Nekromantik is the one-of-a-kind shock classic from cult director Jörg Buttgereit, weaving the tale of Rob Schmadtke (Daktari Lorenz), a young man who finds himself competing for the affections of his girlfriend with a putrefying cadaver. An employee of Joe’s Streetcleaning Agency, a company which cleans up after grisly accidents, Rob takes advantage of his profession to indulge in his chosen hobby – the collection of body parts. Then, one day, Rob brings home an entire decomposing corpse, much to the delight of girlfriend Betty. There follows a twisted love triangle, resulting in some of the most shocking scenes ever committed to celluloid.
The father of psychotherapy good old Sigmund Freud had a theory that each and every one of us had a life and death drive. As such Freud determined that sex (life) and death, throughout our lives, are inextricably linked- and let’s face it he must have been on to something, we as a culture seem to be fascinated with both. It is these two major themes that dominate both the startling imagery and underlying conceptual foundations of Jörg Buttgereit’s seminal Nekromantik. This is perhaps the film’s biggest appeal and the reason why such a low-budget European film that had a D.I.Y distribution and was never submitted to the BBFC- because it was considered a no brainer on the basis it would be instantly banned- would become one of the most enduring cult classics of 80’s independent horror filmmaking. Because far from being just another z-grade do-it-yourself slab of mindless dross, stuffing the vapid hole of nothing to offer with countless gore scenes for the sake of it, Nekromantik actually appeared to have something to say on an existential level. Even though the film is packed to the hilt with obscenely morbid content, deep down inside its rotten little core is a heart-warming story of a guy, Rob (Daktari Lorenz), who just wants- apart from a stunning cadaver for his horny girlfriend Betty (Beatrice Manowski) to use as a sex toy- the same things as we all do, acceptance, to be loved and to feel something.
Before we get all stuffy and intellectual here I think I also need to point out Nekromantik is also a damned fine black comedy, suited to all those who love to laugh at things they probably shouldn’t. Think along the lines of an early Peter Jackson film like Bad Taste with added sexual elements and you might get something of a very loose comparison in tone. You will be heading in the right direction at least, although nothing really compares. Nekromantik is, if nothing more, really one of a kind.
The film became something of an urban legend, sought out from under the counter sources by desperate film fans that had heard about the film and now had to see it for themselves. As word of mouth grew, so did the legacy. When Arrow Video announced earlier this year the film would be getting a fully uncut remaster to Blu-ray in the UK it is surprising the collective sound of jaws dropping all over the country didn’t cause a minor earthquake. Because this was one thing many of us didn’t see coming in a million years. But it’s here now, in all its beautiful low-fi glory, here for countless new generations to enjoy, digest, laugh over, vomit over, show their friends, and continue the legacy. Amen to that!
Nekromantik is a film that never lets you get too comfy. It snips through its tight running time hardly leaving the viewer time to breathe. Dishing up scene after scene with oodles of wickedly dark gallows humour in amongst the gelatinous offal, metal skeleton dicks, and spurting death erections Buttgereit never shies away from dealing with confronting imagery to tell his tale. By now it will be obvious whether this will be a film for you, it’s one of those marmite type of situations, you are likely to either love it or hate it- either way at least it gets a strong reaction, which is something of an achievement over some of the vanilla contemporary made features of today. Be warned though, some will be put off by the explicit nature of the content- including a skinning of a live rabbit. Despite its gritty subject matter, and given the rough around the edges production values the film is surprisingly well made. There isn’t a lot of dialogue on offer-instead relying on visually stunning its audience into submission- but yet you get the feel for Rob’s warped world, drawn in by the intimacy of the Super 8 camerawork and the associated performances at play.
Arrow deliver the set to really end all collector’s sets with this spectacular bunch of extra material, while the film- given its format- looks great on BD; the team at Arrow certainly gave Nekromantik a respectful restoration which is a relief to see the print retains its cinematic grit and grain whilst being relatively free from age related flaw or damage.
The full specifications are as follows:
3-DISC DIRECTOR-APPROVED LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of three Buttgereit films: Nekromantik (1987), Hot Love (1985) [29 mins] and Horror Heaven (1984) [23 mins]
• Optional English subtitles for all three films
• Limited Edition packaging featuring new artwork by Gilles Vranckx
• Individually-numbered #/3,000 Certificate
• Set of 5 Exclusive Limited Edition Nekromantik “polaroid” postcards
• Exclusive Limited Edition 100-page book.
DISC 1 [BLU-RAY] & DISC 2 [DVD] – NEKROMANTIK & JÖRG BUTTGEREIT SHORT FILMS
• Nekromantik audio commentary with Jörg Buttgereit and co writer Franz Rodenkirchen
• Hot Love audio commentary with Buttgereit
• Horror Heaven audio commentary with Buttgereit
• Director’s introduction to Nekromantik
• Alternative “Grindhouse Version” of Nekromantik, newly-transferred for this release from the only existing 35mm print [Blu-ray only]
• In Conversation with The Death King – A brand-new 2014 interview with Buttgereit conducted exclusively for this release
• Morbid Fascination: The Nekromantik Legacy – A brand-new 2014 documentary looking at the impact of the film on the horror scene both in the UK and abroad, featuring interviews with genre critic Alan Jones, Marc Morris, producer of Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Parts 1 & 2, and Buttgereit biographer David Kerekes
• Q&A with Buttgereit recorded at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts (2014)
• The Making of Nekromantik – A vintage documentary featuring a wealth of behind-the-scenes footage, newly-transferred in HD and viewable with two different audio tracks: an English commentary with Buttgereit, co-author Franz Rodenkirchen and David Kerekes, and a German-language audio track featuring radio interviews with Buttgereit, Rodenkirchen and producer Manfred Jelinski
• Nekromantik Featurette – A look back at the film’s production, featuring interviews with Buttgereit and Jelinski, produced for the film’s 10-year anniversary German VHS release
• Nekromantik Premiere – A short featurette comprised of footage from the film’s premiere in Berlin, January 1988
• “Das Letzte” – A short featurette comprising footage from the 1985 premiere of Hot Love
• Horror Heaven trailer featuring outtakes from the film
• Two Buttgereit-directed music videos: ‘I Can’t Let Go’ by Shock Therapy (1995) and ‘Lemmy, I’m a Feminist’ by Half Girl (2013)
• Complete collection of Buttgereit feature film trailers: Nekromantik, Der Todesking, Nekromantik 2 and Schramm
• Extensive image gallery including behind-the-scenes stills and the rare, surrealist German-language Nekromantik comic by Berlin artist Fil, reproduced in its entirety.
DISC 3 [CD] – NEKROMANTIK SOUNDTRACK: ULTIMATE EDITION – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE
• 27-track CD featuring the complete Nekromantik soundtrack composed and performed by star Daktari Lorenz and musicians John Boy Walton and Hermann Kopp, plus rare tracks from Hot Love.
100-PAGE BOOK – ‘ROMANCE IS DEAD’ – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE
• Exclusive perfect-bound book featuring a new article on Nekromantik from critic Graham Rae, alongside pieces from writers David Kerekes (Sex Murder Art: The Films of Jörg Buttgereit), Kier-La Janisse (House of Psychotic Women), Linnie Blake (The Wounds of Nations ) and an archive interview with real-life necrophile Karen Greenlee, all illustrated with new artwork and original archive stills.
Words: Kat Ellinger