Color, 1983, 88 mins. 23 secs.
Directed by Walter Bannert
Starring Nikolas Vogel, Roger Schauer, Wolfgang Gasser
Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
A film as unsettling today as when it first caused massive upheaval in Germany and was kept unseen in its native country for decades, this straightforward Austrian depiction of two young men lured into the world of neo-Nazi extremism became an unlikely cult success on VHS back in the '80s when its dual releases (both subtitled and dubbed) opened many Americans' eyes to a sinister force lurking across modern Europe.
The son of a callous upper middle-class industrialist, sixteen-year-old Thomas (Vogel) is completely apolitical but turns out to be the perfect mark when he decides to help biker kid Charly (Schauer) evade police capture. As it turns out, Charly is a recent initiate into a youth group being bred into young fascists, so Thomas, who's still affected by his suicidal brother, descends into a world of gun fetishism, paramilitary training, mock executions, swastika-worshipping sessions, and sexual distractions with Aryan groupies. Of course, his path is destined to take a very grim turn from which he may never be able to turn back.
Famously inspired by an incident in which director Walter Bannert and several friends were accosted during a neo-Nazi attack at an Austrian cafe, this film was put together over several years as Bannert researched the real organizations flourishing throughout Austria and Germany (with sympathetic extensions also found in countries like Italy). The film's deadpan approach to even its more extreme moments of sex and violence doesn't sit well with all viewers, with the lengthy nude scenes in particular carrying a Verhoeven-style veneer cited as a flaw by multiple critics at the time. However, this approach works perfectly given that this is a portrayal of how adolescence combined with a lack of purpose or hope can become the ideal breeding ground for hatred, bigotry, and ultimately violence, a cycle that still seems to show no signs of stopping. The film also hasn't lost the power to chill with its fascists publicly denying the Holocaust while singing a very different song in private, and the most infamous scene involving a lampshade still makes the stomach churn.
Though revived theatrically in Europe well into the current millennium, The Inheritors stayed out of circulation on American home video for decades until Mondo Macabro brought it to Blu-ray in 2018. The new 2K scan from the original negative looks true to the original source with a focus on earthy colors and lightly diffused daylight scenes, while general clarity looks intact with natural film grain in evidence. Audio options, both lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, include the original German-language track with optional (newly translated) English subtitles as well as the vastly inferior English dub. Extras include the German and English theatrical trailers as well as an insert booklet with liner notes by Michael Gingold and film maker Paul Poet.
Reviewed on November 15, 2018.