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Sunday, March 24, 2019

NAZI JUNKIES -- DVD Review by Porfle

In Film Movement's two-part TV documentary DVD, NAZI JUNKIES ("The Hidden History of Drugs in the Third Reich"), we get something which is, for me, much different than the usual rehash of familiar World War II material.  Because here, we learn of what a major role performance-enhancing drugs played for not only Nazi soldiers and German civilians, but for Der Fuhrer himself.

Inspired by Norman Ohler's book, "Blitzed: Drugs In The Third Reich", this is a riveting account of an army and its leader fueled to the gills on various substances that kept them wide awake for days, performing at dangerously intense levels, and generally feeling invincible as their Blitzkreig steamrolled over Europe and then recklessly made its way into Russia where some of the most horrific warfare in human history would take place.

We see the main drug of the military, Pervitin, being mass-produced and handed out as part of each soldier's standard kit.  It's like something out of a sci-fi yarn about chemically-enhanced super soldiers except that it really happened, as is recounted here in fascinating style with documents, interviews with historians and participants, and, most importantly, a wealth of both photographic and briskly-edited film material that lavishly illustrates the narrative while keeping the "talking heads" stuff to a minimum.

Part One, "Hitler the Junkie", is all about the big "H" himself and how Der Fuhrer's personal "physician", Dr. Theodor Morell, kept him stoked up with a cocktail of intravenous delights that gave him that delusion of grandeur needed to fancy himself a brilliant leader whose every thought was part of some perfect plan for world domination. 

With anyone else the story of his gradual mental and physical deterioration might be tragic, but in this case it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.  This gives "Hitler the Junkie" its most satisfying quality even as the rest of what we see as a result of this madman's reign of terror is as incomprehensibly horrific as always. 

The film puts us right there in Hitler's bunker during those last days and details Ol' Bristle Lip's final descent into drug-addled madness as he and Eva Braun, along with the rest of the remaining "elite", prepare to send themselves on an express elevator to Hell.

Until then, we get a detailed diary of Hitler's daily injections and what they were doing to his mind and body, with speculation by historians as to what extent this perpetual saturation of illicit substances in his bloodstream affected his thought processes and decision-making abilities.

Part Two, "Nazi Junkies", tells of how the Third Reich used drugs on its own soldiers in order to push them to the absolute peak of efficiency and fighting fervor, with millions of tablets of "Pervitin" being distributed to the troops on a daily basis along with whatever else might keep them sufficiently supercharged.

We get a streamlined history of the war, again via a marvelous wealth of historical film and other visuals, but this time we see the invasions of Poland and France and various major battles with the knowledge that the German soldiers are performing in a state of drug-fueled mania.

Later, the disastrous and prolonged invasion of Russia finds them running out of drugs and, as a consequence, trading motivation for despair.  One of the most shocking revelations of these final days of the Third Reich is the use of children in midget submarines who were pumped full of drugs and sent on suicide missions against enemy ships in their tiny metal death traps. 

Of course, as with any documentary of this nature, there are images of unimaginable atrocities including much concentration camp footage (where drug experiments were carried out upon the helpless prisoners) and the mass extermination of civilians in both Europe and Russia during which the soldiers performing these acts eased their consciences through copious amounts of self-medication.

I had no idea that WWII Germany's fierce fighting machine, its seemingly invincible Aryan supermen in uniform, were a bunch of hopped-up junkies and speed freaks burning the candle at both ends until the wheels fell off (to mix metaphors badly) and that their own Big Cheese himself spent most of the war with a needle sticking out of his fat, pulsating veins.  As such, I found NAZI JUNKIES highly enlightening and effortlessly fascinating from start to finish.

Order it from Film Movement

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Director: Christian Huleu
Format: NTSC
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Film Movement
DVD Release Date: April 2, 2019
Subtitles: None
Run Time: 104 minutes


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