The Nazis set up a secret base on the Moon in 1945 where they hide out planning to return to power. In 2018, the United States sends two astronauts there to search for deposits of the energy source Helium 3. Their presence is discovered by the Moon Nazis. They capture one of the astronauts and decide to move faster on their plans for world domination.
There are many kinds of movie Nazis. The two most common are the ones based in the factual horror of history and then there are the kind used for comic effect. Television brought us Monty Python’s “Mr Hilter and Bimmler” and the US sitcom Hogan’s Heroes; movies brought us Jerry Lewis’s WHICH WAY TO THE FRONT (1970) and Mel Brook’s THE PRODUCERS (1968) with its intentionally tasteless musical Springtime for Hitler. Despite the many jokey takes on the subject, seventy years on, what the real Nazis did is still a touchy subject.
Finnish filmmaker, Timo Vuorensola, has worked out a way to resurrect the Nazis in a less controversial form; he’s made them the children and grand-children of the original Nazis who haven’t been seen for two whole generations because they have been living, plotting and thriving on the dark side of our Moon. Space Nazis! This perfectly B-grade concept has been given an indie-film budget, partially crowd-sourced from fans. These people saw the concept online and loved it, years before a single frame of footage was captured.
For a comedy about Space Nazis from the Moon, it has been executed almost tastefully. For a start, it’s not called SPACE NAZIS FROM THE MOON. This may be because a portion of the film’s finance was sourced from German funding bodies. Producing films about the Nazis is still relatively uncommon in Germany for legal as well as psychological reasons. The title IRON SKY references ideas like Bismarck’s Blood and Iron speech and the Iron Cross military decoration. The words connect to all our Germanic stereotypes.
IRON SKY name-checks any number of stereotypes to get its laughs. There is a Volkswagen on the Moon. The sets look like 1940s era technology built to tower over human beings in a way that suggests the architecture of Hitler’s architect Speer, combined with the designs of Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS (1927).
All of this throws our own era into sharp relief. We see the President of the United States–an unnamed but instantly recognisable Sarah Palin; an utterly ineffectual and fractious United Nations-style organization and a planet ready to be swayed by spin-doctoring and PR of the most obvious kind. Many of the laughs are pop-cultural shout outs, but hiding underneath the whole rambling, sometimes rickety construction, is the film’s satirical foundation.
The original concept was the work of veteran Finnish sci-fi author Johanna Sinisalo and it was turned into a screenplay by Michael Kalesniko, the Canadian screenwriter who was responsible for writing the Howard Stern movie PRIVATE PARTS (1997). The plot is standard; we wonder whether the Moon Nazis will succeed in their attack on Earth a.k.a meteorblitkrieg. Beyond this there is a scattershot approach to getting laughs and making points. A silly joke will often be right next to a smarter one. One moment we’re watching a sci-fi version of the old woman-gets-her-skirt-caught-in-a-door sight gag made famous by Benny Hill, and the next we’re shown an excerpt of Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940) as a teaching aid the Moon Nazis are using. Staying alert is the best approach for a first time viewer.
The cast is largely unknown apart from veteran German actor Udo Kier, who plays the Moon Fuhrer. Australian audiences might recognise Peta Sergeant from TV shows such as All Saints. She grabs the opportunity to play Vivian Wagner, the leather-clad PR woman the President puts in charge of her re-election campaign. Sergeant camps it up in grand style. Australian-based American actor Christopher Kirby plays Washington, one of the astronauts who discover the Nazis on the Moon. His portrayal of the can-do model/astronaut is comedically and dramatically spot on. Julia Dietze is the German actress plastered across all IRON SKY’s publicity material. She plays Renate an essentially good schoolteacher who has an innate sense of right and wrong despite being lied to for her entire life. The cast is rounded out by Götz Otto who plays the scheming and manipulative Klaus Adler. He makes an excellent villain in what could have been a mere sneering caricature of a role.
IRON SKY’s Timo Vuorensola has previously directed a series of largely amateur parody films called STAR WRECK. His latest film takes his work into a professional sphere. His next film is likely to be bigger and slicker. This strange Finnish-German-Australian co-production is an oddity. It’s a skit idea brilliantly extended into a full-length feature. It’s a kitschy, cheesy concept executed with restraint. It’s a crowd-pleasing comedy with a misanthropic message.
IRON SKY is currently screening in Australia in selected cinemas. It runs for 93 minutes. The film is presented in English and in German with English subtitles. I rated it a 3.5/5.