Better known for the first two “Howling” sequels and the cult film “Communion” (1989), Phillipe Mora actually began his film career in documentaries.
As he describes in the DVD's first commentary track, Mora edited “The Double-Headed Eagle,” a meandering documentary that attempted to chronicle Adolph Hitler's rise to power via captured Nazi propaganda footage. The research from that project also resulted in Mora co-discovering the only colour footage of the Nazi leader. Shot by “airhead” mistress/bunker-wife Eva Braun in rare 16mm Agfa film, the footage became the showpiece of “Swastika,” Mora and co-director Lutz Becker's 1973 documentary, which presented the Nazi regime's most evil architects in mundane, candid activities.
“Snide and Prejudice” is two things: like Peter Medak's film version of “The Ruling Class,” it's a witty and ironic character study of what happens when a man's affected madness (here, a delusional Scot, played with bravura, by Angus MacFayden) becomes his reality; it's also a precise set of biographical sketches that reveal Hitler's creation of his own image/persona, using actual quotes from published interviews and filmed speeches.
Shot over 10 days in 1997, Mora's film took a heck of a while to hit audiences, and he smartly uses this DVD release to explain how he successfully fashioned such a crazy idea into a marvelous, thought-provoking satire, of human evil by medically supervised proxy. MacFayden also joins Mora on the commentary track, and both discuss the frenetic production that was actually a benefit to the performances of the huge cast.
Taking a nod from MGM's “This Is Spinal Tap” DVD, MacFayden and actor Rene Auberjonois also appear on the second commentary track as their onscreen characters, observing the unique film that was used to help MacFayden's mental illness. With doctor and patient commentating on their screen images in character, Mora figuratively sits between the two, and keeps the self-analysis going for much of the film's length. It's a bit of an indulgence for the actors and director, so those interested in reality-based facts should stick with the first track. There's also a “Behind the Scenes” gallery of black & white video footage, with Mora's more sober commentary, that covers some of the deleted material available in a separate gallery.
The colour Hitler footage is given a more detailed examination in a segment from “History Lost & Found.” Produced for the History Channel, Mora's interview segments provide pertinent background on the nearly four hours of film that now reside in U.S. National Archives. Some of the footage – like Braun's hand-drawn title card, featuring a huge, friendly sun – is downright unsettling. The mundanity of Hitler's private life is also broadened through a montage of additional colour footage, archived separately, and Mora's wry narration cites out some subtle behavioral moments we'd otherwise miss.
This cinematic cabaret of sorts, designed by the ‘doctors' for the benefit of the inmates, sketches madness from relatively recent historical events; and without digital trickery or lavish sets, Mora skillfully presents a more frightening kind of human horror. Besides, where else will you see Hitler having a tantrum, when Picasso takes one of his cookies?
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan