Blu-Ray Review: SALON KITTY

Tinto Brass has always had a touch for making exploitative movies that look like real movies. This is not an insult. It is the truth. His command of sleazy grandeur is probably why Bob Guccione handed him the reigns to Caligula. A new uncensored cut of Brass' Salon Kitty (1976) from Blue Underground shows the director near the height of his filthy powers. This isn't just regular trash. This is really artful trash. 

Kitty Kellerman (played by Ingrid Thulin) runs Salon Kitty -- a brothel where the German elite come to relax. An amorphously perverse Nazi general named Wallenberg (Helmet Burger) forces Kitty to move to a new building, which is wired for spying, and swaps out her trusted stable with a bunch of SS spies. In the middle of all of this scheming is a committed Nazi concubine named Margherita (Teresa Ann Savoy).

Salon Kitty is based on a non-fiction book by Peter Norden. The subject matter maybe serious and the setting might be historically accurate, but the presentation is 100% exploitation. Salon Kitty is all about men, women, amputees, dwarfs, and labor camp detainees getting naked in the name of the Reich. One would think that 133 minutes would be plenty of time to develop characters and a coherent story. That is not the case. The narrative is sprawling and confusing. Characterization is thin. It's hard to tell why people behave as they do. Motivations are revealed through throwaway lines or random speeches. The bizarre English dub adds another layer of surreality: "You mean they're not only whores, but bitches, too?"

In spite of these problems, Salon Kitty has a decadent sense of scale and style that just can't be denied. All of the standard Brassian ticks -- I just made up that phrase -- are here: wide-angle, fish-eye shots; excessive zoom; lots of pans; and most importantly extreme close-ups of butts, breasts, and pubes.  Production designer Ken Adam, who worked with Kubrick on Dr. Strangelove and Barry Lyndon, is the secret ingredient here: his sets make Salon Kitty look like a Leni Riefenstahl softcore porno. This movie obviously didn't cost a lot to make, but it feels big and dirty. This is Tinto Brass' gift.

Blue Underground Blu-Ray presentation is top-notch as usual. Bitrate on this dual-layer disc runs at a high 33mbps. Aspect ratio is 1.85:1. The film looks a bit soft but that seems to be more of a consequence of the gauzy cinematography than the transfer. Overall, the transfer looks very good.  

Viewers can choose from the English dub or the original Italian audio; previously unavailable uncut scenes are in the Italian language. French, Spanish, and English subtitles are included. As to extras, the Blu-Ray recycles interviews with Tinto Brass and Ken Adam from the 2003 DVD release. Two trailers, international and U.S., and three radio spots round out the package. 
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