Iron Sky: Cult Movie DVD pick of the Month
‘Moon Nazis’ ? yes! It is kitschy – deliberately so and schlocky in the same way. There are campy performances and it is a little bit scary, with a cautionary message to boot. It is director Timo Vuorensola’s film Iron Sky ( a Finnish-German-Australian co-production) a science fiction adventure, part speculative history, part political satire and part tongue-in-cheek genre parody.
Where to begin when describing the plot of this mad cinematic confection? The year is 2018 – a world where a clearly dumbed down population is manipulated by a stream of cheap spin and the media holds dominance (sound familiar). Using this in any way that she can is America’s first female President (Stephanie Paul) – a ruthless redneck who bears a striking resemblance to Sarah Palin. Even worse is the President’s campaign chief – an immoral, psycho-bitch-fashion called Vivian Wagner (Peta Sargeant). In a bid to sure up the President’s chances of re-election, the two have orchestrated the first moon landing since Neil Armstrong’s – and they have sent along a black male model James Wahington (Christopher Kirby) along with the white NASA astronaut to “Black the Moon” – a cynical attempt to manipulate public sentiment.
The two astronauts stumble upon a mysterious moon colony mining helium three – a colony of Nazis! The colony was established when a group of Nazis left the earth in 1945. With his partner killed and his spaceship blown to smithereens, Washington is rescued and taken in by the Nazi moon enclave. There he meets the new fuhrer (veteran actor Udo Kier), the mad scientist Richter (Tilo Pruckner), his pretty daughter Renate (Julia Dietze) – a teacher who is unaware of Nazi history and naive to the plans of her compatriots, and Renate’s betrothed, Klaus Adler (Gotz Otto) – the fuhrer’s treacherous and ambitious second in command. After an escape attempt involving an airlock in which Renate is conveniently stripped to her underwear (An early sequence that flags the film’s exploitation references) it is discovered that Washington’s iphone is exactly what is needed to operate the war machine that has been constructed to lead the Nazi return to Earth. Washington is turned white (literally) and forced to return with Adler to Earth to recover more of the devices, and Renate stows away on their saucer (yes, a saucer!).
What ensues is a mad, action packed political and military misadventure in which Adler and a manipulated Renate’s Nazi patriotism is used by the viperous Wagner to re-invigorate the President’s campaign. Renate learns the true nature of Nazi history and Adler takes control of a Moon Nazi invasion. The President thrilled by the potential glory of being a war time leader, happily sends Wagner to lead the battle against the moon Nazis, and international relations spiral out of control!
Iron Sky certainly succeeds in being a funny film, and a great science fiction epic – considering its fringe status, with a patchwork of sponsors and fan donors making the whole venture possible. It clearly takes its cues, stylistically, from B-grade science fiction and pulp literature but also from higher sources – such as Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb. There is enough cheap laughter moments with obvious cultural parody throughout most of the film (the Palin-esque President) to soften the hard-edged satire. In the latter part of the film, however, the truly ghastly nature of some of the manipulative, shallow Earth bound characters becomes apparent and the audience is suddenly very unsettled – the genre parody has ended and we are in the land of chilling cautionary tales.
The design is perfect. Earth in 2018 is recognisable – with just a hint of Blade Runner in its slight degradation and ubiquitous television screens. The Nazi enclave on the moon, as well as their uniforms and space-craft, recall the look and mechanics of technology from the diesel age with the aesthetic of the World War Two German military machine.
All of the actors take to the film’s style uniformly well – finding just enough campiness to fit the script – the audience will still care about who they are meant to – and be horrified by everyone else. Julia Dietze stands out as the pretty Renate, an innocent who learns, in a neat sequence involving Charlie Chaplin’s film The Great Dictator, the truth about the Nazis. She and Christopher Kirby’s model/astronaut James Washington provide the film’s sympathetic, grounding characters.
Iron Sky is most definitely a must see mash-up – even if the changes in tone are a little jarring and it is sometimes unclear exactly what it wants to be. The concept, however, is unmissable – moon Nazis invading in a b-grade genre parody/political satire! The style with which it is all executed is meticulous – with visual effects, and acting style fitting together to make an unusual but engrossing whole. While the script itself may make a few odd manoeuvrings along the way, it delivers enough laughs and thrills to keep the audience entertained, finishing adroitly with the predictable ubiquitous warning about the ills of misplaced power, greed and obsession.
Review- Todd Barty
Iron Sky is available now on DVD.