The good news about the film Condor’s Nest, an international revenge thriller set in 1950s Latin America that features a surviving WWII American airman Will Spalding (Jacob Keohane, “Halloween Kills”) in search of a sadistic SS Colonel (Arnold Vosloo, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”), is that it conforms to a three-act structure. This is the paradigm that screenwriting gurus consider to be the Holy Grail of feature length narrative film making. The bad news is that Phil Plattenburger, writer and director, gets nearly everything else wrong. Even the film’s genre is in question. Whether the viewer should take the film seriously or as satire is open to debate. Is it a low-budget “Inglorious Basterds?” The English spoken with German accents is so ludicrous, it makes Brad Pitt’s pretense as a German officer in Tarantino’s film seem masterful. Jacob Keohane plays the former American bomber pilot more as a person that could need a vacation than a determined hero who is out for revenge: His goal is to eliminate the aforementioned Nazi Colonel that murdered his downed B-17 crew in the waning days of World War II because they refused to reveal what German city was their bombing target.
Flash forward a decade later. Pilot Spalding is traveling through Argentina in the guise of a Swiss banana farmer with a large plantation in Brazil. How a Swiss banana farmer living in Brazil would speak English is not familiar to me (but whatever), however, the accent was chosen and it doesn’t sound well-practiced.
Why is the American’s first stop Argentina? Who knows? In fact, there’s no explanation how he got there or how he manages to live. From his appearance, he doesn’t seem to have bothered making himself presentable during the decade since the War ended. You could argue that Argentina is where many Nazi fugitives were in hiding. They’re also hiding in Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Peru, and other countries, but you have to start somewhere, I suppose, and perhaps he was going in alphabetical order. The former pilot’s quest for revenge begins with the capture of two random Germans, then torturing them in a makeshift basement, apparently hoping to get a clue where the Colonel might be hiding. Why these two Germans? Who knows? Who cares? It does suggest the hunt for the SS Officer will be slow-going, since the airman himself estimates there are 40,000 Nazi fugitives on the loose and this is before the Internet. So, a day devoted to interrogating two Germans would place the time to locate all 40,000 at approximately 54 years, and that’s without taking coffee breaks or siestas.
The American is not alone for long, though. He runs into an assault-rifle toting Israeli special agent (Corinne Britti, “Take Care of Emily”) that is also hunting a fugitive Nazi, even though it’s a different Nazi: Albert Vogel (Al Pagano, “How to Live Your Best Death”), a physicist that is rumored to be hooking up with Russian agents to help the Soviet Union develop nuclear weapons. Why the physicist has taken a roundabout way to Russia is not explained. Germany to Argentina to Russia isn’t very practical or logical. The Israeli agent is in luck, however. This Vogel character has been unknowingly captured by the American. Israel and the U.S. maintain close ties, but this coincidence is not only ridiculous, it’s supernatural. Nevertheless, the American and the Israeli have more things to worry about than an itinerary. Stopping for a drink in a nearby bar, they are met by three Nazis — who seem to be Prussian equivalents of the “Three Amigos.” Showing their perspicacity, the Germans don’t buy the story that the pilot is a Swiss banana grower importing bananas from his Brazilian farm for Argentinian palettes. They call in a hit squad to terminate him and his (God forbid!) Israeli comrade. But the crew they’ve ordered to hunt them down has obviously failed “Car Chase Shootout 101.” The Nazi hunters escape. This allows two essential things to happen. The Israeli and the American can go about their business, and the film can have a third act.
It’s at this point we learn the secret of the “Condor’s Nest.” It is a hidden Nazi hideout from where the Third Reich is planning a comeback. Inhabiting the nest aren’t simply German buffoons — although they seem to act like it. The man is charge is Heinrich Himmler (James Urbaniak, “Wonderstruck”)! You thought he was killed in the war? How naive! He is alive, but not exactly well. His make-up is a bit blotchy as is that of his cohorts, which includes veteran actor Bruce Davison (“Breach”), who raises a few concerns in passable German. But just as the latter feels reassured that Himmler has things under control, the American flyboy and the Mossad Mamma discover the Condor’s Nest and a big shootout ensues — and you can guess who wins.
Ed Wood-like production values aside, the film’s fatal flaw is being genre-less. Either that or it promises the start of a new, yet unnamed genre. Condor’s Nest might have been improved if the directorial vision had been whole hog slapstick rather than some sort of chimera (part “Saving Private Ryan,” part “Blazing Saddles”). Film instructors often recommend watching low-budget films for educational purposes since it’s easier to learn film making from analyzing basic cinematic mistakes, an exercise that could make watching this film more fun. So, the film has a beginning, middle, and end, and is mildly entertaining. How it achieves the latter would require some study. Which reminds me of a statement by Jean Cocteau, the French writer and filmmaker: “Art is necessary. If I only knew for what.”