Whether or not you're a fan of "adult' cinema, if you're truly appreciative of the craft of filmmaking you owe it to yourself to give Italian erotic cinema maestro Tinto Brass a look. While somewhat unfairly best known for directing the fiasco that was Caligula (much what makes it such a reviled creation can be credited to the footage shot by Penthouse founder and Caligula producer Bob Guccione), fans of Brass will attest to the fact that the director's films are amongst the best and most well-crafted in the genre. Of late, Brass's film's have become something of a cult phenomenon, and now, thanks to the folks at Blue Underground, Salon Kitty, one of his finest and most unique visions comes to Blu-ray uncut and unedited.
In a Berlin on the edge of World War 2, a brothel owner is unwittingly drawn into an S.S. covert operation in which she's forced to play housemother to a group of national socialist woman trained to work as prostitutes and gather intel on high ranking officials and military men. The women are all staunch supporters of the party, but Margerita (Savoy), a disillusioned upper-class girl whose unwavering support of the socialist movement is infectious, catches the eye of the operation's supervisor Wallenberg (Berger). Wallenberg falls madly in love with Margerita, but she has feelings for someone else; a "client" who has shared his secret desire to leave Germany and take Margerita with him. Margerita doesn't report this, but Wallenberg has all of the rooms at Kitty's salon wired for sound, and has Margerita's lover hung for treason. When Margerita finds this out, she tells Kitty all about the operation, and the two hatch a scheme to give Wallenberg a taste of his own medicine.
While Salon Kitty is, for all intents and purposes, an adult film, it's also one that is beautifully filmed, surprisingly well-scripted, and, at least as far the Eurosleaze softcore porn genre is concerned, downright epic. Brass' style shows subtle hints of Kubrick, Godard, and Wilder, combined with his own twisted and unique vision. His pre-war era Berlin is presented as equal parts repressed society and sexually charged carnival, and Brass juxtaposes the two worlds by alternating between the wildly colorful world of the salon and the Spartan and drab environs of Wallenberg's S.S.
While much of Brass' work is lighthearted, Salon Kitty reflects its subject matter. The film, purportedly based on actual events, features some very violent and controversial images that may shock or offend the more casual viewer, but that is precisely what makes the film so unique.
Previously available as a limited edition 2-DVD set, Blue Underground brings Salon Kitty to Blu-ray with a very nice 1.85:1 transfer that I found much lighter and more natural looking than its DVD predecessor. I also found the image quality more consistent throughout, with less of a discernible difference between the reinstated and preexisting footage. There are still occasional artifacts and signs of print damage here and there, but, in terms of detail and vibrancy, the image looks fantastic.
The lossless mono soundtracks (in both English and Italian) are adequate, but, as with the DVD, I found the dialogue on the English language track a bit low in the mix, and it's very noticeable when the volume suddenly surges when a musical number or the film's score kicks in.
Extras are all carried over from the DVD, include two featurettes; Inside Salon Kitty - Interview with Director Tinto Brass, Designing Salon Kitty - Interview with Production Designer Ken Adam, as well as radio spots, and trailers. Surprisingly, Blue Underground opted not to include the large photo gallery or conceptual design sketches included in the original set. The DVD-ROM content has also been jettisoned, but for obvious reasons.
Salon Kitty is not for everyone. It sports a tremendous amount of nudity, gratuitous sex (although nothing too hardcore), and uncomfortable scenes of violence, and more sensitive viewers would be well advised to check out some of Brass' "tamer" films, like the fantastic All Ladies Do It, or The Key. However, adventurous viewers will be rewarded with one of the most unique and entertaining pieces of erotic cinema ever filmed.