Odd People to Miss: Lent in Casablanca Night 5

I sort of miss Nazis.

Let me rephrase that.  Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany committed some of the most heinous crimes against humanity ever.  I’ve read extensively about the period, about the camps, the brutality, the brainwashing.  That was a horrible stain in the middle of last century, one I hope can be avoided in the future.

But I’ll give the Nazis this: they make the absolute best movie villains.

Look at Major Strasser.  He’s starched and pressed, and unimpressed by Victor Laszlo. 

In movies, you never see Nazis bumming around in jeans and a flannel shirt.  They’re always dressed to die neuns.  And great uniforms.  I can’t imagine walking around in that.  They have jackets and armbands, epaulets, stripes, medals, cummerbunds, leather belts and straps like the crossing guards used to wear, and (I’m sure) shiny shoes. 

Here’s what Major Strasser looks like out of uniform:


Hmm.  Think this visage from 1928 might have inspired a certain Batman villain?

And I LIKE the Joker.

Who are better villains than the Nazis? You don’t run into racial issues, and Hitler and his posse were great about being photographed and filmed at every turn.  The films of Leni Riefenstahl practically invented propagandumentary filmmaking.  You can watch “Triumph of the Will” on YouTube, and every shot, every camera angle just screams, “Gosh, this is awesome! Look at how cool this guy is, and how happy everyone is to see him and march and carry torches!” The low-angle shots make Hitler look like a god.  It’s stunning…

…and it’s scary.

The hindsight–being able in 2011 to look at this 1935 film knowing what those same, pseudo-godlike people would do in the subsequent decade–makes it easy to see the villainy behind the polish and precision.

I think it’s because they are inherently normal people who fell into well-executed fanaticism. Evil? Undoubtably.

I heard a coworker telling another coworker about some sort of screwball story he’d read somewhere on the internet, about how the entire world was going to die soon because of the impending 2012 Mayan thing, and how it’s already started, and how we’re all fitna die because the coverup says that…

The more I watch “Casablanca,” the more I love Captain Renault.  He is prefect of police in a cesspool of crime, refugees, conflicting armies, and bugs, but he’s having a ball.  Even when bad stuff is happening–when Rick has a gun on him–he’s ready with a quip.

Rick: And remember, this gun is pointed right at your heart.
Captain Renault: That is my *least* vulnerable spot.

He’s always suave, always smiling, and just enjoying his way through a bad situation.  In a scene with Major Strasser, he sums up my philosophy:

Captain Renault: We are very honored tonight, Rick. Major Strasser is one of the reasons the Third Reich enjoys the reputation it has today.
Major Heinrich Strasser: You repeat *Third* Reich as though you expected there to be others!
Captain Renault: Well, personally, Major, I will take what comes.


Here’s the thing, if this is the End Of The World, there is nothing I can do about it.  If we all die as a result of earthquakes and tsunamis and volcanos, there’s not a single damn thing one giant Cracker with a DorkFone will be able to change. 

So, in the meantime, I try to remember this.  A kiss is just a kiss. 

And Nazis make the best movie villains.


8 Responses to “Odd People to Miss: Lent in Casablanca Night 5”

  1. They do excel at villainy, don’t they?

    I’m always reminded of a bit Louie Anderson did in his standup days. I think he was on Catch a Rising Star or Star Search or one of those pre-American Idol shows. Yes, kids… we had those in the olden days, too.

    He was discussing exercise and why he thinks it’s bogus.

    “So when the big one drops, the explosion is going to go… “Oh! You’re fit!” and then he made a sweep with his arm like a concussion blast stopping, going up and over and coming down, presumably around this fit person.

    It was a lot funnier in person on TV. And in my head every time I replay it.

    And that’s why I don’t exercise anymore. Bring it, Mayans!!!

    • I saw that bit somewhen, back when I was at least a little cool. It was like the Showtime Comedy Club Network.

      It’s a valid point. I saw online today that Oprah made almost a million bucks a day last year, but when the comet hits, she’ll be just as mushed as I will. So nyaah nyaah, rich people.

      I’m not poor. I’m just cutting out the middle part, like the underpants gnomes. Happj Møňdåj

  2. I couldn’t agree more. Clearly, Spielberg and Lucas figured that out when people just didn’t care about Indian terror cults and went back to Nazis in The Last Crusade.

    Commies had a run during The Cold War, but it’s hard to target today’s terrorists without getting in a political swamp. I just finished “The Book Thief” too which really highlights the horror — and the banality — of the Nazi regime.

    • Commies were good in their element–The Hunt for Red October, eg–but you are absolutely right, Steve: you never saw Indiana Jones battling Mormons.

  3. I think one reason why there’s so much nostalgia in the US for World War II is because the Nazis were such an obvious, evil enemy. There was just no question that we had to defeat them, and by connection, their allies the Japanese and the Italians. Consequently it was hard for WWII vets to understand why vets of the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf Wars were so ambivalent about their service. “What we fight for is good! What don’t you kids understand about that?” It’s too bad—from later stories, it sounds like WWII vets also suffered from PTSD and all of problems today’s vets suffer. It’s just that they were welcomed unabashedly as heroes, and they got the financial and medical support to ease back into civilian life. Today’s veterans suffer partly from an overextended VA system and partly from our own mixed views of war and the military. We don’t have Nazis anymore to blame for the evils of the world.

    • One difference is that I think we as a nation were fighting the Japanese and the Nazis. Note the distinction: we weren’t herding Müllers and Hausers into camps, because we could separate “Nazi” from “German.” That war had a lot of propoganda on both sides, too, far moreso than subsequent wars. You don’t see Spielberg and friends siging up to make 21st Century “Why We Fight” films for the US Government.

  4. christinaheart Says:

    Hmmm. The Nazis *do* make really good villians. The Russians are pretty good too. (I’ve been watching Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea with my dad. Apparently the Cold War influenced that show.)

    And all this end of the world crap is irritating me. I’m tired of people quoting “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.”

    Nations have risen against each other since the beginning of civilization. Earthquakes and famines happen from time to time. We just live in the time of 24 hour news stations. Disasters are still sad, but not new.

    There’s my ramblings. It all reminds me of the rambling man that came into the bank talking about our “rainbow money.” Apparently rainbow money is also a sign of the end.

    • Yeah. It was supposed to end with Y2K, wasn’t it? I guess the rainbow money wasn’t fully implemented then, so the New World Order couldn’t take over.

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