I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

One Nazi Piece of Work: The Lucifer Complex

by Ryk McIntyre
June 1, 2012
...And as the camera comes on and our gentle travelogue begins, let us take time out to reflect on what makes 1970s movies good: Nazis. Live Nazis and dead Nazis, zombie Nazis and, of course, cloned Nazis. Dear Lord, I pray that this movie finds its way safely unto the “to do” list for MST3K. They’ll know what best to do with it, but until then, you’ll have to supply your own peanut gallery one-liners.

The Lucifer Complex (1978) is about die-hard Nazis plot to take over the world by replacing leaders with brainwashed clones. If this seems far-fetched, then the fact that the world is saved by a U.N. employee probably won’t go down any easier. This movie couldn’t have been fun for star Robert Vaughn. He can barely stay awake throughout it.

Our movie begins, as I said, all travelouge-y, complete with a lonely narrator telling us about this mysterious island and his computer room, in which the computers are only slightly smaller than the island. Does anyone remember tape-reels? Anyone?

Narrator Man laconically gives us a voice-over tour of the 20th Century and its high-points that are apparently limited to: World War I, World War II... and Woodstock. Not only is “Woodstock” represented by some nameless, awful band that never even played at Woodstock, Vietnam doesn’t even get mentioned by name. I guess it just wasn’t that big deal at the time. Luckily, the better part of the 1960s are represented by close-up shots of the busts of dancing hippie girls. And then we’re back to looking at scenes of German prison camps during WWII... or are we? No, it turns out that, in the “future” of 1986, we all missed a secret war. “The ultimate war of technology...”

Cut to a scene of “U.N. troops” gassing a busload of tourists...? Oh, I’m sorry, it’s a bus full of “”dignitaries and world leaders”... on a bus... in the middle of the desert, being driven by U.N. troops. I don't know what gas they used to knock them all out, but I think everyone involved with this film was sniffing it. Cut to a scene of a busty belly-dancer showing her skills. I’m sensing a theme here. Cut to Robert Vaughn showing his complete lack of playa skills. On learning that a whole busload of important people are missing, he leaves the woman at the table and takes to the investigation, that first leads him to an empty bus out in the desert. he is then taken out from behind by the lamest stage-punch ever. Now, in trouble for his “screw up,” he is sent to investigate an area “off the coast of South America” where several jets have gone missing. Of course, they send him in a jet -- a clear signal that his bosses just don’t like him.

He crashes on some South American island where some people are dressed in full German army uniforms -- which has to be just awful in the heat -- and others are half-naked natives, forced to carry logs. There is a chase-scene, an alligator, and a scene in a hospital where Robert Vaughn is told it was all an illusion, until a female patient escapes from a bunch of Keystone Cop doctors, and spills the whole plot, which is good because we need things to keep us awake by this point.

It must be said, in all honesty, these are some pretty pathetic Nazis. They hide out in the jungle in full Wehrmacht uniforms (except for the ones dressed in SS regalia and a few that look like Cuban issue) in the middle of the jungle. They employ a squad of doctors with identical bad 1970s mustache/aviator sunglasses outfits. They pretty much chat up Robert Vaughn’s character with the details of their plan and let him stroll around the complex. Oh, and the head female Nazi has that “love that dare not speak its name” vibe, so essential to the Third Reich vision.

Oh, and their leader can’t pronounce “Reich.” Yeah.

The movie trudges on with some of the worst stage-fighting ever, and – again – it seems like everybody is sniffing the knock-out gas to some extent. The resolution comes... or does it? Robert Vaughn lives... or does he? Either way, can you really call that living? Really... MST3K yourself up and really enjoy the hell out of this very badly-done film, so bad that.... well, it’s bad, but you can still have lots of fun with it. Mild sleeping gas use strongly suggested.

Ryk McIntyre is a Multi-Hyphen sort of person. Poet, critic, performer, workshop facilitator and co-host at both GotPoetry! Live (Providence) and Cantab Lounge (Cambridge,MA). He's been living in RI for the past 6 years, with his wife and daughter. Ryk has performed his work at Boston's ICA, NYC's New School, Portsmouth, NH's Music Hall and Lollapalooza, to name just a few. He has toured the US, performing in countless Poetry open mics and festivals.  He turned down Allen Ginsburg once.