Color, 1969, 74m.
Directed by John Hayes
Starring Jay Scott, E.J. Walsh, Joanne Douglas, Marland Proctor, Inga Maria, Barbara Lane, William Gruhl, Uschi Digard
Vinegar Syndrome (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Sort of a ragged softcore cross between Hogan's Heroes and The Dirty Dozen on a budget of about twenty bucks, this insane Nazisploitation offering comes from director John Hayes, best known for his wild string of '70s horror films like Grave of the Vampire, Dream No Evil and Garden of Evil, not to mention saucier fare like Bust Out and the wacko porno Baby Rosemary.
The random action begins in the woods somewhere in Germany where American soldier Joseph Tackney (Scott) is confused by the tendency of his fellow officer (a cameo by softcore vet John Keith) to dress up like a cowboy. Meanwhile a German officer (an uncredited Michael Pataki) is forcing himself on a blonde woman (Sandy Carey) carrying a painting in the middle of a dirt road, but he stops to open fire when the two Americans stumble by. Only Tackney makes it out alive and gets back to home base where it turns out he's one of five men selected "out of 137 possibilities" to form a detail to go behind enemy lines and end the war in two weeks instead of two months. They'll accomplish that by crossing a German golf course to a local officers' command center to swipe the plans of the next battle being planned and get them to Allied headquarters, with "every German son of a bitch soldier" to be killed in the process. As it turns out, the Germans are actually busy having sex with women in their steam room and guarding a metal box filled with confiscated jewels, which is the real target of the American commander. The boys steal in under cover of darkness and slaughter the enemy, then raid the offices and come across a welcoming bevy of willing German women. The gals decide to put on a show for the boys including a dance routine in Little Bo Peep and French maid outfits and a bizarre strip mime act, followed by other random indulgences like a baby powder massage (to comical circus music), a goofy menage a trois/slap fight, and a grinning appearance by the always amazing Uschi Digard bouncing her wares on a desk with two German officials. The following morning, things turn very violent as the guns come out, the American commander plots to make off with the loot, more troops arrive, and the body count mounts considerably, including one baffling scene intercutting a sweaty steam room encounter with a bunch of shootings and grenade explosions.
Complete with a country theme song ("There's blood on these hills / Where can we go?") written about the first guy to die in the film and a ridiculous attempt to pass off what looks like Porter Ranch, California as WWII-era Germany, The Cut-Throats is primo late-'60s trash cinema with a whole lot of sex and violence packed into its very compact 73-minute running time. The jerky plotting and sometimes baffling editing suggest a rushed and sloppy production, backed up by the fact that the theatrical trailer includes copious frontal nudity and entire scenes missing from the final cut (including a freaky bit of toe sex). Not surprisingly, this was completely overshadowed the same year by the far more extreme Lee Frost/Bob Cresse shocker, Love Camp 7, which was still being rejected for an American DVD release well into this century. That said, The Cut-Throats does its best to earn its (soft) X rating with a ton of bullet hits, bare flesh, and yes, one brief throat slashing to justify the title.
Released in theaters by Clover Films (who also handled Hayes' next film, the fun All the Lovin' Kinfolk), this film was trotted out on VHS in the '80s by American Video and then briefly from Something Weird courtesy of a faded, battered, hacked-up print. The 2015 Vinegar Syndrome release comes with what the packaging touts as a 2K transfer from 35mm vault materials, and whatever that source is, it looks pretty great here. Colors are far better than any other version, and the source elements appear to be in good condition with very minimal damage. The 1.78:1 framing is a bit tight on top in a few wide shots (most notably Carey's scene at the beginning), but it's such an oddly shot film in general that it's hard to say what the ideal framing have been in theaters. That aforementioned lengthy trailer is here, which makes for fascinating viewing, and there's also a nice gallery of black and white promo stills (one of them hilariously censored, a common practice at the time) courtesy of Cinema Arcana. As of this writing, the limited pressing (1500 units) is available as part of Vinegar Syndrome's monthly package and at convention appearances, with any remaining copies (if any) to be made for widely available in the future.