The Beast in Heat (1977)

by Steve Kirkham

Blu Ray. Single Disc. Severin Films

The scurrilous and scuzzy The Beast in Heat is probably not the sort of film that normally gets coverage in We Belong Dead, however I would argue that the Nazi exploitation is a perfectly legitimate sub genre of horror even if most of the productions within it aren’t worth your time and effort (irrespective of whether you approve of their existence). Severin Films have put this notorious nasty out on Blu Ray for all to finally see in this world premiere on high definition disc.

Opening with the screen title of Horrifying Experiments of S.S. Last Days this has Nazi doctor Ellen Kratsch (Macha Magall) determined to prove that her experiments will create a creature with virility of unimaginable proportions, despite the objections of her colleague. It is never clear in what way this over sexed monster will aid in the master race but it probably doesn’t bear much thinking about. Bring on the virgin to be sexually molested by this abomination!

Cut to interminable scenes of villagers fighting back against the occupying Germans – apparently these scenes which intercut with the far nastier ones in the laboratory were lifted from the same director’s previous straight war film When the Bell Tolls (here credited as Ivan Kathansky his real name was Luigi Batzella). There are also small bits from The Devil’s Garden (by Alfredo Rizzo – also known as Heroes With Glory/I Giardini del Diavolo). This can be seen by the fact that the footage often doesn’t match in any way. In between the gun fighting there are lots of boring portions with people just yacking away.

The lead Macha Magall looks good in her Nazi uniform – though she is no Dyanne Thorne (of Ilsa fame) – and seems to be relishing her role as chief torturer – with plentiful gory sequences (with both men and women – she is nothing if not an equal opportunities tormentor). Aside from her much of the acting is poor and the dubbing is often hilariously bad. Far too much time is spent with the intercut footage rather than in the lab though the few scenes there are are tawdry in the extreme and when they involve the titular beast – played with enthusiasm by the somewhat grotesque Salvatore Baccaro – they tip into laughably ludicrous with scenes of torture you are unlikely to see anywhere else. Guinea pigs anyone?

Certainly not the kind of film to view if you are easily offended I can’t say that this branch of exploitation is one I would go out of my way to view – I can just about tolerate the Ilsa movies whereas this exercise in depravity, which came near the end of this short lived cycle, is possibly the apex of the nastiness endemic in this backwater of cinema.

I remember back when I was working in a VHS video rental shop that the owner refused to stock the likes of SS Experiment Camp (1976) and of course many of them, including this shocker, were subsequently swept up in the Video Nasties. Beast was barely released before it was removed from the shelves (hence why original VHS tapes go for big bucks).

This release is worth it for the extras included. Of course you get the expected trailer (which is really quite long and has the title Holocauste Nazi – Armes Secretes III Reich) plus you have Nazi Nasty – an interview with genre expert Stephen Thrower where he gives a potted history of Nazi exploitation and explores the actors involved in Beast plus discusses the origins of the various footage used.

Best of the extras is a great feature length documentary directed by Naomi Holwill and produced by Calum Waddell and Naomi. Covering the gamut of the Nazi movies Fascism on a Thread: the Strange Story of Naziploitation Cinema is a talking heads docu which goes from the arthouse hits like The Damned (1969) and The Night Porter (1974) through to the lowbrow likes of The Beast in Heat, Love Camp 7 (1969) and all the other delights that this sub genre of often repugnant releases had to offer but does it in such a way as to be not judgemental. Worth the price of admission on its own.