"Wouldn't it be hard to make a movie about a huge Nazi army in an underground world in Antarctica on a next-to-nothing budget?" you might ask. The answer is "Yes."
In Nazis at the Center of the Earth, a crack team of scientists stationed in Antarctica accidentally discover a piece of aluminum sheeting with a swastika painted on it buried one whole inch below the surface of the snow where it has been since 1945 when Nazis fled to the snowy continent to continue their mad plans to rule the world. Sensing their aluminum sheeting has been discovered, Nazis race to the surface and abduct the two scientists away to their enormous underground Nazi lair.
The rest of the scientists, led by Jake Busey, go looking for their co-workers and come upon a hole in the ground that leads to this crazy world. They descend and happen upon a hollow, warm region underneath the ice! This underground kingdom, complete with its own sun and trees and gravel, also contains enormous Nazi structures that hold armies of goosestepping Germans led by The Angel of Death, Dr. Mengele (Christopher K. Jonson) himself. It soon turns out that Dr. Resitad (Busey) already knew about this underground kingdom and deliberately brought all of his scientists there to assist Dr. Mengele in keeping the aging Nazis alive by performing arm, leg, organ and face transplants on their decaying bodies!
There are two kinds of effects in Nazis at the Center of the Earth: practical (great!) and computer (really, really horrible!). There is an undue level of gore, including dismembered bodies, horrifying surgeries, etc., that look pretty damn good. Unfortunately, the "horror" aspect of the film is short-lived and everything that happens, EVERYTHING, includes a green screen and a computer. The team is never in real snow: they are shot behind a green screen. There are no more than four Nazis in the entire film; the armies are computer-generated, as is the spaceship (!) and Robot Hitler (!!). Part of Dr. Mengele's evil plan is to restore Hitler's severed head to life with infant stem cells (which is why they have a forced abortion in the film) and allow him to move about in a giant robot body to which his head is mounted. Yes, this whole robot is computer-generated. There *is* an actor playing Hitler, but his face is used only for close-up shots against a green screen that don't show the entire robot. Because, like, they had no way of doing that. So there is a giant robot Hitler, entire underground kingdom landscape shots, marching army shots, shots of the scientists walking from one building to another (I think they realized they didn't have all the coverage they needed and so just added computer graphic versions of their actors to computer graphic backgrounds at will) all rendered in embarrassingly bad, super-cheap computer imagery. It's total overkill.
And when I say, "computer graphics" I am not talking about modern-day-looking computer graphics. I am talking about some 1998 "Myst" shit. Very basic, very bad, very badly done. It's shockingly bad. Bad for The Asylum bad. Nazis has the worst computer graphics of any Asylum film I have ever seen. The robot Hitler makes the shark in Megashark vs. Giant Octopus look like a scene from a National Geographic Shark Week special.
Because this film is about Nazis, the script tries to recreate some of the major themes and life lessons of the Holocaust for our scientist team. They struggle with fear and guilt about collaboration with the Nazis, the moral obligations they feel to not assist Dr. Mengele in any of his experiments, and the suffering and sociopathic treatment of Mengele's "experiments." There's even a slow-motion "walk to the showers" for three of the female scientists, echoing the tragic understanding of many Jews who were marched to their deaths in the gas showers at concentration camps.
Or, "not echoing," rather. This film is so ridiculous (I mean, Robot Hitler) that any attempts to interject any real human experience into the storyline fail beyond miserably. One of the women does get topless and gang-raped by the decaying, gross, zombie-like Nazis in the shower though, just to make that point about human suffering and all.
Dominique Swain's Dr. Paige Morgan struggles with her own involvement in Nazi collaboration the most; Mengele spares her because she is of German ancestry, so she parades around the majority of the film with a Nazi armband and tasteful beret perched upon her head, watching while horrible things happen to her comrades. She does have her "change of heart" of course, during which she screams German obscenities at Hitler (that is a career highlight for her) and saves the man she loves from Nazi clutches in the nick of time, whereas Busey's Dr. Reistag never tries to break his ties to them. While Swain spends much of the movie staring at computer generated images that hadn't been yet created at the time of the filming, Busey's natural talent for acting his way out of horrible paper-bag-movies is a nice respite from the rest of the cast and their crossed-arms-face-down fear stance.
The star of the movie is Christopher K. Johnson's Dr. Mengele. It's as if he's in some other far more sophisticated, far better film (perhaps with Sir Ian McKellen?) and his scenes have been cut and pasted into this Asylum movie. It's like watching a person who is taking this seriously and has actively made the decision that he's going to pretend he's in Marathon Man no matter how horrible the movie is turning out. This is a professional. This is some Patrick Stewart shit going on right there.
Director Joseph J. Lawson certainly made some horrible choices for how to make things like a spaceship and robot come to life for NATCOTE. He was also in control of all the horrible graphics, so he has no one to blame but himself. Arguably, Bales' script contains things no Asylum budget could ever tackle on any level with a semblance of realism, but I know they've made films with spaceships and robots before. So why are the effects so much worse than usual this time around? Many of the scenes in which computers generated the imagery seem literally unfinished; it's as if a work-in-progress print of the film was accidentally sent to duplication instead of the real, finished version.
I hope I'm right, but in a way, I also hope I am wrong.
I guess Hitler is actually a cyborg, since his head is still of human origin and is attached to the robot body.