Saucy without entirely giving itself over to maladaptive glory, Salon Kitty festers in that fertile field somewhere between The Night Porter and Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. And if Salon Kitty isn’t entirely as transgressive as the subject matter warrants, it’s also not in pursuit of simple, cheap, goose-stepping kicks. Directed by Italian pre-vert Tinto Brass (who, as a director, seems to have made a career out of extrapolating “ass” from “class”), Salon Kitty draws from the story of a real-life bagnio used by Nazi intelligence to extract secrets and gossip from officers and visiting dignitaries, using the persuasive charms of Frau Kitty’s harem of Hitler-saluting Aryan whores. The information is then used to winnow out those not fully committed to Adolf Hitler’s brand of nationalism, as well as keeping tabs on the sexual practices of fellow officers—the implication being that some might end up blackmailed or assassinated or turned over to one of the many doctors conducting medical experiments.
As a director, Brass approaches the material rather coldly, approaching sexuality in much the same manner as do his 20-odd SS prostitutes; he’s provoking on behalf of a much nobler cause. To that end, he dresses up his prurient but spare scenario with production design courtesy Ken Adam, who had just finished being driven to the brink of sanity by Stanley Kubrick on the set of Barry Lyndon. Adam’s work is never less than brilliant, especially in the sequence when the Nazi whores-in-training are shown in black cells with white grids, enduring any number of sexual degradations to test their tolerance for perversion. Brass also cannily reunited stars Ingrid Thulin and Helmut Berger, who played profligate mother and son in Luchino Visconti’s irresponsibly enjoyable Third Reich romp The Damned, to once again plunge into the licentious heart of Hitler’s Germany. Only this time, it’s Thulin, not Berger, who dons Marlene Dietrich’s garter belt and warbles in her husky, buzzing contralto. (In both cases, the director seemed to be turning his object of desire into a cinematic icon.)
Thulin assumes the role of Kitty, a hard-nosed, hard-featured brothel madam who rules her girls with an iron fist, albeit one encased in a velvet glove. When told by Berger’s sneering, sexually nondescript Officer Wallenberg that she must dump her harem roster and accept an entirely new team of SS-selected girls, she launches into tirades about how much softer and more fuckable her previous dogpile-stockpile were in comparison to the ethnically “flawless” Nazi lot. Still, there is the jelly diamond in the midst of the rough named Margherita (Teresa Ann Savoy), who instantly falls in love with the first square-shouldered officer who bares his soul to her. In Margherita’s scenes first with the doomed Nazi with a conscience and then, later, with the preening, power-mad Wallenberg, Brass seems to honestly believe in the power of a good lay to ennoble fascism and, conversely, to bring about the end of an empire. Salon Kitty is Brass asking, “Hath not a socialist eyes? Hath not a socialist a vagina? If you prick it with a Nazi finger, does it not orgasm?”
Blue Underground, red transfer. The rouge of the Nazi flags is as prominent as the pink of Teresa Ann Savoy’s plush tush and the jaundice of various swinish johns’ bier guts. There’s more than enough grain in the image. Some might go so far as to say too much, but in this case the grit enhances the viewing experience, no more so than in the movie’s one truly visionary moment—when one of the more striking Nazi whores lies back in bed as her customer projects Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will on her naked torso. Both the Italian and English audio options are sadly weak, with dialogue occasionally sounding as though it’s being spoken through a fallopian tube.
These are the same bonus features that were previously collected in Blue Underground’s DVD presentation, but they’re worth the spin. Where else are you going to get Tinto Brass offering up, in support of his directorial genius, his brilliant idea to shave Helmut Berger’s pubic hair so that his dick would appear larger?
The SS in HD? OMG!