SALON KITTY opens in, would you believe it, a brothel for Nazi soldiers ran by Madame Kitty (Ingrid Thulin). She performs a song and dance number for the officers as they relax with drinks and whores. Among the gracious clientele is Commanding officer Helmut (Helmut Berger).
The following morning, Helmut admires his junior officers as they work out in a Nazi gym. He’s visited by fellow Kommandant Biondo (John Steiner) who discusses the impending end of the war. They both fear that their days of decadence may soon be over.
Biondo, then, has a special request of Helmut: he wants him to find 20 of the finest working girls in Germany, and bring to the brothel to satisfy his men for one last time. The women must be fit, intelligent and – above all – must have "political faith". Cue archive footage of Hitler addressing his masses.
We get to learn a little more about the machinations of the salon before the plot advances any further: livestock horded and butchered frivolously for the desires of the Third Reich’s bellies; sex in every form; fat-cat dinners where conversations about Socialism and human rights descend into fits of nauseating laughter.
When Helmut finally rounds up the women he believes will best serve Biondo’s whims (their duties: "coitus, anal coitus, masturbation and fellatio"), he selects among them the pretty blonde Margherita (Teresa Ann Savoy). This is his first big mistake.
His second is his decision to install bugs into the chambers of Kitty’s salon, against her knowledge, in the hope of recording deeds that he can someday use against his fellow officers to blackmail them.
Unfortunately, Margherita discovers his dastardly scheme and begins to hatch a plot of her own ...
The most immediate thing to note about SALON KITTY is its colourful set designs, immaculately concocted by Ken Adam and Enrico Fiorentini. Along with cinematographer Silvano Ippoliti and composers Fiorenzo Carpi and Jose Padilla, they afford the film a grace that elevates it aesthetically above its grindhouse mentality.
Right from the musical opening, they lend the film an arthouse veneer that is often gorgeous to survey.
Brass paces the film carefully, respecting Ippoliti’s considered compositions every inch of the way. But, Brass being Brass, he hangs on for dear life to the notion that ‘sex sells’ – even sex of the ugliest variety.
Which leads into some of the sillier moments. See, SALON KITTY is desperate to court controversy in the wake of films such as SALO and THE NIGHT PORTER, both of which dropped jaws a year prior to its 1976 theatrical release. And so, we get a scene of Helmut casing the corridors of the salon, peering through barred windows to witness prostitutes making out with midgets and hunchbacks (some of the actresses looking convincingly unamused); an autopsy of a Negro man which aims to highlight why he comes from an inferior race; a respected Nazi doctor confirming to a young woman that Jesus Christ was indeed the product of a tryst between a Roman prostitute and a German soldier: "he was blonde, had blue eyes" ...
Perhaps the most jarring scene for modern audiences, purely because it’s not something a filmmaker would get away with nowadays, is that which shows the slaughter of live pigs. Set to jovial piano music, this takes place in the salon’s kitchen and shows its workforce garrotting and disembowelling the creatures while laughing and dancing, one man using a piece of intestine as a fake cock as he chases a laughing woman around the slaughterhouse. It seems a moot point that the scene cuts to a grandiose Nazi officer dinner party, the pigs’ grunts echoing on the soundtrack as we settle on the Kommandants tucking in to their scoff ...
Ultimately the film is long and rather slow, burying itself in pretentious political musings and softcore sex scenes that are neither here nor there. There is a certain charm about it, but even that is intermittent.
Argent Films’ blu-ray looks good. First off, the film is fully uncut in its 133-minute director’s cut. The 1.85:1 aspect ratio is 16x9 enhanced in a clean 1080p presentation. Colours are deep, blacks are largely reliable (with the odd exception) and any softness in the image appears to be intentional on Brass’ part. There is certainly a heightened sense of colour and detail, comparing the disc to previous DVD variants. The film certainly looks like a product of the 1970s, but so it should.
Audio options are multiple. These include DTS HD Master Audio mixes in English, Italian, German and French mono. Optional English subtitles are yellow with a thin black border, meaning they are easily readable at all times.
It’s worth noting at this point that the film opens with a text disclaimer advising that this "director’s cut" includes scenes previously cut due to their strong content. As a result, they were never recorded/dubbed in English – so appear here in their original language, with optional English subtitles. They are not too frequent and are hardly a burden, given that they’re enabling us to view the film in its entirety.
Extras on this disc begin with a 24-minute interview with Brass. He speaks in English about the film’s concepts, discusses the cast and muses over SALON KITTY’s eventual controversy. He smokes a fat cigar throughout. The interview is peppered liberally with clips from the film, hence the (other) disclaimer at the start warning of spoilers ahead. If anything, this standard definition featurette helps you to appreciate the film’s upgrade to HD even more.
Next up is the film’s original trailer, which clocks in at a hefty 4 minutes in length. Again, its 480i rendering makes it look rather washed out and ropy compared to the main feature.
Finally we get trailers for a plethora of other titles available from Argent Films: DJANGO, A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, DJANGO KILL, LADY OF THE NIGHT, INTRIGUE: DIRTY LOVE 2, THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS, MASSACRE IN ROME, ATTACK FORCE Z, THE NUN AND THE DEVIL and STORY OF A CLOISTERED NUN. Unfortunately I doubt this means we should be expecting all, or indeed any, of these on blu-ray from Argent Films any time soon.
SALON KITTY looks nice but not great on Argent Films’ blu-ray. It’s a good solid transfer, but I doubt the film will ever scrub up tremendously. I haven’t seen Blue Underground’s blu-ray to compare the two, but I’d be surprised if Argent Films haven’t at least struck their transfer from the same HD mastering.
Not a fantastic film then, but one that carries a certain amount of gravitas in terms of censorship and so on. Here it is, uncut and remastered in HD. It’s certainly worth a punt for fans.
By Stuart Willis
|Released by Argent Films|
|Region B - PAL|
|see main review|