What do you get when two horror fans mind meld during some raucous summer fun? Nazisploitation / horror flicks of course! With titles like OPERATION: NAZI ZOMBIES (2003) and REICHSFUHRER SS (2015), the team of David B. Stewart III and John Martineau have embraced a taboo niche.
David B. Stewart III on the evolution of a partnership:
I met John working on the hayride at the Bucks County Haunted Woods back in 98’. This hayride was almost 75 minutes and over three miles of trails along the Delaware River in Upper Black Eddy, PA. I was one of the crew and set designers. John was working as an executioner in one of the scenes.
We had A LOT of parties that year and John and I talked a lot about movies. We really became close during the shooting of MAPLEWOODS, which later became OPERATION: NAZI ZOMBIES because Brain Damage Films wanted to change the name to something catchier.
John became part of the project first as an actor, then as a cameraman. He earned a producer credit during post-production and was integral throughout that whole process. Between filming and the release we hung out at bars a lot, shooting pool and chasing girls.
John Martineau behind the camera:
I spend much more time behind the camera than anywhere else. I shot most of REICHSFUHRER SS myself with the exception of the “Eastern Front” scene and the “Hell” scenes. The hardest thing for me is always giving up the camera, but I had Christian Jude Grillo to take those reigns for me so I knew I had absolutely zero to worry about.
I never ever do anything in just one take, no matter how good that first one was. There is always a safety. I would say we averaged about four takes per camera angle. Options are the best thing to have. There were times I was running two cameras at the same time. The “Dinner” scene in REICHSFUHRER SS for instance was a two camera set up on the initial dialogue between Himmler and Danuta.
The zombies in the end credit scene of REICHSFUHRER SS were mostly put in there to pay tribute to Bill Hinzman. The footage was originally shot for one of the nightmare sequences but deemed too cool for just a quick cut scene and the credits seemed to be the best place for them. It was truly fun and dirty to shoot.
David B. Stewart III on his influences:
I am intrigued by the human psyche. It is shocking to me what human beings choose to do to one another in the names of politics and religion. I wrote about Heinrich Himmler because as the Reichsfuhrer-SS he orchestrated the whole machine that was behind the Holocaust and some of the worst war crimes in human history.
The story about Himmler getting sick at the execution was true. This intrigued me. The scary thing was he was more normal than most people think, at least before he became a Nazi. Power made him a psychopath. It’s easy for power to go to ones head. I think it’s something that could happen again should the wrong person gain that power. In a way it’s a cautionary tale.
I am a fan of the Nazisploitation films from the 60s and 70s. I drew a lot of inspiration from those films. I am also inspired by the monster movies of the 30s. I think 20th century monsters can be made into their screen monster personas much like the 1930s movies did for Vlad Dracula, Jack the Ripper, etc…
We had initially entertained the idea of remaking ILSA but the movie that inspired a lot of this one was Bruno Mattei’s PRIVATE HOUSE OF THE SS. The character of Shellenberg is kind of how I geared the Heinrich Himmler character and the whole Danuta dancing on the bed scene toward the end was an add in for exploitation fans. For the demons in the “Hell” scenes I wanted to pay homage to the movie MAUSOLEUM.
John Martineau on overcoming obstacles:
I don’t think anyone ever has a film go completely as planned because some things are just out of your control. We did have an issue where we had to do a complete rewrite on the fly, but I anticipated that, so I shot more footage the night before just in case and it really paid off. Ultimately the change was for the best and the character of Kline was born.
I think the most awkward situation was shooting the rape scene between Angelina Leigh and Chuck Maher. I was actually dreading shooting that until we talked to Angelina and she made everyone a lot more comfortable. She definitely made it much easier because she is so open and wasn’t afraid of anything we asked her to do, or that we asked Chuck to do to her.
Nazi genre is tough and has a niche audience. First of all, uniforms and props need to be accurate. It’s all in the details. You have research and get your history right. We have had quite a bit of positive feedback though. The most gratifying thing is to be able to share with those who busted there asses on set, watch their eyes, their reactions and be able to talk about it afterwards.
David B. Stewart III on acting and directing:
The biggest challenge for me was to direct and play the main part. It was tough at times to not be behind the camera and direct different aspects, but I guess that’s true of most people who have a foot on both sides.
Playing Himmler took a toll on me. The first time I put on that dreadful costume I felt dirty, evil and loathed. After the first day shooting I wasn’t even sure I wanted to continue. The important thing to me was that I was playing the character in a way that would be obvious to the viewer that I was not painting him in a sympathetic light.
I enjoy the idea that someday long after I’m gone, love it or hate it my movies will still be around for people to enjoy and get high to. It’s a bit of immortality that we can enjoy. I like the idea that it all starts with words in my head, then paper, then acted, then watched. It’s a great art form and I love it.