DVD Review: The 25th Reich
Review by Ben Bussey
Man, films like this frustrate me like no other.
Okay, I suppose I should elaborate on that. My point is, just look at this for a premise: in the late days of World War II, the Nazis utilise time travel, flying saucers and oversized killer robot spiders to claim victory, and it falls to one small unit of mismatched American roughnecks to stop them. Sounds like it’s got fun written through it like a stick of rock, doesn’t it? Don’t know what there is in the air, what with this and Iron Sky – not to mention Dead Snow and Outpost a few years back, the latter of which has a sequel out soon – but Nazis have become a real favourite in pulp genre cinema of late (and I’ve no doubt there are more such movies that I’m forgetting). The problem tends to be that while the presence of ghoulish goose-steppers can provide a killer hook, often things don’t get far beyond that, and once the Nazi novelty has worn off the steam runs dry pretty damn quick. This was true of Outpost, and sad to say it’s also very true of The 25th Reich. That which had the potential to be a hugely entertaining hour and a a half turns out to be for the most point an exercise in tedium; hence my frustration.
Based on the novella 50,000 Years To Tomorrow by JJ Solomon (neither a book nor a writer with whom I’m familiar), the action follows five US soldiers who, at the height of wartime, find themselves in the Australian bush hunting two escaped pumas. Yep. Well, that’s their official mission anyway, so no wonder it hums of bullshit. There’s also the matter of some big, strange machine they’ve been instructed to drag out into the bush with them. It’s a long, hard trek, providing plenty of time for the men to swap manly stories; of course, each and every one of them has their secrets and lies. And of course, the biggest secret and lie is the true purpose of their mission, and once that comes to light things get a bit peculiar.
The key problem with director Stephen Amis’s film (co-written by the director, actor Serge De Nardo and David Richardson) is that it clearly has novelty on its side and fails to use it to its full advantage. Taking a premise as absurd as this and playing it as straight as The 25th Reich does strikes me as a pretty self-defeating gesture. The film is also nowhere near as epic in scale as the premise might suggest; aside from a few prologue and epilogue scenes, for the most part this is literally just five guys in the outback. Without too big a budget for special effects – be warned, the trailer below gives away the bulk of the money shots, and with it most of the surprises – Amis and co. do their best to make the most of what they have at their disposal, in particular the always impressive Australian landscape (saving grace of a great many lacklustre genre efforts, like the recent Primal and Long Weekend), and the cast. Alas, a major thorn in The 25th Reich’s side is the fact that this is an Australian production with – Jim Knobeloch’s Captain aside – a native cast playing American characters, and the accents are for the most part very shaky indeed. Perhaps if things had been played more for laughs this might not have been too great an issue, but as it stands it really undermines the whole enterprise.
To be fair, there are a few agreeably outlandish moments which under different circumstances might have helped the film live up to its potential – one particular climactic confrontation between Jim Knobeloch and a robot spider stands out in that regard – but I’m afraid by that point it’s too little too late. The 25th Reich just isn’t anywhere near as entertaining as it should have been. I haven’t seen Iron Sky yet, but I’m told it’s a good one; it’d better be more fun than this, otherwise it might be time we dump the Nazis back in the history books where they belong.
The 25th Reich is released to Region 2 DVD and Blu-Ray on 16th July.