Salon Kitty (1975)

Genres - Adult, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Sexploitation  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Love it or hate it, there's no arguing that Salon Kitty is not your standard-issue exploitation movie about the kinky underside of Nazi Germany. Produced on a lavish budget, and featuring several reasonably well-respected actors (most notably Helmut Berger and Ingrid Thulin), Salon Kitty is several noticeable steps up on the food chain from grind-house efforts such as Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS or S.S. Love Camp No. 27, but at the same time director Tinto Brass was clearly unafraid to push the kink level and gross-out factors as far as he could. Beyond the expected cross-dressing and S & M diversions, Salon Kitty includes onscreen animal slaughter, women forced to have sex with hunchbacked dwarves and subhuman giants, and a chorus line of naked prostitutes "seig heil"-ing en masse before being put to the test by a gang of randy S.S. officers. While the film stops just short of hardcore, the near-constant nudity (both male and female) and continual parade of sexual and emotional perversity insures this movie would never get an R rating, at least not in its uncut form. While based on a true story, Salon Kitty is for the most part played so over the top that it's hard to read as anything but a fantastic worst-case scenario of Third Reich deviance on parade (embodied by the icy hysteria of Berger's Officer Wallenberg). However, Brass makes occasional efforts to humanize the proceedings, most notably through the romance between jaded soldier Biondo (John Steiner) and semi-idealistic call girl Margherita (Teresa Ann Savoy) and the relentless good cheer of Madame Kitty (Thulin) (whose obvious similarities to Marlene Dietrich are played up by Annie Ross' Blue Angel-inspired vocals in the English-dubbed version). Salon Kitty is difficult to take seriously as history, and it's too grim in its sadism and thematic implications to enjoy as a glossy slice of softcore porn; it's an undeniably well-crafted bit of feel-bad entertainment, but for every moment where it sets itself up as a cautionary tale, there's another where Brass rubs our nose in this elegant sleaze seemingly just for the hell of it. If nothing else, Salon Kitty gave Brass the ideal dry run for his next project, the infamous Caligula.