From the press materials provided to me, I’ve learned that the project launched not all that long ago as an entirely crowd-funded project spearheaded by budding auteurs Johannes Hartmann and Sandro Klopfstein. Along with screenwriter Gregory D. Widmer, they wrote the script for the Swissploitation feature film, also pairing up to direct the picture precisely so they could stay true to the creative vision. And if there are movie gods out there still watching for nifty little gems that deserve a bit of extra attention, then their efforts should be rewarded with a long and fruitful career … but maybe one with decidedly less cheese.
At its core, Mad Heidi feels little more than a comedy show sketch that – with a little grease and a lotta love – manages to expand from those humble origins to a worthwhile 90-minute feature film. (Indeed, the merry pranksters behind NBC’s long-running Saturday Night Live at one time operated a solid cottage industry around turning several of their bits and pieces and characters into silver screen fodder, so there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.) I’ll admit honestly that it drags a bit clunkily in a few spots wherein pacing is a bit uneven, but I suspect that’s because Hartmann and Klopfstein remained at all times to committed – even to the flick’s detriment – to adhering to the formula as designed. This being their debut property, I can understand and appreciate the commitment as – in most cases – it makes for a finer result; still, the best comedies withstand the test of time for knowing when to break the rules, and here’s hoping that’s a little lesson they learn with the next time at bat.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“Swiss mountain girl Heidi is abducted by brutal government troops and must defend herself and fight a war against a cheese-fueled machinery of hate.”
Reviewing the obvious comedy is never an easy task.
Keeping that disclaimer in mind, I’d argue that it helps going into the flick to fully accept that – rather than exploit (a key word here) the potential highs and lows of cheap laughs – storytellers Hartmann and Klopfstein – along with their cast and crew – were obviously committed to achieving what it popularly known as a ‘concept film.’ Yes, it’s a comedy, but textually it’s equal parts satire and parody. (Yes, purists, there is a difference.) Milking a punchline with broad comic potential is a gift, but crafting an entire fictional universe and then populating it with actors and technicians takes far greater commitment … and I usually find it much more entertaining!
That’s why I celebrate films like Mad Heidi. It isn’t about getting the obvious jokes or celebrating one individual campy bit of schtick here and there; it’s about how all of these pieces – including camera angles, production design, special effects, and every single other piece that goes into perfecting this world caught on camera – fit together seamlessly … as though this place and all its people not only exist but could be out there right now … just waiting for its inevitable discovery. This kind of attention to detail is extraordinary, frankly, and it’s rarely found as well done as it is here in comedy, so accolades are much deserved. It’s truly a well-done and well-rounded jewel, and I can only hope others agree.
As happens when cruel dictators take root, the good people rebel, and they turn their mostly peaceful demonstrations into something a bit bloodier. Meili responds with guns in the streets, as he cannot allow such civil disobedience to stand in the way of his bid to exterminate the lactose-intolerant from existence. His ‘see something, say something’ campaign has turned its sights toward outing friends, neighbors, and countrymen whose dietary restrictions are seen as a threat to the Swiss way of life; so, yes, blood has been spilled. Plenty of it. With cheese.
Into this world comes the impressionable heroine, Heidi (played by the immeasurably fetching Alice Lucy). Smitten by the forbidden passions stirred up in her young loins (do girls have loins?) by Goat Peter (Kel Matsena), she defies the constant warnings and wishes of her wise rebel-turned-farmer grandfather Alpöhi (David Schofield), only to eventually find herself captured by the evil Kommandant Knorr (Max Rüdlinger) after he viciously guns down her lover in the streets. Stripped of her faith and down to all but her knickers, the young lass is thrown into the equivalent of a Nazi re-education camp. It’s at this point – once and for all – that audiences can be assured that Heidi is well on her way down the cobblestone path of revenge.
There’s more – a good deal more as the twists and turns continue for the bulk of the flick’s impressive run – but I suspect that doesn’t much matter. At this point, I suppose folks who know Mad Heidi for what it is have already made up their mind about whether or not to see it. The preview alone gives audiences a wonderful introduction to what can be expected, and all this reviewer can say is that I wasn’t quite prepared for the onslaught of ideas in what looked like a feature reaching non-stop for the ‘low-handing fruit.’ No … as a film, Mad Heidi is smarter than that. Like all things with cheese, this one might cause a bit of bloat … but I found it well worth the time and digestion. Some might get down on their knees and beg that whatever cheesy gods they worship to make the madness end … but this was a snack I thoroughly enjoyed.
What more can I say … other than bon appetit?
Mad Heidi (2022) was produced by Swissploitation Films and A Film Company. Presently, the film is poised for its U.S. and Canadian debut on June 21st via its partnership with Fathom Events. As for the technical specifications? Though I’m no trained video expert, there were a few sequences with some very obvious CGI special effects; however, the charm of watching an obvious parody of a grindhouse film was only better served by some obvious visual trickery. Also, there flick employs quite a few practical (bloody) in-camera techniques to some gleeful results. Just go with the flow, and you’ll have a blast. Lastly, as I viewed this picture via streaming, there were no special features to consider.
Look, folks: I’m not going to try to convince anyone that Mad Heidi (2022) is a perfect film, mostly because that isn’t what I do ‘round these parts. As I’ve always said, you’re free to make up your mind about what you like, just like I’m free to do the same on this end. But I can assure you that I had an incredible 90-minute ride with this damn near tonally perfect exploitation send-up, so much so that I’m likely going to see this theatrically when it premieres nearby thanks to the folks at Fathom Events. (If I do, then this would be a first for this long-time film nerd.) Rarely does everyone involved – cast, crew, extras, you name it – act as if they’re in on the joke, but here? Why, this was a gloriously funny film – even with its imperfections – and I give it a huge thumbs-up.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Swissploitation Films and Raven Banner Releasing provided me with complimentary streaming access to Mad Heidi (2022) by request for the expressed purpose of completing this review. Their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.