Tinto Brass is one of those directors who can make reasonable films. He's getting on a bit now, but the guy can still pump-out a film every other year or two. For the most part, he's tended to stick to the kinkier side of the movie world, and this, is one of his bete-noirs! An infamous, sleazy epic that's been given a completely uncensored DVD release, here in our great country of censorship! So is it worth it?

"Salon Kitty" is released here in a remastered, Director's Cut. At 133 minutes, it's one of Brass' longest films. With 21 minutes of extra footage now reinstated, including scenes that aren't even available in English, and have thus been inserted with dubbed-German dialogue and English subtitles instead, I was hoping that I'd get to see why the BBFC had previously considered this movie to be so dangerous.

Whilst never being a video nasty, it's always been treated quite badly. The original version, was always cut, even for cinema viewing. When Redemption released it onto VHS, back in the early-1990's, it was still cut to remove eroticised violence. Whether it was the film, or Brass himself that was the problem for James Ferman, I can't say for sure. But viewing it in 2005, there's little that's really problematic for adults to view.

The film deals with allegedly true incidents involving Nazi soldiers during World War II. It was alleged that senior officers ordered soldiers to find young women, in their late-teens and early-twenties, and train them to use their bodies and sexuality, to extract secrets from their male clients. The women would then report what the men said, and if need be, the men could then be punished if they committed any acts of treachery that might have prevented Hitler or the Nazi's from coming-to-power.

Exactly how much is true, is difficult to say. I'm pretty sure that similar kinds of events did occur, especially as the whole genre of sexploitation films exist, that deal with similar kinds of issues, e.g. "Ilsa", "Love Camp 7", "SS Experiment Camp", et al, but to what extent we'll probably never know for real.

Regardless of the film's authenticity, this lengthy epic, is now even more bloated than before, and in all honesty, is still somewhat clunky. The basic premise is reasonably interesting, both from a historical aspect, and if you have a liking for Nazi-exploitation or sexploitation epics. And Brass certainly gives the film a relatively seedy and disenfranchised tone. But for me, the film just doesn't work overall. The acting is reasonable, and Teresa Ann-Savoy is pretty good as the favourite young woman, who entraps a Nazi soldier, after he confesses his intention to defect to the British Army (!). Alas, the tone of the movie isn't seedy enough. The first half-hour or so, starts off quite well, as we see how the women are trained and forced to copulate with all manner of disabled men. I don't mean that to offend any reader who is disabled, and I apologise if it has. However, the men in the film, are often physically disabled or have quite severe war-deformities, including missing or severely damaged limbs, amputees and other uncomforting aspects. We're never told how or why these men have been selected to be experimented on by the Nazi soldiers, nor why they are still even in the Nazi army at all. They simply appear and then as soon as their parts are completed, they are left and forgotten about, by the writers.

The opening of the movie, also has plenty of full nudity - male and female. Later on, there is a short scene of lesbianism, some whipping, and a man who masturbates himself. Despite this, Brass doesn't go into the really sordid aspects of what these women are meant to be doing, and what their punishments would be, if they don't do as they are forced to do. I noted a lot of elements of Pasolini's "Salo", entering into this film. Yet the women never rebel against the men in charge, and nor are they shown to be reprimanded for defying (or wanting to try and defy) the Nazi's, it's difficult to enjoy the film for what it wants to be. It's as if Brass had an idea, but couldn't quite get it committed to film, or didn't want to push the really extreme motifs for fear of upsetting someone.

For the remainder of the film, we follow a rather poor plot that ultimately proves that too much power given to one person, will always end-up with them abusing that power - often for their own ends. Hardly the most enthralling way to retain your viewers. This makes the film a very long chore.

Apart from the acting, the scene decoration is very good. You do believe that Brass has managed to completely recreate a 1930's Nazi palace/brothel, and congratulations to Ken Adam for his work there. But reasonable acting and good scenery do not a good film make.

