A brief overview of the 1982 “West German cyberpunk thriller” Kamikaze 1989, directed by Wolf Gremm and starring Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
…And we’re back… from tour and still eager to mine the archives of films to share with all you out there. This time having opted for a brief overview of the 1982 “West German cyberpunk thriller” Kamikaze 1989, directed by Wolf Gremm. The main character in this film, Lieutenant Jansen, is played by a later-period, sweat-drenched, chain-smoking Rainer Werner Fassbinder, whose character throughout the whole film seems to be wearing only a leopard-print suit. A “unique” choice of outfit for a plain-clothes police detective as it’s definitely not inconspicuous.
This is one of those films I first heard about years ago but only had come across it in recent years. My friend Michelle, with whom I used to co-host and DJ a club night with at the turn of the millenium, had mentioned this film lovingly a number of times. It seemed to suit her tastes: being Eurotrash, camp, arthouse and over the top. It’s not something you could run into at the local video store however. Although to be fair Vancouver had its share of good underground video stores at the time, including Videomatica and Black Dog, the former now long gone.
The plot for Kamikaze 89 is a bit convoluted, but in a nutshell it involves Fassbinder’s character investigating a series of terrorist bombings that lead to a corporate cover-up by a large media conglomerate. Is it real or is it just a prank? And what is really lurking on the 31st floor?
As one might find the plot a bit of a large question mark, the incidental details of the film make for an entertaining viewing. At the beginning of the film, Jansen’s partner Anton (played by African-American-German actor Günther Kaufmann), is flying in a helicopter with a pilot that’s dressed like an old-fashioned baker and barks through the radio auf Deutsch “Maybe he’s at the police disco!”. / Cut to scene of Jansen/Fassbinder playing racketball in a bar wearing a very 80s puffy, mixed white satin/rayon and animal print jacket. In the background plays some really herky-jerky minimal synth type music. The soundtrack was done by Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream in his take on the electronic, cyberpunk genre, standing out on its own as a great listen.
Other scenes and characters in the film are just as colourful, including the vice-president at the media corporation (played by Jörg Holm), whose yellow suit adorned with studs, Superman-figuring telephone and repeated catch phrase “Oh oh! Baby!” add to the novelty aspect of the film. Or perhaps hospitals that have a “nightclub” vibe, or the cross-dressing terrorists, who refer to a saviour called Krystopampas — mistaking Jansen for their saviour at times.
The main nightclub scene, set in some disused warehouse, seems to capture the retro-meets-future wacky punk vibe, not unlike other vaguely similar films like Forbidden Zone, Decoder or even more cheese-mo B-movie stuff like Class of 1984, Future Kill, etc. Some of the backing club ambience from that scene was used as a soundbite at the beginning of the Soft Riot track “The Garden”, out on the The Garden/Read You Like An Electronic Book single.
If you feel any bit “titilated” in checking this out, you can read more about it at this more lengthy synopsis here: