It's a German-language film about killer condoms that bite off your penis. It has drag queens, gay bars and mad scientists living in a New York where no one speaks English. Oh, and it's distributed by Troma. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be a bit of a message movie.
No, really. This might sound funny when you say it like that, but it doesn't really make much sense. It wants to teach us that gays are human too and that we shouldn't be prejudiced against sweaty manlove, which is laudable, but it's preaching to the choir. Anyone who disagrees with that sentiment is going to have turned the film off long before reaching that point, since it's mainly concerned with a love triangle between a cop, a rent boy and a desperate drag queen whose tactic for winning back the cop's affections is to offer to be his mother. The latter are both in love with the former, but he doesn't want to commit to anyone even though he definitely likes shagging men and is probably in love with the rent boy. This is not a film that's trying very hard to reach a mainstream audience.
There's no frontal male nudity, but even so the plot is basically gay sex. The cock-chomping condoms are basically a metaphor with teeth, albeit a very silly and sometimes gory one. They're the weapons of conservative religious right-wingers who believe in the Second Coming and think it's their job to stamp out contraception and homosexuality. Their secret hideout is in a church and they deliver Biblical lectures on the wrongness of our heroes' lifestyles. This culminates in a big speech from the cop at the finale in which he explains that God will protect all lovers and he doesn't care whether or not they're the same gender, etc. After that quits his job with the NYPD and tells his boyfriend that they're going to leave America together and go back to his home in Sicily, so that he can tell his mother for the first time that he's gay.
In the end it's almost preachy, but I can't believe anyone seriously believed they'd change anyone's minds with this film. It just feels as if someone innocently wanted to tell a story about being gay.
Everything fell into place when I learned that it's adapted from a comic book by Ralf Konig, one of Germany's more surprisingly famous and commercially successful comic book creators. He came out as a homosexual in 1979 and as far as I can tell has been writing about it ever since, but despite this he's managed to break out and get himself a mainstream fanbase without losing his gay following. His work has been translated into several languages and even adapted into films. This is just one of four to date. Der bewegte Mann (1994) and Wie die Karnickel (2002) both sound genuinely good, although I've seen comments saying that the English subtitles don't do the latter justice. Lisistrata (2002) on the other hand sounds a good deal cheesier, albeit with a really cool story idea. Sparta and Athens are fighting an endless war in 411 BC when Lisistrata convinces all the women to go on sex strike until they get peace. Needless to say, this opens the door for the ancient Greek lesbian and gay communities.
Needless to say, Killer Condom is firmly on the "cheesy" side. It means well and it's rather sweet in its earnestness, but there's something about this combination of sincere gayness and exploitation schlock that I'm pretty sure would have worked better in a comic. You don't have the same stylistic freedom in a movie. It's harder to juggle the tone, because you don't have the distance that an artist's pen puts between the material and the audience. Comics are the only medium that can comfortably do hardcore porn with a proper storyline, for instance, simply by putting dialogue balloons on the sex scenes.
Here though we have our characters frequenting an establishment called Hotel Quickie. A girl's parents are from Farmville, Oklahoma. There's a comedy shadow unveiling of the cop's mighty weapon. (It's 32 centimetres long and I don't mean his nightstick.) All this is silly, but not nearly as much so as the condoms themselves, which run around talking in little squeaky noises. It's trash, basically. It's high-minded in its filth and full of surprisingly high-profile German actors who for some reason had been falling over themselves to be in it, but at the end of the day it's too schlocky and camp to rise above its one-line description. It also literally loses the plot a bit in the middle. It looks like what it is, in other words.
Most eye-popping credit is H.R. Giger as as a creative consultant, but apparently it was so last-minute that he didn't actually do any designs for them. They showed him some pictures and he said "that's nice".
The language transplant is weird. They're not trying to imply that Germany won the war, but instead they're merely doing to Americans what Hollywood's spent the best part of a century doing to the non-English-speaking world. However every so often they'll drop in a "bullshit", "hello" or "okay" for flavour, which some actors handle more convincingly than others. I also noticed that they didn't subtitle "fistfucking". However sometimes it's fun just listening to all the German, since there's no better language for a stern lady doctor to be authoritarian in, or for cops to get angry with each other.
I've got to mention the trailers that came with it, by the way. I love Troma, not just as a movie studio but as a distributor. You'll be enjoying tasters for Terror Firmer (which looks awesome), Sgt Kabukiman NYPD and Class of Nuke 'Em High Part II: Subhumanoid Meltdown when suddenly you find yourself watching a trailer for The Stendahl Syndrome. Yes, Troma distributed a Dario Argento movie. Admittedly that's not half as freaky as them getting their hands on Miyazaki's My Neighbour Totoro
, but it's still surreal.
At the end of the day, though, it all comes back to the gay. You've got naked men's bottoms. You've got a gender-reversed parody of the Psycho shower scene. You've got the fantasy of a straight man having to dress up in fetish wear and cruise nightclubs. You've got that manifesto moment at the end with the gun, which I have to admit was a cool surprise. You've got gender-reversing of the male gaze you generally get in movies, which means that a hot woman can take off most of her clothes and then get treated like a human being instead of eye candy. The movie's not as funny as I'd expected, incidentally, although it does have a few laughs.
Would I recommend it? If you're gay, maybe. If you're not confident with your sexuality, hell no. It's in no way a good or even memorably bad film, but I admire its earnestness. If nothing else, I appreciate the surprise factor of a movie called Killer Condom not being even slightly interested in naked women. They should show this movie on a major US network channel at prime time. That would be funny.