Directed By: Peter George
Starring: Gail Neely, Robert Harden, Barry Brenner
Tag line: "The Beaches Have Become Battlefields... The Waves Are A War Zone!"
Trivia: The UK video release of this film was cut by 25 secs to remove footage of nunchakus and swords during fight scenes
From Troma, the studio that brought you The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘em High, Killer Condom, and Rabid Grannies comes yet another great title for a low-budget film: Surf Nazis Must Die!
And the movie itself ain’t so bad, either.
A major earthquake has left Los Angeles in ruins. With law and order a thing of the past, various gangs battle for control of the beaches, with one group in particular rising above the rest: the Surf Nazis. Led by Adolf (Barry Brenner), the Nazis, which also includes Mengele (Michael Sonye), Hook (Joel Hile), Brutus (Gene Mitchell) and Adolf’s girlfriend Eva (Dawn Wildsmith), rule the water as well as the land, threatening bodily harm to anyone who stands against them. To show they mean business, Adolf and his cronies beat a jogger named Leroy (Robert Harden) to death for preventing one of their pledges from stealing a woman’s purse. What the Nazis didn’t bank on, however, was Leroy’s mother Eleanor (Gail Neely), who, in an effort to avenge her son, buys a couple of weapons, then sets out to do a little Nazi hunting of her own.
For a post-apocalyptic movie about roving beach gangs, Surf Nazis Must Die gets off to a surprisingly slow start. That’s not to say it’s boring; I liked the scenes where we meet the other local gangs, each one with its own costume and gimmick (a la 1979’s The Warriors). Also, the surf footage, most of which plays out in slo-mo, looks great (it was shot by Dan Merkel, who also handled the water photography for the 1978 surf film Big Wednesday).
In addition, these early sequences establish that the two most dominant characters in the movie are going to be women. Adolf’s main squeeze, Eva, is ruthless as hell (when collecting money from a biker, she pulls a knife and holds it to his crotch until he pays up), and even intimidates members of her own gang. Next, we have Eleanor, Leroy’s ornery mother, who, as the movie opens, has been moved into a retirement home (her first day there, she breaks the rules by hosting a poker game in her room). The remaining cast ranges from serviceable to good; Barry Brenner is fine as Adolf, and Michael Sonye’s Mengele isn’t afraid to speak his mind (in fact, the Nazis spend more time arguing with each other than they do fighting rival gangs). When it comes to crowning the film’s biggest badass, however, it’s Eva and Eleanor who are battling for that honor.
Things do liven up in the second half of Surf Nazis Must Die. When their surfboards are set on fire (by persons unknown), the Nazis decide to lay down the law and start an all-out turf war against their rivals (hoping to teach Adolf and his cronies a lesson, the gangs set aside their differences and join forces). It’s at this point of the movie that the blood flows a bit more freely (the highlight being a violent struggle on the beach, with Adolf’s crew facing off against the Samurai Surfers, whose nunchakus and martial arts skills are no match for the Nazis). But it’s not until Eleanor joins the fracas that things really get messy. Having armed herself with a handgun and some grenades, Eleanor is a more powerful adversary than any gang that Adolf and the others encounter.
I remember seeing Surf Nazis Must Die on cable shortly after its release, and kinda liking it. I never thought it was a great film, but I did get a kick out of some of the dialogue (“I am the Fuhrer of the beach!”). To my surprise, the movie held up rather well, and while I don’t think it Is Troma’s best, Surf Nazis Must Die might, at the very least, rank among their top ten.