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Surf Nazis Must Die!
Set in the not too distant future, 1985's Surf Nazi's Must Die takes place in a world where a massive earthquake has turned Los Angeles and the surrounding area into a wasteland. This wasteland is ruled by the surfers, and the surfers? They're ruled by the Nazis. Or so one of the fascist boarders tells a rather buxom young woman he meets on the beach one day. Yep, there's a gang of surf Nazi's making trouble for good people led by a grease-ball named Adolf (Barry Brenner) and his best dame Eva (Dawn Wildsmith). The group pillages the surrounding area looking for cash and for loot to fence through a local pawn shop, but when they're not doing that? They're fashioning giant hooks and riding the waves.
One day, a young black man is unfortunate enough to cross their path only to meet vicious end. His mother, Eleanor 'Mama' Washington (Gail Neely), may enjoy spending her golden years playing poker at the retirement home she's just moved into, but once she learns of her son's murder? She loads up her pistol and sets out to get revenge!
Not nearly as good as the title or the original VHS cover art (sadly, not used on this Blu-ray release), Surf Nazis Must Die still has its moments. The biggest problem with the film is the pacing. There are long stretches of people surfing, which makes sense when the movie is about…surfing, but it feels like padding and rarely adds anything to the story. The revenge aspect of the story isn't particularly believable, but it is fun. Mama Washington is an obese geriatric and a very unlikely candidate for an instrument of bloody revenge, but we like her and want her to see that justice is served. The film's finale, where she's zipping around on a speedboat taking on all comers, is ludicrous but thoroughly enjoyable. Even at just over eighty-minutes, however, the movie feels about ten minutes too long.
Performances are reasonably bonkers, not a bad thing when you're making a movie about surf Nazis. Barry Brenner is actually pretty solid as the leader, bossing around his minions and making sure they obey his every command. Dawn Wildsmith, who should be familiar to fans of eighties B-movies from her appearances in films like Alienator, Star Slammer, and Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers) is pretty fun (and fun to look at) in her part as his main squeeze. Supporting work from Michael Sonye (better known in some circles as Dukey Flyswatter!) as Mengele and Joel Hile as Hook is also worth mentioning. Gail Neely often steals the show, however. She's large and in charge and not about to take any crap from any Nazis. You've got to appreciate that, and she delivers a very enthusiastic performance. It's not always good or even believable, but she is at least a lot of fun to watch.
The film has some decent gore, particularly in its last twenty-minutes or so and benefits quite a bit from a genuinely awesome synth score that comes courtesy of John McCallum (who also scored Futureshock and Miami Connection!). Seriously, the music in the movie is often times the best part. Had the pacing been better, the movie would have been more engaging, but as it stands, if this isn't Troma's best picture, it's far from their worst.
Surf Nazi's Must Die! arrives on Region Free Blu-ray from Troma in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen taking up a paltry 14.3GBs of space on the 25GB disc. This looks very close to the 88 Films Blu-ray release from 2018, though that release gave the feature 19GBs of space. Compression artifacts are noticeable here and there and the film is a grainy one but if you know that going in it's certainly very watchable here. There is mild print damage in the form of white specks evident throughout and it isn't too hard to spot small scratches here and there but the color reproduction is pretty strong and if detail never hits reference quality it does easily surpass the previous domestic DVD release that Troma put out years ago.
The only audio option provided for the feature is an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix, there are no alternate language options or subtitles offered here. By comparison, the 88 Films release offered a lossless DTS-HD 2.0 mix with removable English subtitles. As you'd image, this sounds inferior to that release but if it doesn't have as much depth or range, it's at least clean and properly balanced.
A quick two minute intro from Lloyd Kaufman plays before the main menu screen loads. From there, we find an odd mix of bonus material. Carried over from the older DVD release is a brief four-minute interview with Director Peter George wherein he notes his thoughts on the film and shares some stories from the shoot. He talks about the original concepts for the film, how it evolved into what it finally was, and which locations were used for the movie. Also on hand is a quick two-minute interview with Producer Robert Tinnell where he talks about the intensity of the shoot and how much work it was and how a spontaneous football game broke out once night after wrap. Neither is really all that in-depth but if you haven't seen them before they're worth checking out.
After that, you can check out two separate Troma Public Service Announcements originally from Troma's Edge TV that have nothing to do with the movie but which do feature attractive naked ladies in them. Lloyd Kaufman's Autobiography is a quick eighty second plug for the book in question while the Radiation March short is the same odd minute-long promo that seems to have made it onto every Troma DVD and Blu-ray release in the company's history. Soul Of Troma is a quick two minute bit that is essentially a highlight reel of some of the more memorable scenes from the studio's output while Scenes From The Tromaville Cafe is a three-and-a-half minute promo featuring 'Jane Jensen' and 'Beowulf' as well as Lloyd Kaufman and Peter George that sort of ties into the making of the feature.
We also get eight minutes of deleted scenes taken from a tape source, a five minute short called Latched directed by Thom Demico where two guys in the woods run into a monster of sorts, Indie Artists Vs. Corrupt Cartels where Kaufman speaks out from behind his iconic desk for ten minutes against the larger tech companies that control a lot of the media landscape and Lloyd Gets Fucked by The Hollywood System is an amusing ninety second vintage clip featuring Kaufman on a street corner in New York City and then travelling to Hollywood where he deals with some studio executives.
Last but definitely not least is an episode of The Projection Booth podcast that interviews Peter George. This plays out over top of the feature as a commentary track of sorts, and it goes into quite a bit of detail about George's background and career in film, the making of the feature, working with the different cast and crew members and the film's production history. If a lot of the extras on the disc are of the throwaway variety, this one is quite substantial and one that fans of the film will definitely appreciate.
Surf Nazis Must Die is definitely lesser 'vintage' Troma but it has its moments as well as its problems. Still, the movie has a nostalgic appeal for those of us who remember renting the tape after being lured in by that fantastic cover art. Troma's Blu-ray release offers a nice upgrade over the past domestic DVD release and includes some supplements covering the film's background highlighted by the very good commentary. A Tromasterpiece it is not, but its fans will appreciate the Blu-ray upgrade. Recommended if you fall into that camp or a fun rental for the curious.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.