For me, one of the joys of this genre of cult films, is the wallowing in sleaze aspect. You want to see just how nasty, vile, or low the filmmaker can descend, in order to pass off their film as more authentic than others in the same field. In fact, the nastier the film is, and the more sleazy it becomes, the more I am likely to enjoy it, and the more I am therefore likely to feel it being authentic. With there being very little to back-up or displace about what was real or not, people like Brass can have a field-day coming-up with what the Nazis might have been like. We all know that Nazi Germany was a horrendous place to live in, and that the Nazis were a horrible part of our world history. But, if they were so awful, why does this film show them to be� well, not that bad, all things considered?!

Ultimately, it's the lack of sleaze and degradation, that makes the film fail. What you end-up with is a bit of a stinker of a film. It tries to be something, so hard, but it simply cannot get to where it wants so badly to be. If Brass had aimed for something a little more controversial, ala "Caligula" (1979), then it could well have been a sleaze masterpiece. But, at the moment, it's a hollow shell of something very minor!

The picture has been remastered, and I have to admit, that it looks pretty good. It's been given an anamorphic widescreen treatment, and the 1.85:1 ratio looks accurate. There is some print damage, but that's more than likely due to the original negative not being stored properly or correctly, and light leaking onto the film. (A very pale white band appears through the top quarter of the film, at random points.) It's not as bad as it could be, but it does suggest that the remastering wasn't as good as it should have been. The sound is stereo, and lets the film down badly. The film looks to have been made in English, but the lip-synch in some parts is better than others. When it matches, it does look like the cast did perform everything in English. But there are moments, when the film look like a badly-dubbed Italian giallo. On top of this, there are occasional moments when the cast speak German and we get English subtitles. These are rare, and are only for scenes where no English-audio exists, but it makes you wonder in what language the film really was made in. I guess we may never really know.

The other problem with the sound, is that it's very quiet. Although there is no hiss or background noise to distract you from listening to what is being said, the accents are so strong at times, and spoken so fast, it can be very difficult to hear what people are actually saying. If you turn up the sound to hear them, you are then blasted out of your chair, when Brass decides to inject some booming classical-type music! Again, this is probably more to do with the negative and original filming, rather than a restoration issue, but it would have been nice if the restorers had tried to at least balance the voices against the music better.

For me, the only really nasty sequence in the whole film, (and one that I still can't work out what the point of it was), is the inclusion of a scene showing live pigs been slaughtered in a slaughterhouse, whilst various characters laugh, cheer and sip Champagne! Whilst I have no problem per-se with animal cruelty, I can't condone it when there isn't a purpose. Was the slaughter taken from film of a real slaughterhouse, or was it performed purely for entertainment purposes? I can only presume that the BBFC have evidence that shows it was taken at a real-life slaughterhouse, and then included in the film, rather than being performed purely for entertainment. Nevertheless, the sight of seeing a living animal being openly slaughtered for no real purpose, and appearing as if it were for only our entertainment, does leave a nasty feeling.

The extras, are pretty pointless. A 24-minute interview with Brass is dull, and he doesn't really enlighten us as to the point or necessity of "Salon Kitty". The trailers are almost catatonic, and actually make you not want to watch any of the advertised films, and that's your lot. Not the most exciting selection seen. Points for effort, but points removed for the rather rubbish nature.

Overall, as a film, this is a real curio. It's one of those films that once you've seen, you wonder what all the fuss was about. I wouldn't recommend buying this disc, because it's hardly a movie you'll want to watch again at any point in your lifetime. And to be brutally honest, there are lots of other films that deal with similar themes, which do the job much better. But, you may be inclined to see it just once. And for that reason alone, I recommend this specific release of the movie. It's the best we're likely to see, and unless someone like Anchor Bay do a complete overhaul of everything, then it's unlikely to be superseded.

Review by "Pooch".

Released by ARGENT FILMS
Region 2 PAl
Rated 18
Extras : see main review