The waves of Power Beach wash ashore red with the blood of territorial gang war. Wiping out is not an option for the Nazis, the largest and strongest wave riders consisting of new age Neo-Nazis led by Adolf, his lady Eva, and ingenious welding right hand Mengele. As they surf for turf, the Nazis strong arm the rival gangs into a no choice option of calling a truce amongst themselves to attack and take down the Krauts and regain control over the towering waves and lucrative scores of Power Beach. Caught in the middle is Leroy, a young black man who becomes gang war collateral damage on the unsafe beaches. When Eleanor “Mama” Washington gets wind of those responsible for her son’s death, she’s blitzkriegs the surf Nazi’s of Power Beach with her own brand of grenade throwing justice.
Ever since being highly promoted at random on Alex Powers’ wannabe Troma film “Sadistic Eroticism” starring adult film actress Sophie Dee, perhaps as Powers’ favorite Troma release, seeing “Surf Nazis Must Die” tickled the curiosity of the olfactory snout and became one of those must watch titles canonized with outrageous, off-color content that’s routine for the Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz independent shock-and-comedy distributor, Troma Films. Peter George directed his semi-serious, mostly satirical-toned debut film from a Jon Ayre script based off George’s original story idea of incorporating the territorial surfer scene of California with a laying siege, post-apocalyptic, gang and revenge narrative that’s a delectable smorgasbord buffet of low-budget subgenres. Perfectly situated in front of deep-water oil rigs and the towering smokestacks of power plants and other various manufactories along California’s graffiti-cladded Huntington Beach, “Surf Nazis Must Die” is a production of Peter George’s The Institute alongside company co-owners in editor Craig A. Colton and producer Robert Tinnell (“Frankenstein and Me”).
Tennessee born actress Gail Neely receives her big break in a lead role of a feature film. Lamentably, that film was full of bad taste and full of punk surfers with red painted swastikas on their black wetsuits who also paralleled nefariously notorious figures of bigotry and war crimes against anyone not white Anglo-Saxon. Yes, Neely is a black actress pitted against and taking revenge on a group of racist thugs, a narrative we’ve seen before, but the “Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear” actress took an unjust backseat (an unfortunate and unintended Rosa Parks pun) in sharing the lead with the very Nazis she ruthless takes head on. Trying to understand why Peter George and Jon Ayre decided to focus more on the strategic overthrows of gangland rather than to journey Mama Washington’s revenge in her death wish arch is beyond comprehension in a lopsided narrative that gives more screen time to Nazis and gangs than it does a grieving, nursing home-residing, mother hellbent on avenging her slain son with vigilantism. The latter is a much better story that breaks up the stagnant gang mentality unwavering throughout. Neely does her best to pull audiences back into the revenge fold with a grit and attitude that takes us back to 1970’s blaxploitation films of yore, but ultimately, “Maniac Cop’s” Barry Brenner and “Star Slammers’” Dawn Wildsmith and Michael Sonye inadvertently bleed out Neely’s full potential with their respective Nazi counterparts – Adolf, Eva, and Mengele – and their intercompany squabbles and beach brawls against rival gangs. “Surf Nazis Must Die’s” cast rounds out with Robert Harden (“Dead Girls”) as Leroy, Joel Hile (“Deadly Friend”) as Hook, Gene Mitchell as Brutus, and Tom Shell (“Hard Rock Nightmare”) as Smeg.
With a title like “Surf Nazis Must Die,” the expectation bar was high to bequeath audiences guaranteed politically incorrect exploitation and sizable good versus bad mayhem crashing like a cacophonic wave on the surf. “Surf Nazis Must Die” does meet that brazen bar that associates surf territorialism to the likes of Nazism by way of excluding outsiders from their surf turf and be nasty about it as well. Would I compare it to Nazism? Probably not, but in the heat of control and power over others less fortunate in riding waves might draw a vague resemblance. In a bit of satire and irony, 1940s Nazi Germany was ruled by an extremely authoritarian people running a tight ship in every facet from the meticulous armed ranks to innovative engineering to the ostentatious decorated halls and buildings of propaganda and flag hoisting pageantry, but Peter George’s Nazis, granted the new age variety, plague themselves about the beach, living off stolen goods while driving around in a makeshift shark modified van, tanning their mostly exposed bodies, or dressed in graffiti stylized wetsuits and trench coats with glitter-face painted swastikas. The characters are cuter in caricatures than they are in terrorizing tyrants of the beach. What’s even more interesting about “Surf Nazis Must Die” is that none of the gangs carry firearms despite one of the popular Troma cover arts displaying an archetypal lampooned Nazi riding a wave and wielding an Uzi. The “Clockwork Orange” gangs meandering about with unprovoked violence carry traditional switchblades, nontraditional switchblade surfboards, nunchakus, staffs, a hook for an arm, and there’s even one guy with a speargun. Only Mama Washington is armed to the teeth with conventional weaponry of grenades and a handgun that makes this film even more unfathomable at times.
Thirty-five years later, “Surf Nazis Must Die” continues to make waves a war zone with a new Blu-ray released from Troma Films and distributed by MVD Visual. The newly restored, newly remastered, high-definition region free Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen 16×9 aspect ratio from the original 35mm negative and is not quite the fully uncut version, running two minutes short at 83 minutes from the director’s cut that circulates overseas. The color matte lacks bounteous vision that fails to give range to the graffiti art amongst other aspects. The transfer has little-to-no blights with some transparent vertical scratches in a single frame but nothing else more to note. George and editor Craig A. Colton work their magic on a remarkable cutting room performance with splicing in Hawaiian surfing footage with the Huntington Beach narrative in a near seamless manner. The English language lossy LPCM 2.0 track doesn’t hook into you with a linear fidelity with no range or depth but does provide fair dialogue clarity and no impeding audible damage. “Terror Eyes” and “Future Shock’s” Jon McCallum has a fantastic synth score that pulsates life into the overabundance of stagnant moments and the film is worth a watch just for McCallum’s soundtrack alone. Gnarly special features include a new introduction by a locked down stricken Lloyd Kaufman diving into his pool to take a bath, a circa late 80s/early 90s interview with Peter Geoge conducted by the enthusiastic Lloyd Kaufman, another circa late 80s/early 90s snippet interview with producer Robin Tinell, a pair of deleted scenes with Peter George commentary, scenes from the Tromaville Cafe, Radiation March Promo against pollution, a pair of archived Troma NOW PSA announcements that are as sexually titillating as they are meaningful in their message, a Soul of Troma promo trailer,” “Latched” short, and various other Troma promos: Indie artists vs cartels, Lloyd Kaufman gets “fucked” by the Hollywood system, and Lloyd Kaufman’s Audiobiography. There’s also mention of a “Gizzard Face” promo, but I did not see it as an option in the bonus content. “Surf Nazis Must Die” inches along and loses a lot of key momentum along the way building around the striking title. Eventually, the undercutting of gang machoism crumbles away to leave an open path for Mama Washington’s full-blown assault as a true cinematic Nazi hunter extraordinaire.