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THE LONG ISLAND FOUR (1979).

Based on the true story of four Nazi saboteurs who infiltrated the US in 1942 and were quickly caught and executed, this 80-minute ode to America's irresistibly corruptive allure was the only underground feature by writer-director Anders Grafstrom. A Swedish art director who relocated to NYC, he created this grandiose No-Wave, Super-8 color-epic at the age of 23, only to die in a Mexican car accident a few months after completing the film. It's an impressive (albeit crude) work that takes some major liberties with the specific details, because I seriously doubt Der Führer's spies all acted and sounded like they were rounded up at the St. Marks' Baths. We first meet our Germans when they're dropped off on a Long Island beach with a suitcase full of US currency and a plan to "undermine the American morale" by setting off home-made bombs. The quartet consists of their leader Dasch (David McDermott, from the Victorian-style artist duo McDermott and McGough), Richard (Lance Loud, seven years after his stint on PBS' groundbreaking reality-series AN AMERICAN FAMILY), Heinrich (musician Kristian Hoffman, who played with Loud in the band Mumps), and eye-patched Berger (Bradly Field, from Teenage Jesus and the Jerks). One train ride into Manhattan later, the Krauts decide to first check out the city's nightlife, and watching these clearly effeminate guys hitting on American women is only one of many unconvincing moments. After a few wild weeks and endless champagne, Dasch decides to ditch his Nazi mission and remain in wonderfully-decadent America with his girlfriend Lola, but Heinrich (who brags about German-made kitchen appliances: "Our ovens are very big") has nightmares of his colleagues draped in Old Glory and singing "God Bless America," and eventually convinces Richard and Berger to plant bombs at West Point. Alas, they're screw-ups in every way... All of the acting is almost comically-wretched and Grafstrom doesn't display much cinematic skill, but he deserves credit for attempting a period piece on a minuscule budget and his East Village casting, including appearances by Eric Mitchell, Joey Arias, Tina L'Hotsky, Patti Astor, and Gedde Watanabe (SIXTEEN CANDLES) in his screen debut as Lola's Asian boyfriend. Best of all, the unforgettable Klaus Nomi shows up as a Nazi SS agent who surreptitiously spies on the quartet, but looks more like some alien lifeform in his cupid's-bow black lipstick. Musical interludes include Dasch singing "Let's Misbehave," with Heinrich on piano; Richard and Heinrich getting stoned in Chinatown to Cab Calloway's "Kickin' the Gong Around"; and Nomi's character inexplicably performing "Falling in Love Again" at a nightclub (and a second time, into a mirror while wearing a ladies hat). It's a time capsule back to a short-lived era of NYC underground filmmaking, before the Transgressive Movement ditched ambition and eccentricity in favor of amateur shock value.

© 2008 by Steven Puchalski.