Jul 16, 2011
For what is probably his most popular song, "Total Eclipse", Bavarian-born kraut new wave countertenor Klaus Nomi included the extremely controversial (especially for a post-WW2 Teuton of the hyper-homo sort) yet considerably catchy line, “hotter than a holocaust.” Being born in early 1944 just over a year before Germany’s brutal cataclysmic defeat and virtual total destruction, Nomi certainly grew up in a place and time of collective misery and unspoken guilt, thus I do not think it is a stretch to say that the singer’s distinct performer persona was largely the result of his desire to live in a state of total escapism and, ultimately, quasi-transhumanism as a mensch who gave off the impression that he was literally out of this world. When I discovered that Klaus Nomi played the role of a Nazi officer in the campy No Wave flick The Long Island Four (1980) directed by onetime-auteur Anders Grafstrom, I naturally made it my mission to track down a copy of the film. After all, few films can boast of featuring Klaus Nomi as a Nazi chic National Socialist who moonlights as a classy cross-dresser and crowd pleasing Jazz singer. Based on a true story about Nazi saboteur spies who infiltrated Long Island, New York in 1942 and were eventually caught and executed, The Long Island Four is a film that cares more about jovial sexual ambiguity (or not so ambiguous) than any sort of historical accuracy. I am certainly not the kind of person who throws around the word “camp” when describing a film, but The Long Island Four is camp to the core. In fact, I think the film would be best described as a work of “death camp” as the film combines queerness, National Socialism, and death like never before, even making the exploitative Hitlerite homoeroticism featured in LuchinoVisconti’s The Damned (1969) seem quite bland and less than campy by comparison. Although The Long Island Four features next to nil in the way of nudity and blood-gushing brutality, the film has an incomparable cinematic aura of camp eccentricity that would probably even make Soft Cell frontman Marc Almond quiver. French poet Jean Cocteau once described camp as, “The lie that tells the truth” but in The Long Island Four, this truism is exquisitely inversed in a work where conspicuous cocksuckers attempt to portray a little known historical truth regarding a failed Nazi spy operations in one of the most Hebraic areas of the world. Although playing the roles of nonfictional Nazi spies who express an affinity for heterosexual activities, the queenish gayness of the actors (who aside from Klaus Nomi, all have goofy American accents) is so shamelessly and hopelessly glaring that while watching the film, I wondered to myself if they were early AIDS victims (like Nomi himself). The celestially odd character of The Long Island Four is further accentuated by the gritty Super 8 film stock that it was shot on. Despite the somewhat anarchistic nature of The Long Island Four, the film is hardly of an anachronistic nature as one would expect from such a film. In fact, while watching the film, I would sometimes forget that it was created nearly four decades after the time period that it is set in.
The Long Island Four starts when a small brigade of Nazi spy saboteurs land in Long Island. Upon arrival, one of the lisp lips Nazis states, “It’s a perfect day to become an American” but as the viewer finds out whilst watching the film, this terrible Teuton has spoken too soon. Although all four spies enter Amerikkka with the sole objective of selflessly devoting their lives to the Third Reich at whatever cost, these kamerads soon learn that they cannot abstain from the sinister hedonistic self-worshiping lifestyle that American democracy has to offer. Of course, the actors playing these committed National Socialists look like natural born degenerates who see decadence as a civic right and duty, but they make for exceedingly charming fellows, nonetheless. One of the spies wears an eye patch in the tradition of 1/2 Aryan filmmaker Fritz Lang. Naturally, Klaus Nomi's character is the most multifaceted and mysterious Nazi featured in The Long Island Four. ↯↯-man Nomi acts as a ↯↯ employed voyeur and committed scopophile who spies on the newly arrived Nazi recruits in a curiously cunning and keenly discreet manner. Thankfully, Nomi’s singing talents can be also heard in The Long Island Four. When not checking up on his Nazi underlings, Nomi sings his classic pop love song “Falling In Love Again” in a dimly lit night club and later to his drag queen self while narcissistically gazing into a mirror. Klaus Nomi may not sport his iconic wardrobe and signature hairdo in The Long Island Four but his charismatic persona is fully intact throughout the film. With his small/slender frame, pale skin, and black hair; Nomi kind of looks like a junkie version of Joseph Goebbels in the film. As Nomi's character states in the film, “the true god can have no friends”, which no doubt can be said of his character in The Long Island Four and in his short real-life. Although Nomi steals the show, most of the actors featured in the film must be praised for their memorable performances. Dasch, the dainty leader of the four Nazi spies, hilariously tells his American Frau early on in the film that in Germany, “we have big ovens, our ovens are very big.” Indeed, such ↯atricial dialogue is, as Nomi himself sang so many times, “hot as a holocaust.”
If anything can be learned from watching The Long Island Four, it is that America can deracinate even the most rooted of genocidal nationalists. Whether fornicating with blonde beastesses with lesbo haircuts or crawling into a Chinese opium shotgun, the Nazi saboteurs of the film cannot help but enthusiastically knock on death’s door in their unconscious quest for unquenchable pleasure. The real National Socialists themselves looked upon cities as training grounds for turning moral rural folk into immoral rootless cosmopolitans, hence their “blood and soil” ideology, thus The Long Island Four is a film that is more conscious (whether intentional or not) of Nazism than it initially appears to be. Although the film tends to fall short of the flashy ↯↯ uniforms one would expect from a film featuring ostensibly nefarious Nazis, The Long Island Four radiates the sort of strangely charming and classiccamp that would even make Uncle Adolf giggle with glee. Unfortunately, director Anders Grafstrom died tragically in a car accident during a trip to Mexico shortly after the completion of the film, hence his rather small one-film-oeuvre. Of course, by creating The Long Island Four – the apotheosis of true artsy fartsy camp and No Wave cinema – Grafstrom achieved more artistically than most filmmakers do in a lifetime, thus, his premature passing was not in vain. After all, it is quite an achievement for a filmmaker to make a brilliant work of camp while remaining subtle and abstaining from using too much nonstop nudity and endless gratuitous bodily dismemberment. The Long Island Four is also another example as to why Nomi's early death was a tremendous lost for the NYC (and beyond) art world as he could have had a somewhat successful acting career like his fellow musician and performing arts pal David Bowie. With all the forgettable and worthless exploitation films that have received fancy dvd releases over the past decade, it is undoubtedly a shame that The Long Island Four has yet to be digitally remastered and re-released. If you only had the opportunity to watch one No Wave film, make it The Long Island Four.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 6:21 AM
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