Surf Nazis Must Die, 1987.
Directed by Peter George.
Starring Gail Neely, Barry Brenner, Robert Harden and Tom Demenkoff.
When the California coast is ravaged by a massive earthquake, the beaches are left in a state of anarchy, allowing a gang of fascist water rats known as the Surf Nazis to seize control.
The last movie on our Troma list for today is one which has a title that precedes its reputation. As a fan of ‘so bad they’re good’ movies, just hearing the name Surf Nazis Must Die makes you say, ‘Oh I want to see that!’
When I was first getting into filmmaking, one of the first things I learnt that if you have a great title people will want to see it. Even if your film is the lowest of the low level amateur filmmaking, your title can sell the movie to anyone. Sadly, the same rule was obviously learnt by Peter George when he directed Surf Nazis Must Die.
How can a group of people take a title that is so awesome and turn it into an incredibly boring movie? At best the film comes off as a third rate The Warriors and at worst it’s a trashy exploitation movie with very little plot and no action. Quite famously, American Institution Roger Ebert walked out of the film after only 20 minutes and I can see why.
Much like Combat Shock, nothing happens in this movie for a long time. We’re set up the plot that gangs now rule the streets and the Neo-Nazis have taken over the beach front and claimed as their own, but then we are just given lots of extended scenes of people surfing. There is a plot thread that a young black man gets killed and his mother extracts revenge, but that doesn’t happen until far too late in the movie to feel like an important element even though it is the crux of the story.
This level of bad storytelling is then teamed up with really dull and uninteresting characters. I mentioned earlier how at times Surf Nazis Must Die often feels like The Warriors in terms of there being lots of eccentric gangs that parade around the streets but here they feel so uncreative. Whereas in The Warriors you had the The Baseball Furies, The Hi-Hats and The Lizzies, with Surf Nazis Must Die you have some bikers, some martial artists and the Nazis. This bottom of the barrel un-imagination is the real core of the film’s problems. A great title cannot save you from a really boring movie.
What I find most surprising to this day watching Surf Nazis Must Die is the lack of violence in the movie – not only because of it’s from the Troma Hall of Fame, but because of its premise and plot. You would expect high levels of blood and gore as these gangs tear each other apart, or when the mother hero goes on her revenge quest, but the majority of the violence happens either off screen or off camera. Whether this was a stylistic choice or a budgetary one, it means that the film has nothing to fall back on when the plot fails to excite.
However, if you’re a surfing fan then you are in for a treat. When the filmmakers have no more story to tell they resort to long, drawn out scenes of surfing to the point of annoyance. There is even an action scene that is there just for an excuse to show more surfing, even though none of said action scene happens while surfing.
Surf Nazis Must Die is a horrendous movie on several levels. It’s boring, plodding, uninteresting and such a slog to sit through. The title of the movie is the best thing about it but it can’t save this turgid piece of cinema. Disappointing to say the least, Surf Nazis Must Die is a movie I would be very happy be seen locked away in the vaults of cinema history never to be shown anywhere again.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.