After watching both Rats: Night of Terror and Hell of the Living Dead recently I’ve developed a desire to watch and re-watch a lot of the films of Bruno Mattei. Of course with going through the work of Joe D’Amato I’m watching quite a lot of Italian films lately. Luckily they are enjoyable movies. So if I’m going to do this, just watch a bunch of Mattei, might as well start with his first movie.
Being that SS Girls was his first film let’s take a look at Bruno Mattei the man behind this. He started his career as an editor, working on all kinds of exploitation films, a lot of times with director Jess Franco. He did some writing here and there, collaborating with Joe D’Amato on films such as Emanuelle e Francois: Le Sorillene and Eva Nera. (Later he would co-direct a few Mondo movies with D’Amato). His first directorial work was shooting about 20 minutes of hardcore footage to add into the Jess Franco women in prison flick 99 Women. He entered in to directing with SS Girls and a few other Ilsa inspired
Bruno Mattei made about 45 films during the span of his career, many low budget films that attracted a significant cult following. Though he was often called the “Ed Wood of Italian filmmaking,” he did work with other well known cult directors such as Jess Franco, Joe D’Amato, Lucio Fulci, Claudio Fragasso and Lamberto Bava and had the opportunity to direct recognizable stars such as Lou Ferrigno, Reb Brown, Donald Pleasance and Richard Harris. Bruno Mattei passed away in 2007 at the age of 75 after complications from a brain tumor.
PRIVATE HOUSE FOR THE SS
SS Girls is also known as Private House for the SS which is probably a more fitting title as the movie is about a Private House for high ranking members of the SS towards the end of World War II. Its part of the wave of Nazisploitation films that followed in the wake of the success of Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS. Here General Berger (Ivano Staccioli) has been assigned to train a special type of prostitue to service officers. These prostitutes are supposed to be so great at their job so that the officers they sleep with then spill all of their treasonous secrets so the SS can summarily execute these traitors. Berger takes this job with pride for the glory of the Fuhrer and gives it his best to train his squad of super whores. There’s actually a very delightful training montage as these girls learn and hone all the skills necessary for this mission.
General Berger and his gals are very good at what they do. They invite over a group of SS officers who are already in the midst of developing a plot to get rid of Hitler, seeing that the man has the capability to destroy the world. They spend plenty of time enjoying the talented women at this private house, lots of very drawn out sex scenes. Softcore sex scenes of course, which makes it a bit more palatable. I mean Nazisploitation is never an easy genre to watch, how something so difficult became so popular I do not know, but Hardcore Nazisploitation – like with penetration onscreen, would be simply too much to watch.
Ultimately, Nazisploitation is a genre that makes fun of the Nazis – and everyone hates those guys. Movies like Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS delighted in being so over-the-top in their depiction of Nazi decadence and SS Girls is no different. There is one shot that pretty much sums it all up and that’s this one here:
An entire room full of swastikas, all over the walls and the night stand and all lit in this Nazi red and black – and its a room for having sex.
Nothing in a Nazisploitation movie ever happened which also helps make it so much fun, because it’s so much B.S. Ever notice how these nazisploitation films NEVER take place in a concentration camp? Because that would be crossing a strong line and going WAY too far for the sake of entertainment. Oh there are camps in these movies, camps for prisoners of war or, as is the case in SS Girls, traitors to the Reich. They don’t even mention the issue of the Nazi’s relationship with the Jews at all in a good Nazisploitation film. It’s all about poking fun at a time and people from history everyone can pretty much agree was terrible – but without exploring why it was so bad.
MATTEI’S TAKE ON NAZISPLOITATION
It must be very different for Europeons when viewing or watching Nazisploitation as the acts of the Nazis occurred where they live. The people who made Nazisploitation films lived through World War II and all of its horrors. Bruno Mattei was born in 1931 so he was barely more than a child, but he grew up during this part of history and lived with its after effects. Italy had Mussolini and his alliance with Hitler – anything Mussolini did mostly overshadowed by the brutality of Hitler but facism was never good for anyone. I can’t claim to know what it was like for people then but these movies, I imagine, offer a way for the people who survived facism, who survived the way World War II reshaped Europe to look back and smile, to say “Look, we lived through that and it was terrible, but we made it. Everything’s gonna be alright.”
25Bruno Mattei’s SS Girls feels like a comedy. It’s very tongue-in-cheek and over-the-top in everything it does. When it comes to exploitation – there can be some pretty offensive things but SS Girls is not one of them. Mattei lived though the events the movie describes, he’s aware of how horrible they were but years after it’s time to point and laugh. “Yeah, that kind of happened, but we made it after all.” The movie was made from a place of good-natured fun full of delightful sexual antics and crazy as hell mustache twirling villains. There is some grim Nazisploitation out there (Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS can be difficult to watch), so it’s good to see something as light-hearted as SS Girls.