Film reviews

#584 – Surf Nazis Must Die (1987)

Surf Nazis Must Die (1987)

Film review #584

Director: Peter George

SYNOPSIS: After a devastating earthquake reduces Los Angeles to rubble, the beaches become the battlefield for a number of gangs who want to rule the waves. After a group of neo-Nazis seize the beach, and a young man is killed, his Mother decides to take revenge on the Nazis that murdered him…

THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Surf Nazis Must Die is a 1987 post-apocalyptic film. The film’s title might sound completely off the wall and nonsensical, but actually refers to the neo-Nazis that existed around surfer culture in Los Angeles from the 1960s onwards. The film is set in a post-apocalyptic version of L.A. after a huge earthquake reduces the city to ruin…well, probably. We don’t really see the city in ruins to establish the location or context, and there’s also no real indication if just the city is in this post-apocalyptic state of lawlessness, or it is the wider world. Anyway, in this state of chaos, various surfer gangs battle it out for control of the beaches. While the film embraces some more outlandish elements that you would expect from the title, including the various surfer gangs of Nazis, ninjas, and the like, the film on the whole is fairly tame and subsequently, rather dull. There’s barely any other story other than Nazis just terrorising people, and every scene in which something happens is followed by long shots of people surfing, which by the time you return to a scene with dialogue or plot, you can’t really follow what happens from one scene to the next. There’s a story concerning some drug deals, a kid hanging around the Nazis to his Mother’s disapproval, and a Mother taking revenge on the Nazis for the murder of her son, but none of these elements really add up to anything, or come together in any way.

Despite the silly concept, there is an element of the film taking some things seriously: the Nazis radicalising youths, the preaching of their purity yet clearly engaging in deviancy; there’s some effort to write the bad guys as the bad guys , and to show their hypocrisy. Don’t get me wrong: this is not done in an overly impressive or interesting way, but it is there. probably the most memorable character and plot element is “Mama,” a middle-aged woman who is put into a care home after the earthquake, but always manages to sneak out to cause trouble, and her mission of vengeance which becomes the focus of the film when her son is murdered by the Nazis, is at least somewhat interesting. Not only is her straight-up approach to the Nazis being to call them out and hunt them down refreshing (because we don’t really need to have nuance in dealing with Nazis, I thin the film is trying to say), but having a middle-aged black woman as the main character is such a rare occurrence it almost makes the film feel fresh. Again, there’s still not much substance, but the no-nonsense approach the film takes is somewhat fun while it lasts.

Overall, Surf Nazis Must Die fails to live up to its bizarre name: it’s mostly dull viewing with barely any plot, and random footage of surfing that serves no purpose other than to extend the runtime breaks the film up into isolated scenes that serve no overall purpose. There’s some attempt to offer something unique with the “revenge” story arc, and dealing with Nazis in a straightforward way, but other than that, it’s a dull, low-budget flick that offers nothing really exciting or interesting.