Salon Kitty (Tinto Brass, 1976)

by Smart

Surprisingly, this film has a lot more to offer than the simple thrills that one would usually associate with the mere thought of Naziploitation. In actuality, I had a really good time watching it, and it was certainly far exceeded my meagre expectations. Margherita is a wonderful character; she is cute, smart, and easy to go along with. Kitty (played by Ingrid Thulin, hah), is also an interesting character, but for very different reasons. Even the choreographed and sexualised dance sequences don’t come off as tacky, but rather as artistic, unabashed exhibition. There is a lot to see and a lot to think about, and even more to just react to viscerally. Though the ideas behind the narrative may be simplistic, even overdone, I have never seen them rendered like this, and as such the film manages to feel bright and original, even today.

The story revolves around a group of carefully chosen women who have been put together in a brothel to serve Nazi men during WWII. Naturally, such a premise will entail a lot of sex, and with Salon Kitty it most certainly does, but there is something organic about the erotica and nudity which gives it a homely quality, and doesn’t make me feel nearly as dirty as it should, especially considering the abhorrent sexual encounters that are depicted throughout. Behind this elaborate setup is the real, more sinister purpose of the brothel: to spy on the Nazi customers in hopes of recording material that can then be used by an egotistical Nazi officer for blackmail. It can get pretty complex at times. On a visual level, the film is a success; the camera work is grand, the costume and set design are alive and immersive, and the editing is more than sufficient. It is key that nothing on the production side of things be shoddy, as such deficiencies would seriously detract from a film with such lurid subject matter. Luckily, this film holds it together until the credits roll, and overall delivers a compelling, stylistic punch.