In the nearly eight decades since Adolf Hitler’s suicide catalyzed the surrender of the German military to Allied forces in Europe, World War II has remained a constant in popular culture, in part due to one clear truth: Nazis make great, expendable bad guys. For proof, look no further than the upcoming Netflix film Blood & Gold, which takes that idea and pushes it to its logical end.
The German production, directed by Peter Thorwath, focuses on a remorseful German army deserter (Robert Masser) unsuccessfully hanged by the Schutzstaffel (or SS) paramilitary force who teams up with bitter locals to fight Hitler’s thugs as Nazi die-hards try to steal hidden Jewish gold. Of course, the Wehrmacht was aware of and complicit in the Nazi regime’s crimes against humanity, making the movie’s hero far from relatable, but the SS make even more detestable villains in Thorwath’s bloody romp.
Netflix already released a regular trailer for the film in April but debuted a special grindhouse-style one this past weekend, evoking the ultraviolent pulp films of the 1960s and 1970s.
Somehow, Blood & Gold is the second release in the past month to focus on the specific plot of both stolen gold and brutally killing Nazis during World War II, with the much-anticipated Finnish war film Sisu seeing its American release at the end of April. That film, from Rare Exports director Jalmari Helander, follows an aging ex-commando turned gold miner (Jorma Tommila) who loses his family and then his gold after Nazis steal it in the waning years of the war. And so the miner starts doing, to quote Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, “one thing and one thing only: killin’ Nazis.” It’s pulp action in the purest sense; think John Wick-level violence (there is even a dog) with a lot more mud and significantly more Nazis.
Blood & Gold looks like it shares a lot of those elements. The trailers make clear this is a brutal action movie; this definitely is not a heady drama about life during wartime like A Hidden Life. Sadly, the newest teaser’s visual style is just a gimmick for the trailer, and the film itself won’t look like it’s on old, distressed film stock. Still, a darkly comedic action film with SS bad guys can’t be all bad.
World War II pulp action used to be a staple of cinema in the 1960s and 1970s. Films like The Dirty Dozen and Where Eagles Dare leaned into the appeal of seeing stars like Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood be cool onscreen and Nazis as irredeemable bad guys to be dispatched en masse. That trend hasn’t fully died out — Inglourious Basterds was an homage to the genre — but it’s not as common as it used to be.
However, Hollywood war movies tend to focus on certain conflicts in a certain era. For the last few years, the war of choice was World War I, with films either focused entirely on the Great War such as 1917 or All Quiet on the Western Front, or using it as a background, such as Wonder Woman or The King’s Man. Now it appears that studios are in the midst of a series of movies tied to the end of the War in Afghanistan, with films like The Covenant and Kandahar, among others.
But with the continent embroiled in its largest conflict in decades, European cinema seems to be sticking to the tried and true genre of seeing fascists meet horrible fates — and that never gets old.
Blood & Gold arrives on Netflix on May 26.
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