Not Quite Hollywood

A strange but hilarious hybrid of war film and sci-fi comedy, Stephen Amis’ ‘The 25th Reich’ is finally gearing up to unleash its B-grade goodness on audiences.

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It seems 2012 is the year of the B-Grade Nazi Sci-Fi flick, as the Australian genre film, The 25th Reich, prepares to unleash its obscurity onto the unsuspecting global public. The film, directed by local filmmaker, Stephen Amis, has been selected amongst other esteemed fantasy features to premiere at the South Korean cult/fantasy film festival PiFan, as well as debuting locally at the Perth Revelation Film Festival, which has just kicked into gear.

The film, a low-budget/high-concept affair, is a throwback to the WW2 movies of the 1940s and 1950s. Based on a novella by the legendary sci-fi author J.J. Solomon, The 25th Reich follows five American soldiers stationed in the Australian outback in 1943 who stumble upon a time-travel plot involving Hitler and intergalactic robots. It's pretty clear tongues are firmly in cheek with this film.

"What we did with The 25th Reich," Amis explains to FilmInk, "is start off with a relatively sane world, and progressively layer in one crazy idea on top of the other - scene by scene - to the point where the end of the movie bears little resemblance to the beginning." Amis, who holds an admitted penchant for genre films, likens it to a pastiche rather than a spoof: an homage to the work of individuals such as genre auteur Sam Fuller, and special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen.

The film shares quite a few narrative characteristics with fellow sci-fi send-up Iron Sky, released earlier this year. Coincidence, perhaps, but according to Amis almost definitely something more. "I think the zeitgeist was certainly with us," he reflects, "the collective unconscious was absolutely at work." For Amis, embedded in the genre flick is a level of "sociological subtext" and commentary about the era in which they are made, and The 25th Reich is a comment on our ‘contemporary out-of-control ideology'. "This level of subtext is what I find particularly exciting about working in the sci-fi arena."

Unlike Iron Sky (which raised $1 million of its $9.1 million via crowd-funding), The 25th Reich operated on an extremely low budget, one of many difficulties Amis contended with over the course of its completion - a three year undertaking. An arduous shoot in Victoria's Grampian Ranges saw every setback imaginable come their way: a volatile climate, deadly wildlife, even injuries to key players. Actor Jim Knobeloch suffered a torn hamstring late into filming, forcing Amis to shoot around him for the final week.

"I think it was Katharine Hepburn who said, ‘Show me a happy film set and I'll show you a dull movie,'" Amis muses good-naturedly. "The 25th Reich was one of those films where you drew on every aspect of your past experience to get you through each day. In the end, we got through with sheer brute force, dragging ourselves over the finishing line with bloody finger stumps - that's how I remember it anyway!"

Post-production was also tiresome, as the video effects components were outsourced to eight different locations globally. A mass collaborative effort ensued, with data bouncing across the web via a "dropbox cloud", and Amis having to approve literally thousands of shots and frames. "The difficult part was working across the different time-zones, as it became pretty much a 24 hour job for almost two years," he recalls. "I was on-call 24/7 when someone in the UK or the States or Canada needed direction."

Now, with the dust having settled, the effort seems to be finally paying dividends. The film has currently been sold to thirteen territories, and with the upcoming local and international premieres, Amis' belief in low-budget Australian cinema is proving well founded. "Even though we are in some ways embracing Hollywood," he explains, "the film is still very much the antithesis of that. I've made the film I wanted to make, and all a filmmaker can do is be true to themselves."

And the festival reception? "I'll be watching with a mixture of excitement, fear and apprehension," Amis laughs.

The 25th Reich is set to screen at the Perth Revelation Film Festival on July 6 and 7. For screening times, tickets information and more, head here.

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