Achtung! The Desert Tigers (1977)

Okay, we are cheating with this review.

This Nazisploitation entry isn’t — officially — on the U.K.’s “Video Nasties” list that we’ve been reviewing all this week, but after showing the B&S love for expatriate American actors Richard Harrison and Gordon Mitchell in our review of Three Men on Fire (1986) — along with this theme week’s “official nasties” reviews of Lee Frost’s Love Camp 7 (1969), Sergio Garrone’s SS Experiment Camp (1976; whose artwork this film pinches in its VHS reissues), and Cesare Canevari’s Gestapo’s Last Orgy (1977) — you can’t overlook this Luigi Batzella warm up for his notable nazisploitation’er The Beast in Heat, aka SS Hell Camp, aka S.S. Experiment Camp 2 (1977).

Batzella’s resume is a slight one: Out of the 15 films he wrote, he directed 10 — sometimes under the celluloid de plume of Yvan, aka Ivan, Kathansky. Of those — most of which are stock footage mash-ups — we care about two: the Gothic horror Nude for Satan (1974) (that, for my money, screams “Bill Van Ryn must review this for the site!”) and the aforementioned The Beast in Heat. (Okay, three: The Devil’s Wedding Night, his 1973 Gothic take on the Lady Dracula legend.) And as for Richard Harrison: I’m just happy to see him in a film without “Ninja” in the title (he did 19 of them, thanks to the Philippines film industry, if you’re counting).

The movie isn’t as shocking as the theatrical one-sheet

So, if you’re a fan of The Beast in Heat — and expecting your rocket to leave the pocket, stow that flesh torpedo, my friend. For the caveat emptor, here, is that Batzella pulls back the reins on this Nazi warm-up, loosening ever so slightly to see just how far he can push the bad taste. (Then, if you know his next Nazi ditty, he lets the reins go for full-on sleaze.) So, this time, don’t be duped by the “shocking” theatrical one-sheet or the “Nazisplotation” genre description, for this is just another World War II flick, one that’s heavily influenced by John Sturges’s The Great Escape (1963) — via about 20 minutes of (well-shot, well, sort of) stock footage (from who knows where) of a North Africa war campaign on a German Tank division and the sabotage of a desert fuel depot.

Then the proceedings take a hard left turn into the “women in prison” genre, because well, by this cinematic point: when we see Nazis, we’re home video-conditioned to expect sexploitation — with heaping helpings of gratuitous nudity (breasts and triangles of death), brutal whippings, and yes, as always, at least one castration (after the fact) and the old urine-is-whiskey gag.

While you wouldn’t know it from the stock footage, Richard Harrison’s U.S. Major Lexman was in charge of that desert raid of blazing flame throwers. Now Lexman’s thrust into the middle of a coed POW camp run by Gordon Mitchell’s Kommandant von Stolzen. Of course, any good camp commandant must have a lesbian sidekick with a medical degree . . . and Dr. Lessing, of course (Lea Lander, of Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace and Rabid Dogs, the Italian Exorcist rip The Tempter), loves her leather strips to whip out the pain upon Jewish and Arab women with sadistic equality. Oh, and Lesser enjoys a bit of the ol’ whip across her own flesh from time to time by way of her sexy, Jewish nurse. Oh, and we can’t forget about Lessing’s obsessions with the “hygiene” of her charges via a nice, hard scrubbing on what is best described as a “shower stockade,” or something. And yada, yada, yada . . . Major Lexman teams up with the camp’s Brits to take Lessing as their hostage and make their “Great Escape,” with the German’s hot on their trail.

Oh, do we care about the romantic subplot of Lessing’s nurse cheating on her with an American G.I. (expatriate American actor Mike Monty of my beloved Philippines junk flicks!) in on the escape . . . that gets Lessing hot and bothered in a tongue-wagging and breast fondling delight?

Nope. I’m bored.

So, amid the 80-minutes stock and dubbing and mismatched scenes, we get about 20 minutes of the sleazy Nazizploitation we came for vs. the 60 minutes of World War II war beeboppin’ and scattin’ that we didn’t come for — perhaps if it was original footage shot for the film and not by stock footage . . . nah, this is a Luigi Batzella production and he is Italy’s “Godfrey Ho” in my cinematic eyeball; he’d never pull off any original war footage.

And the music . . . well, I’ll be 12-barred déjà vu’d . . . this movie is now truly complete, as that’s Marcello Giombini’s soundtrack from my ol’ Uncle Alfonzo Brescia’s Star Odyssey!

One of the most infamous Nazi baddies!

So, you need to complete your Richard Harrison and Gordon Mitchell two-fer fix? In addition to Three Men on Fire and Achtung! The Desert Tigers, look for the Turkish-made (back by Italian money) Four for All (1974), the German-made Natascha: Death Greetings from Moscow (1977), and again with Luigi Batzella in Strategy for the Death Mission, aka Black Gold (1979). And for you Fred Olen Ray fans — and aren’t we all — the duo cameos in Evil Spawn (1987). Yes, Olen Ray with Harrison and Gordon. And the brain whirling dervishes in a junk cinema delight.

You can watch Achtung! The Desert Tigers as an age-restricted freebie on You Tube (whateva . . . it’s not that “nasty,” kiddies). Don’t forget that there’s more Nazisploitation to be had with the genre documentary Fascism on a Thread: The Strange Story of Nazisploitation Cinema (2020).

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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