Cult Film Review: Surf Nazis Must Die

What is it you’d fear most from a post-apocalyptic world? Mutant dogs? Radiation? The rise of the New World Order? More bombs?

Nope. Guess again. There’s a new wave of fear to strike at the hearts of those left to scramble among the wastelands of Earth: surfing Nazis.

You heard right. Surf Nazis Must Die (1987) pretty much does what it says on the tin. If you’re expecting subtlety then you won’t get it here, certainly not from a Troma movie anyway.

With the Californian coastline left in ruins after a devastating earthquake, law and order have ceased to function and the vacuum has been filled by marauding gangs whose turf lies within the surf. The titular Nazis are led by Adolf and Eva (of course!), with their weapons maker (i.e. surgeon) Mengele and a cavalcade of other low-down nasty Nazi punks. They cause hell for anybody who dares intrude upon their New Beach.

Surf Nazis Must Die swings between any number of genres; either by accident of necessity. There’s farcical, slapstick comedy, softcore porn (or a quasi-rape scene depending on how you view it), hardcore violence (Mengele bites the throat out of an enemy surfer, while ‘Hook’ uses his… well, hook with alarmingly bloody results) and acting so wilfully grandiose it borders on parody. The times when Adolf makes any of his many declarations for the future of the New Beach, let’s just say William Shatner wouldn’t have looked out of place. Yikes… the Surf Nazis even have their own ‘Hitler Youth’ brigade as well. This isn’t some two-bit operation. Kinda.

Naturally, there are other gangs too, each with their own loose gimmicky affiliation. The Surf Samurais are a bunch of Japanese guys who get their asses kicked pretty early on – which is a shame – while the other gangs seem to be a mish-mash of hairy dudes in swimsuits. Well, surfers don’t tend to be the most three-dimensional characters, do they?

Alas, the idea that this could turn into the aquamarine version of The Warriors dies a death early on. The film is confusing, boring and sadly just pretty shitty overall.

It takes its time but at the heart of the film is a revenge plot. The Nazis – having murdered new-guy-in-town Leroy – face the wrath of his mother; a gun-totin’ sass-mouth who defies the punks when she has justice on her mind.

But, do you know something? The film is actually pretty fucking awful. It’s not even funny. Adolf tells Leroy on their first encounter that he looks like a white guy he knew “who fell down a chimney.” I mean, the Nazis were scum but it’s such a bizarre line in an American 80s movie. The camera work is shoddy, some of the music is actually painful to listen to and in reality, you don’t really have an idea what’s going on.

The critics hated it too. Janet Maslin wrote “Not even the actors’ relatives will find this interesting.” OUCH. It even prompted Roger Ebert – the man who will have sat through a billion terrible films – to walk out after half an hour. Still, that was the Nazis for you; pretty divisive.

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