazis. The remaining group follows the tracks and finds a hole in the ground that leads directly to the Lost World. Unfortunately, the Nazis got their first, and they've been surviving for decades as zombiefied ghouls thanks to Joseph Mangele, who has been kidnapping people and recycling their skin and organs to stay alive. Also, they saved Hitler's head, and they've given him a new body, making him ROBO-HITLER. Its at that point that I came to the conclusion that this movie was an amazing work of art. I should break into the Museum of Modern Art, throw away one of Gabriel Orozco's idiotic yogurt lids, and hang this disc up on the wall instead.
Obviously the characters and acting and dialog are completely incidental to this experience. As with all Asylum films, every scene is awkward, like the lines are just slightly out of sinc with the rest of the movie. And the acting is dreadful. I don't know who they got to play Mangele but his accent sounds as authentically German as Jake Busey's regular American speaking voice. Jake Busey, by the way, is as terrible as anybody else in this movie. What heights he's fallen from... his biggest claim to fame being a tertiary character in "Starship Troopers". And he was the bad guy in "The Frighteners", a movie I really like, I guess. My favorite actor in this movie was the guy playing Hitler, since all he had to do was be filmed from the head up and make menacing faces. As for the Americans, honestly, don't get attached to most of them anyway. The women are ugly, and the men aren't much better. At one point one chick goes topless... I really wish she kept her shirt on.
Also, the special effects are... unbelievably bad. This is to be expected considering the budget, but the Asylum are notorious for using CG in the most bizarre places. Like the snowcat the researchers are using is CG. Mangele escapes on a plane in WWII, that's CG. One of the Nazi zombies wears peanut butter all over his face all movie, this is supposed to be rotting flesh. At one point he picks some of the peanut butter off his face and licks it. I can't believe it. My favorite goof though is a large cargo plane manned by four British guys, all of which are obviously Americans doing a British accent, and none of them seem to know which accent to use. Yorkshire? Cockney? Blackpool? Australian?
But between the laughs at the absurdity of this movie's premise and the bad special effects, this movie is actually really dark. Like, I was shocked how well of a horror movie it became. I was expecting another silly Asylum movie, maybe ending with Sherlock Holmes riding a dragon to fight Hitler. No, Mangele rips the skin off a guy's face. And leaves him to bleed to death for the rest of the movie. This hot Asian chick gets her brain ripped out of her open skull. And Jake Busey does... a thing with a vacuum cleaner to his girlfriend. There are moments when I had to openly say "oh my god!"
Obviously, this movie is completely ridiculous. I can buy robot Hitler, but Mangele creating a zombie Nazi army? Bullcrap. That guy was a quack. A lunatic. Pretty much none of his horrific research had any scientific value of any kind, he was basically just a sadist with a stethoscope. Hermann Goring had a better chance of building Hitler a robot suit than this guy. Mangele is actually a pretty good microcosm of the entire Nazi experiment, completely deranged at its very core, unable to construct anything of value, only able to destroy. This movie makes disturbing claim that "all of the great 20th century discoveries were done by Germans", I don't want to know what the director was thinking when he threw that in.
But anyway, "Nazis at the Center of the Earth" is still a lot of fun. What's better than a cheesy B-movie about an army of torturing zombies under the Antarctic ice cap? NAZI zombies under the Antarctic ice cap. Throw the word "Nazi" into any movie premise and its immediately becomes ten times more awesome. Right now I'm writing a screenplay. I call it "SS Tiger Shark". And it will be the greatest movie ever made.