Why had I never seen this movie before? It sat on my “to watch” list for the past year or so, especially since Netflix proudly featured the fact that they have a 115-minute director’s cut exclusive to Netflix. I watched it, finally, and had to wonder aloud why I never had before because this movie is 100% my interests.
Iron Sky is not exactly what one would call “high concept.” It’s an exploitation film with a $10 million budget. It’s the tale of a group of Nazi Germans who, having been defeated in 1945, fled to the Moon, where they built a space fleet to return in 2018 and conquer Earth. It’s science-fiction, action, comedy and Nazisploitation all in one great lovable ball. It COULD be as offensive than 70s nazisploitation classics like Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS but more like Bruno Mattei’s SS Girls, where the Nazi characters are so over the top that it becomes good-natured comedy (well as good-natured as a movie about nazism can get).
One important thing to note, this is a European film – though it doesn’t really look as so given its glossy production value and its predominantly in English (with some German obviously) and takes place in the United States (and the Moon, but all recordings from the moon ever have been on a soundstage ;), a 2012 Finnish-Australian-German production released throughout Europe theatrically and was direct-to-dvd / streaming in the United States. Probably would explain why it flew under my radar for so long because this is NOT some low budget thing – this is a film with it’s own massive production. Also, not being from the United States, the film doesn’t cater to the overly PC interests of American audiences. This movie takes blatant shots at people like Sarah Palin, the ignorance of American government and our laughably egotistical and jingoistic society – and this movie is all the better for it. Its almost as if the movie wants to point out that “Yeah, the United States likes to think they’re the greatest country in the world, and we play along with it because they’re just little kids.”
Or it could just be a movie about Moon Nazis.
NAZISPLITATION NOW VS THEN
Nazisploitation was big in the late 70s, starting mainly with movies like Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS. These were movies made by European (mostly Italian) directors. Those were men that had lived through or had been children during the tumultuous time in Europe and now looked at history with a different view – poking fun at what was a rough time for the whole continent. For the most part these films were highly sexual in nature, cashing in on the grindhouse draw of tits and sex in the theater. So we’d get a crazy movie like Ilsa or the dozens of knockoffs with over-the-top and insane Nazis torturing young women and having sex with, well pretty much everything. Nazisploitation basically evolved from the Women-in-prison genre so popular at the time. The genre had it’s peak, lasted a few years and then eager audiences changed moods and indie producers looked for new things to exploit. There have been joking things here and there in the years since, mostly things like Rob Zombie’s faux trailer for Werewolf Women of the SS which was an homage to the grindhouse classics.
About 30 years later, sex isn’t the selling point in movies since the internet gives us all that for free and the “grindhouse” of our modern era is the myriad of streaming services online. In the 70s all you needed to get people to see your little grindhouse movie was a catchy title (Keywords like “cannibal” or “erotic”) and a eye-grabbing poster highlighting the ample amounts of flesh or violence on display. That still applies to the current mode of internet distribution but there’s so much more competition. It doesn’t matter how many keywords you have in your title, how catchy your artwork is – movies today need word-of-mouth: reviews, bloggers, facebook/twitter buzz or face-to-face conversations (yeah, people still have those). You can get a few of the easy marks in with your flashy poster and your quirky title, but if the movie fails to inspire people aren’t going to recommend it to others and it will be quickly forgotten. Hollywood has the benefit of vast marketing budgets where people are going to show up in droves to see a movie regardless – for the independent producer working in a vastly online market – you HAVE to make a movie that gets people talking. Not a “good” movie, mind you, but something to make a strong enough impression to get people talking.
That’s exactly what Iron Sky does. It didn’t have a massive release throughout Europe and most people have seen it online – through recommendations and reviews. Netflix has highly promoted their director’s cut of the film and that’s mostly by virtue of the popularity Iron Sky had already developed since its release in 2012. If you look at the film’s poster, there’s not a lot of camp there, not a lot of overt exploitation elements – mostly it’s just a vague nazi aesthetic combined with science-fiction. Iron Sky is a movie that found success and following through impressing its audience. Surprisingly, major media sites and publications didn’t much like the film when audiences did – a disconnect I’ll have to explore at a later time.
In the meantime – MOON NAZIS