The Tormentors (1971)

A very strange little movie.

I didn't know much about this one until a recent viewing. Thinking it was a biker film with a Nazi slant, The Tormentors sounded like potential Girls Guns and Ghouls exploitation fodder. Well, the Neo-Nazis in this hippy-trippy mishmash of genres do ride motorbikes in about two scenes, and there are a couple of structural similarities to some biker movies, but that's about it. What does emerge after watching defies me to place it in any particular genre. Is it a biker movie? Is it a revenge drama? Is it a Nazi movie? Hippy movie? You could ask yourselves these questions, and others, all night after a viewing. The best thing I can do for everyone is provide a plot summary, then you can reach your own conclusions! I'm still a bit baffled, I must admit.

A gang of beige-uniformed men rob a bank and kidnap a young blonde woman, escaping on motorbikes. Later, the leader, Kemp (a pudgy Bruce Kimball) rapes (sort of off-screen but you can tell what's going on) and strangles the woman in the woods with a Nazi armband. Her enraged fiance, cop Ballard (Anthony Eisley) wants vigilante revenge on Kemp and his "Fourth Reich", whom they've been investigating for some time. His police colleague refuses, demanding they do it the standard operational way, with evidence. Ballard will have none of it.

While remembering the love he had for his fiance, Ballard decorates his apartment in the manner of a Neo-Nazi. He joins the Fourth Reich and is trusted straight away, for some reason, by the smarmy, sweaty leader. Kemp has a German accent in most scenes, yet when he talks to his superior (a mysterious businessman) it vanishes. Who knows if this was intentional or not. Beautiful Nazi girls with swastika armbands abound at Fourth Reich headquarters. We get to see a very tame Nazi orgy. Not much nudity folks, just an armband draped over a fraulein's breasts.

Meanwhile, a hippy Jesus-type figure called "The Messiah" has been frequenting the regular outdoor "Love-ins" attended by the local youth. You have to see the scenes of these counter-culture kids swaying in a strange sort of unison to the Hendrix-y tunes of "Rudy and the Love Slaves". The Nazis regularly show up and get into badly-staged fights with the Peaceniks. Now the kids have The Messiah, who preaches love and peace and his new followers dig him good. He's anathema to the Fourth Reich, who want to kill him, blame the cops on the scene and have the kids join their legion of hate - mainly because Kemp is under pressure to get the Reich's membership up in his area.

As a test of loyalty, Ballard is given the task of shooting the Messiah, but claims the crowd was too much in the way at the time. Kemp begins to doubt the new member. Later the Messiah is arrested for his own safety, but given bail by the Nazis, who ambush him on his release. Chasing him through a forest, the police try to intervene and are promptly blown away by a bazooka brought out from the Nazi's car! Finally the fascists shoot The Messiah dead near a giant cross. In the meantime, Kemp is beginning to fall for one of the blonde Nazi women (Chris Noel) who, although never letting on why she joined them in the first place, wants to break free. They fall in love. The woman finds a picture of Ballard's fiance and distraught - though still in love with him - allows it to be taken by Kemp. Ballard has been exposed. Kemp brings in a cop to be executed as a final 'test' of Ballard, but although the cop is shot and killed by the other two Nazis assigned as executioners, Ballard is shown to have missed the target. Taken away from Fourth Reich headquarters, the nice Nazi woman is tortured by a cigarette wielded by the nasty Nazi woman who's Kemp's lover.

The cops finally turn up to end the Fourth Reich in a big shootout. Kemp escapes with the loot taken in the opening scene, and the vengeance-seeking Ballard gives chase. Will he become as bad as Kemp as he corners the whimpering Nazi in a dingy flat? Will the Nazi girl escape her captors, appear and turn the confrontation around?

As directed by David L. Hewitt of The Mighty Gorga fame (here billed as David B. Eagles), The Tormentors is humble, very low-budget seventies fun for the discerning viewer. The acting is earnest but pretty wooden from all concerned. There isn't much of anything - sex, violence, visual panache, even motorcycles - to go wild about, but it remains a unique little piece of trash cinema. If you like the counter-culture aesthetic you'll get it in spades here. The Love-in scenes alone will probably make it a worthwhile view for any hippy-era fans. Fans of screen violence will have to be content with lots of scenes of men and women having their heads being hit on walls, cars, tables - very softly, I might add! Never in my viewing career have I seen a film with so many different heads being hit on flat surfaces multiple times.

If you're looking for a Biker movie experience, I'd avoid this one, though. With so little biker content it's strictly for the tolerant 'all-rounder' fan of seventies grindhouse cinema.

© Boris "Headache" Lugosi, 2006.


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Review written: 03/14/2006 21:10:58