„Those bloody Nazis in their mysterious machines!” This type of movies is always welcomed on Opium. Now it’s time for „The 25th Reich”, whose crazy trailer we presented here. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to ask the director few questions about the movie, so now we invite you to read an interview with Stephen Amis, the commander of „The 25th Reich”.
Ok, so my first question is quite obvious: Why 'The 25th Reich’, not '4th’ or '5th Reich’? What’s the meaning of that number in the title?
„The 25th Reich” culminates in a cliff hanger ending, leaving room for a sequel. 25 refers to the number of dimensions the Nazi’s must travel through at the climax of the picture. 25 was also specifically chosen because in some spiritualist teachings, 25 dimensions is where God resides.
The movie is clearly inspired by B-class sci-fi flicks from 50-ties or 60-ties. In my opinion, sure, they have some charm, but in the long term for contemporary audience they could be rather hard to watch. Is your movie a tribute to such movies? A pastiche? Perhaps combination of both? What attracts you to such movies?
Many big budget genre films these days all have a similar look, feel and cutting pattern. Verisimilitude and cause-and-effect have been ditched and replaced by mindless set-pieces and loud music and sound effects. I mean, if you removed the director’s credit from a movie these days, you wouldn’t really know who made the film. In many instances the director’s stamp has been lifted from contemporary genre films entirely. In that context, I’d much rather sit down and watch a classic movie from a genre director with a strong voice, over one of Hollywood’s latest tentpole extravaganzas.
Also, genre films from the 50’s and 60’s were often less complex than today, but the camera and story had a certain honesty and rawness. The camera wasn’t flying around at impossible speeds and angles as it does now. With „The 25th Reich”, I wanted to ground the camera – to keep things believable for an audience – even if it were on an unconscious level. I didn’t want this to be an Avatar or Transformers – I wanted to do the antithesis of that. Even though we were making a crazy sci-fi film, I wanted to keep it raw and real and grounded.
My co-writers’ David Richardson, Serge DeNardo, and I, didn’t set out to make a pastiche or tribute to the films of the 50’s and 60’s – that really just emerged as we started developing the idea. I just wanted to create a world – a world with its own unique language, sense of innocence, and rollicking sense of adventure.
But the most important thing for me – from scene to scene and beat to beat, was verisimilitude.
One of the biggest influences was the legendary filmmaker Sam Fuller. In the U.S. he wasn’t highly regarded – but in Europe – in France – he was considered a master of the WWII genre. But there is also Ray Harryhausen, George Pal, Howard Hawks… Amazing craftsmen with incredible vision. I used all of these filmmakers as a starting point, until the script and mise-en-scène eventually took on its own unique voice.
Did you do any research on nazi secret weapons or all these robots, mechanical monsters etc. were born in your imagination only?
I’m a huge conspiracy theorist and genre fan – unhealthily so! My first student film 'Burning Daylight’ was about time machines and UFO’s, and a short film I made called Virus was also about a 'magic box’ that was the catalyst for the conflict… So I was happy to be able to roll those ideas into The 25th Reich, along with other 'ancient astronaut’ concepts such as the Anunnaki.
What was the most daring or challenging aspect while producing 'The 25th Reich’?
Well it was an incredibly low budget. I’ve never worked on a film that was so trying and testing. We physically shot the film for around 400K using every trick in the book. I bought a RED camera because it was cheaper than hiring it. We bought Nikon still photographic lenses and attached that to the RED because we couldn’t afford cinema lenses. We shot in remote mountain wilderness with temperatures fluctuating between two degree nights and fifty degree days. We had poisonous tiger snakes, red belly black snakes, and these tiny little white scorpions under every second rock. Our small crew had to lug camera and lighting gear up and down mountains and cliffs… It was an ordeal. I rolled my ankle on the first day, our lead actor, Jm Knobeloch, sprained his leg two weeks in…. Gastro hit the crew, a water tank we were using had parasites in it! I could go on… What do they say – that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?
And then there was post production… we couldn’t afford a post supervisor, so I personally data wrangled the entire movie – all 370 visual effects, utilising small teams across the world – from concept designs, to previz, to animation, and to final delivery. I know every frame of this movie – inside and out.
Obviously there already were hundreds of, let’s call it, 'entertaining’ WWII movies, but there is always that question about’ethical’ side of combining all these ufos, robots and tons of fun with the most tragic event in the history of mankind? What’s your opinion about that?
The main reason why I enjoy making genre pictures is that they contain important sociological subtext about the times they were made in. In fact, I think this is one of the most important features of genre films – particularly sci-fi. You only have to look at 'The Day the Earth Stood Still’ and 'The Thing’ to realise there is more to these movies than just aliens and monsters.
With „The 25th Reich” is was an opportunity to explore contemporary fanaticism – in all its guises – using five U.S. soldiers as a prism. In that context,” The 25th Reich” is very much an anti-war movie.
’The 25th Reich’ is based on '50,000 Years Until Tomorrow’ novella. Honestly speaking I never heard of it, could you enclose it to our readers? Is your movie faithful adaptation of the novel?
Our movie is very faithful to the novella… and I believe it is being released next year through Amazon as a tie in.
Do you follow the news on „Iron Sky”, quite similar project which is preparing simultaneously to yours?
I check in on” Iron Sky” now and then – mainly because it is a cool idea. In fact, they shot right here in Australia and friends of mine worked on the movie. So I have read the script. Despite what the media are saying, The 25th Reich is an extremely different movie. And I don’t think genre fans will be disappointed in either film. At least I hope not. I wish „Iron Sky” much success in its release. I’ll be going to see it!
Any plans for worldwide distribution of the movie?
Lightning Entertainment have picked up the film for international sales. Revolver has already purchased UK rights and my distribution company in Australia is releasing domestically. Lighting will be taking the film to the Berlin market in Feb – and we’ve had strong interest from distributors right around the world.
Thank you for the interview and good luck with the movie!