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Gods Of The Plague
cast: Hanna Schygulla, Margarethe von Trotta, Harry Baer, Günther Kaufmann, and Carla Egerer

director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

91 minutes (18) 1970
Arrow DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Gary McMahon
Rainer Werner Fassbinder's second film in his incredibly offbeat crime trilogy continues his habit of brilliant titles and features a pre-credits opening sequence far cooler than anything Quentin Tarantino might have written. The rest of the plot is considerably less cohesive.

Franz (Harry Baer) is out of prison and his ex-girlfriend Johanna (Hannah Schygulla) works in a strip joint. By way of a strange game of roulette in what looks like a public toilet and against gay gangster opponents, Franz tries to hook up with his old friend Bruno's brother, Marian (Marian Seidowsky).

After a failed attempt to steal a suitcase, his brother's wife helps Franz out of a tricky situation then takes him home to seduce him. The police are looking for someone called the Gorilla, and see Johanna as a link to this man, an old friend of Franz. At this point, things get a bit confusing.

Franz tracks down the Gorilla and finds a man who is either unconscious or doing a bad impersonation of a corpse (we can clearly see that he is breathing). It may or may not be Bruno's brother. Franz then sleeps with a woman who looks a bit like Susan George and has a huge photograph of her own face on the wall by her bed. She may or may not be some kind of fashion model. In the morning, they listen to children's record whilst drinking schnapps. There is a doll hanging by its neck in the hall.

The Gorilla (Günther Kaufmann) finally makes an appearance and admits to killing Marian - an assassination. When the Gorilla also admits to being with Johanna when Franz was away, Franz says, "I love you." It seems that the homoerotic subtext of many gangster movies may be surfacing, but in a film like this one it's difficult to tell.

During a visit with Jo (Micha Cochina), a friend of Franz's who seems to live on some kind of farm, the Gorilla cuddles a sheep. The three men have an unprovoked martial arts fight, leaving all three unconscious and a rip in the crotch of the Gorilla's trousers. Then they all have tea. (I'm not making this up; I swear it).

At one point a character says, "I have to know what's going on." I echoed her sentiment. Even the character names are confusing (and don't necessarily match up with those I checked online) Then, just as we think all hope is lost, the plot suddenly gets back on track. Franz, the Gorilla, and Joe the kung-fu farmer planned a supermarket robbery, but Jo no longer wants to be involved, and everyone but Franz and the Gorilla seem to know it's a set-up, anyway.

Gods Of The Plague (aka: Götter der Pest) is a weird crime drama that's as infuriating as it is compelling; this is a film you have to accept on its own crazed and often wildly illogical terms.

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