Title: The Tormentors (1971) Director: David L. Hewitt (as "B. Eagle") Runtime viewed: 78 minutes Genre: nazisploitation, biker, grindhouse Country/language: USA/English Production company: none specified Subtitles available: n/a Amazon: maybe Elsewhere?: very rare Synopsis: The 4th Reich motorcycle gang conspires to kill Jesus because Californian hippies are following him and not Hitler. Entertainment value: *****-- Great value if you love early '70s trash. Antisocial value: ***---- A swastika in nearly every scene, but nudity is minimal and cartoon violence is schlocky. Add a star if you love Jesus. Repeat viewing value: ******- This is a great thing to have around if you get trashed up the pub and invite folks back to your place.
It is always a joy when researching the background of gutter cinema to discover that the prime culprits have gone on to forge genuine careers in film. Director David L. Hewitt found some kind of legitimacy in later life as a visual effects producer for Phillip Noyce (The Quiet American, Rabbit-Proof Fence) and most recently Inspector Gadget 2, but prior to that he established a pretty solid reputation in trash cinema – usually under the ‘nym “B. Eagle” – and is probably best known for the 1969 King Kong rip-off The Mighty Gorga (which was written and directed under his own name).
The Tormentors is a flick that could only have been made in the US in the early ’70s, much in the same way that Iron Chef could only have been made in Japan in the ’90s – any other space/time configuration simply would not work. Rumour has it it that it was made for around $1200, all involved gave up on suing for unpaid wages and that the finished product lay unreleased in someone’s garage for 15 years before being “discovered” by Trans World Entertainment and given a limited VHS release. Its last known release appears to be from the now defunct Platinum Disc in 2001 – so this flick is very much a lost rarity that is not even listed in most authoritative cult movie guides. Good luck finding a legitimate copy. Best bet would be eBay, Amazon second hand or gas station sale bins at 2am.
What passes for a plot has two main threads both revolving around the Hitler worshipping Fourth Reich motorcycle club and its leader B. Rockwell Kemp – which I assume is a reference to the American Nazi Party and its founder, the late George Lincoln Rockwell. There is absolutely no subtlety to the Nazi imagery with swastikas and Hitler portraits in virtually every scene and the club uniform being a Sturmabteilung brown.
The first “plot” thread begins right at the opening of the film with the 4th Reich, in need of funds, robbing a local bank and, just for kicks, kidnapping a blonde woman from inside who they then proceed to rape and murder. The rape is assumed, not really shown; the victim looks rather bored and even her strangulation with a Nazi armband doesn’t seem to elicit any real degree of alarm. Enter plot device 1 – she happens to be the fiancée of honest cop Ballard who (of course) swears to get revenge on Kemp. He informs his cop station boss Lt. Connors of his intent to join the 4th Reich undercover to get his pound of flesh – which Connors orders him not to do, because doing so would endanger some never specified larger police operation. Our hero is not one to take no for an answer.
The second plot thread is established after our hero has successfully infiltrated the Reich. Seems Kemp and his club have been failing to meet their financial commitments to support the greater American Nazi conspiracy and receives a dressing down from its west coast leader – and ordered to lift his game or else.
Kemp burbles out his excuse that, for some inexplicable reason, the local hippies aren’t showing much interest in embracing Nazi ideology and are instead following a mysterious character known simply as The Messiah. Obviously, there is only one Final Solution to this problem. The Messiah must be exterminated at any cost.
The hunt and execution of The Messiah alone is worth well more than the price of admission. These scenes are what elevate The Tormentors well and truly above similar exploitation efforts of the time –
That’s pretty much all there is to the story. You should know better than to expect any coherence or logic. Like why, for example, our hero participates without protest in being part of a firing squad for a local cop caught snooping on the Reich – or why “bikers” are riding around on Japanese 175cc 2-strokes. No matter, thinking spoils the experience. Sit back and enjoy the plot padding – plenty of stoned hippies doing what hippies do; a protracted sex and nudity free Nazi orgy; a dumb love triangle that almost undoes our hero; endless cartoon violence; and best of all, a wonderful psychedelic/lounge soundtrack from Rudy & The Love Slaves.
This film is a joy to watch. A more than worthy addition to any aesthetes collection.
Official Trailer –