Review: Gisela – Blut und Leder

gisela-dvd-posterNorway continues to innovate on the exploitation front, this time with the first fully filled nazisploitation feature, complete with naked goodies and robosoldiers.

Granted, Dead Snow parts 1 and 2 had nazis and gore in them, but they were not “nazisploitation” films. That’s why it is still fun to observe exploitation newbies like Norway because they still have subgenres left to be discovered. While waiting for the first Norwegian überviolent samurai movie, perhaps you’ll want to take a look at the first Norwegian nazisploitation film, called Gisela: Blut und Leder (or Gisela: Herskerinne av Victoria Terrasse in Norwegian, which is a title referencing the location of the Gestapo HQ in Oslo during WW2). The low budget movie took two years to make by a crew of happy amateurs, and is available on DVD.

The year is 1943. An all-female and top-secret department of the SS, run by the notorious Gisela Nussbaum in a secret Gestapo headquarter, conducts medical and biotechnical experiments with blood from Norwegian resistance fighters, which is said to hold the key to the Norwegians’ unwavering unity and courage. By isolating the gene, elite German soldiers will, through a serum consisting of Viking blood and steroids developed Dr. Friedrich Spannagel, develop into superhuman soldiers much better suited to handle the harsh climate on the Russian Front. What Gisela was not expecting was that her two latest prisoners, resistance men Max Anus and Stakan Brunsteby would be a major challenge as they charm their way out of any confrontation Gestapo matrons.

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The film’s budget has not been revealed, but the visual and technical quality of the film, as well as some artistic solutions, can be compared to other Norwegian low budget amateur productions, like The thrill of a kill, Svart Snø or Xombies 3D. In other words, nobody should expect to marvel at amazing special effects and elaborate sets. For its budget and lack of professional crew, the film is what it is, with strengths in concepts and ideas rather than in execution. On the other hand, when you take into account that the film is actually a nazisploitation film and not a Lars von Trier chamber play about a divorced woman played by Charlotte Rampling, not even subtextual themes or acting performances are the point of the film (unless you extrapolate something about people of today and their search for perfection in gyms and in social media – but that seems to go beyond this movie). Nazisploitation films are not exempt from artistic potential, but you can’t hold it against productions like this that it focuses on simple ideas and a few attempts at spectacles. Yes, the film does fall between two chairs – not quite dirty enough and not truly artistic – but that is tolerable for a movie with very limited funds.

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So, does Gisela offer anything in the exploitation department at all, then? Yes, but don’t expect too much sleaze – after all, the actors had to go home and face their parents and teachers after shooting had ended! It’s a common “problem” (or advantage, depending on your point of view) in Nordic movies that they rarely go over the edge when it comes to cinematic filth, and if there is one subgenre where sexual sadism and degradation belongs, it is nazisploitation. Gisela can’t be said to deliver fully on that particular part, even if it is probably the cheapest and fastest tool to use in low budget movies. Nevertheless, the film includes many other expected elements. While the film is set at a Gestapo facility rather than a prison camp (to better tie it to Norway, a unique thing in itself in this genre) there are biochemical experiments, a sleazy Mengele-type doctor, blonde Nazi babes in push-up bras, funny parodic names, deaths by gunfire, typical Norwegian WW2 sabotage, robosoldiers – and of course Gisela herself, who bosses everyone around, except that one time when she is handcuffed to bed and stripped almost naked. When you have the lead female role in a nazisploitation film, you also get the honour of being the one to share your goodies! I also like that the actors are of different ages. In too many amateur films every character is played by friends of the director, and you can’t really have generals played by 20-somethings.

Gisela might be tamest nazisploitation film you’ll ever see, but it is also a tribute to Norwegian WW2 resistance fighters, and kudos to the team for trying a new genre and for doing their best with cheap CGI, boobs and medical experiments.

Starring Susanne Ingdal Andersen, Børge Borthen, Frank Robert Skogstad, Elin Moksnes, Mia Romundset, Nora Alexa Aurstad, Gaute Lo, Bjørnar Stuen, Lea Nanna Bruus, Jan Morten Hofstad.

Directed by Gaute Lo & Frank Robert Skogstad.

Rated 5 of 10.

Norway, 2014.

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