DIRECTOR: JESUS MARACCAS. RUNNING TIME: 77 mins. DVD: TORTILLA CLASSICS. PRICE: £8.99. CERT: 18.
A frantic madcap comedy in which a Nazi war criminal’s desperate attempts to avoid detection by, amongst others, US and Israeli agents, are continually hampered by a zombified Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering’s flatulent corpse and a deep freeze full of dead Nazis, this proved a massive hit in its native Mexico, but left the rest of the world slack-jawed with disbelief. Coming on like a jack-booted version of Arsenic and Old Lace, the film is essentially a vehicle for veteran local comic Pepe Arsole, whose performance as the notorious Nazi Dr Mengele – famed for his cruel experiments on concentration camp inmates- seems to consist entirely of double-takes and pratfalls as he tries to conceal the true nature of his exclusive Paraguyan private health clinic from visiting government health inspectors. He is joined in the cast by Juan Garbonza – once described as the Mexican Jerry Lewis, as damning an indictment of a career as you can get – who brings his flailing limbs and infantile persona to the part of Adolf Hitler. It seems that Mengele has been trying to thaw out a number of top Nazi leaders he has frozen in the cellar. However, his first attempt – the Fuhrer – has been less than successful and Adolf now staggers around Mengele’s Paraguyan clinic flailing his arms and shouting “Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Fuhrer!”, before regularly falling over. He also frequently gropes young women to comic effect.
Anxious to retain his clinic’s certification, Mengele has to frantically cover up its real activities – including practising involuntary euthanasia on elderly wealthy patients and then extracting their gold teeth so as to finance his latest experiments and gassing and melting down the local Indian population to provide a supply of soap and candles for the clinic. Naturally, the whole situation is further complicated by the arrival of first CIA, then Mossad agents, seeking to bring the war criminal to justice, and Mengele is forced to try and keep them away from each other, the inspectors and the clinic’s furnaces and gas chambers. Inevitably, ‘hilarious’ scenes ensue, such as patients being smothered by orderlies just as Mengele brings the inspectors onto the ward, resulting in frantic mugging and double-takes from the mad Doctor as he hurriedly pushes them back out of the room. A comic ‘highlight’ finds one of the Mossad agents recognising a lampshade in the Doctor’s study as being his mother when he notices a familiar tattoo – he subsequently finds the rest of his family on the bookshelves binding a number of notorious Nazi texts (his fiancé is now Mein Kampf).
When one of the female inspectors starts making amourous advances toward Mengele, he passes a befrocked Hermann Goering (who has arrived unannounced seeking a hiding place from the various Nazi hunters trailing him) off as his wife. Unfortunately, Goering quickly expires from a heart attack as he attempts to distract the Israeli agents with a seductive dance routine. For no discernible reason, Goering’s corpse proceeds to break wind loudly and violently at various inappropriate moments, so as to continually embarrass Mengele. However, the farting corpse turns out merely to be a convenient plot device to bring about the film’s denouement – one of the Isaeli agents strikes a match whilst investigating the strange noises coming from the wardrobe where the body eventually ends up, blowing the clinic to bits. Only Mengele, Hitler and the US agents survive. In a sidesplitting final twist it turns out that the CIA agents have been trying to locate Mengele so as to offer him a job as a ‘torture consultant’ – a beaming Mengele is last seen heading for the US arm in arm with Adolf!
For many years believed lost (to the relief of film-lovers everywhere), this reprehensible film has now turned up on video. A great evening’s viewing if you like slapstick comedy featuring crude racist stereotypes (the Israeli agents are depicted as having hooked noses, etc., whilst one of the CIA agents is a 1930s ‘comic relief’-style Negro with rolling eyes, continually taking fright at the slightest thing), genocide, torture and murder.