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MOVIE MANIA – Salon Kitty

Salon Kitty

Kitty runs a brothel in Nazi Germany, where the military officers and the dignitaries can relax. She owned the facility all through her life. The aim of the brothel during the war was to seduce German military officers, dignitaries, and diplomats with women and alcohol so that they could express their true and honest opinions about Nazis and to have a better understanding of what the world thought of the regime. Some of the prominent visitors of the Salon include Reinhard Heydrich, Joseph Dietrich, Galeazzo Ciano and Joseph Goebbels to name a few.

Salon Kitty at 11, Giesebrechtstraße , Berlin
Salon Kitty at 11, Giesebrechtstraße , Berlin
Katharina Zammit (Kitty Schmidt), left, with her daughter, 1922
Katharina Zammit (Kitty Schmidt), left, with her daughter, 1922

As she was not very much sure about the intention of the Nazis, the owner of Salon Kitty had been secretly sending money to British banks through the fleeing refugees, since the Nazis rose to power in 1933. In fact, she wanted to have a backup plan. However, as she was preparing herself to join the refugees and leave the country on June 28, 1939, Kitty was arrested by Sicherheitsdienst on Dutch borders and was brought back to Berlin. There, she was bluntly told by the Sicherheitsdienst’s counter- intelligence officer Walter Schellenberg, to either work for the Nazis or face the concentration camp. Naturally, Kitty made the logical choice and helped Sicherheitsdienst to set up an espionage brothel in Berlin.

The idea to put the Kitty Salon to the Nazi’s use was masterminded by Reinhard Heydrich, who was a prominent SS general and police chief within Nazi Germany. Despite other officers’ advice to gradually gain control over the brothel, Heydrich decided to take it over altogether and wired the building up entirely to catch everything and anything that was being said within the rooms by the visitors. Helmut Wallenberg was given the task to recruit girls with high intelligence and multilingual skills, preferably  nationalistic minded and man-crazy women. In another recruiting attempt, a number of local prostitutes were arrested, and a handful of those beautiful women was selected from the lot to work in the brothel. All those women were given detailed training regarding the operations and how to seduce men for getting as much information as possible. Women were not told about the microphones installed in the rooms, however, they were told to submit a report after each encounter regarding any specific information that they heard during the time with dignitaries and diplomats. The famous visitors to the salon included, among others, the son in law of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, Galeazzo Ciano, who was the Foreign Minister of Fascist Italy and did not hold very favourable views for the Nazi regime of Germany.

form the movie

Scenes from Salon Kitty
Scenes from Salon Kitty
The infamous recruitment test
The infamous recruitment test

The basement of the brothel was set up as the secret listening post, where five agents continuously listened and prepared transcripts of the conversations taking place in the ‘love-making’ rooms upstairs. The love-making rooms were elaborately decorated with the best of the furniture and decorative pieces and the women were trained to seduce the men so much that they would spit out everything that was deep inside their mind.

 Nazi high officials, like Heydrich visited the brothel on multiple occasions along with SS General Sepp Dietrich, who had ordered all twenty girls of the brothel to have an all-night orgy. Joseph Goebbels reportedly enjoyed lesbian displays, which at that time was considered as an anti-social activity in the German society.

Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels
Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich
SS General Sepp Dietrich
SS General Sepp Dietrich

Margherita was one of the seductive young mistresses of the brothel. Helmut was very much attracted by her beauty and often had a private session with her. She also had a regular visitor, a Nazi airman, who fell in love with Margherita while envisioning leaving the war to continue his relationship with the prostitute. When Margherita came to know   that he lost his life in battle due to her foolishness, she became motivated to assist Kitty in the eventual overturn of the renowned Nazi brothel. Unfortunately, some of the women workers in the brothel were stricken by the sudden deaths of the brothel patrons, and took their lives as well.

It is needless to say that Salon Kitty (1976), directed by the Italian filmmaker Tinto Brass, is a sex-laden frequent scenes of Nazi orgies, gracious girl-on-girl unsimulated action, and generous full-frontal male and female nudity. It is true that, Salon Kitty was an actual form of spying the Nazi’s used during WW II, in which they would invite German politicians and foreign ambassadors to be seduced by Germany’s finest women and hopefully produce evidence of traitorous behavior within other country’s armies. Hence, the sex exploitation element of the film solidified the cult status of the flick, with a basis of true life events that happened in German history. Set designs, as well as costuming is a must see for all connoisseurs of World War II German history  There are various bloody slayings that occur throughout the movie, but nothing wildly hideous  or shocking to outdo the sex oriented theme.

Ingrid Thulin as Madame Kitty Kellerman
Ingrid Thulin as Madame Kitty Kellerman
Teresa Ann Savoy as Margherita
Teresa Ann Savoy as Margherita

Tinto Brass’s Salon Kitty (1976) was made to not only shock audiences, but to entertain and educate viewers on the appalling practices of Nazi dictatorship during World War II.  Graphic scenes of sexual prowess and sensual musical numbers engraved Salon Kitty into cult movie fans’ top favorites, with historical prevalence to interest fans of World War II factual events

By far, the best and the most entertaining performance in Salon Kitty is given by Kitty herself, Swedish actress Ingrid Thulin. Thulin began her career as a star in several Ingmar Bergman films. The same year Salon Kitty was released in the US, Bergman’s own Nazi-themed film, ‘The Serpent’s Egg’ was also released. Thulin plays her role in Salon Kitty cunningly, never allowing any chance to express whether she’s playing it straight or playing in the camp. The earthy zeal with which she attacks the role breathes vibrant life into Salon Kitty’s cold, stony, soulless and detached eroticism.

salon-kitty

 

Dibyendu Banerjee
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.

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