According to a 2020 Yahoo! News report, over 12,000 Nazis fled to Argentina after World War II in order to avoid being brought to justice for their crimes.
Exploring this often overlooked history inspired former Hamilton resident Phil Blattenberger to write, direct and co-produce “Condor’s Nest,” a Paramount Pictures action-thriller being released in theaters, on digital and on demand today.
“Everybody has heard something at some point through one cultural note or another that there were Nazis in South America but it’s generally untouched,” said Blattenberger, 37. “Up until very recently it’s been a very undertold story. The Nazis actually set up shop in South America and tried to weave themselves into the fabric of the margins of society. They tried to disappear and avoid consequences for their crime, which is a fundamentally compelling subject.”
In the film, Jacob Keohane (“Halloween Kills”) stars as aviator Will Spalding, an American war veteran. Spalding has tracked the sadistic Nazi colonel who executed his bomber crew in Nazi-occupied France circa 1944 to a remote location in South America circa 1954. But he is in for more than he bargained for when he uncovers a secret Nazi headquarters known as the Condor’s Nest. The film’s gripping prologue sets the stage for Spalding’s relentless pursuit as a man on a mission having experienced the anguish and horror of war.
“Will is a very dark character who has internalized a lot of guilt, despair, rage and shame over him being the sole survivor of his (crew),” said Blattenberger. “As a writer, the challenge was to take a character like that – to maintain the truthfulness and gravity of what that character is going through as the anti-hero – and find a way to infuse him with humorous themes or circumstances to drive the story forward without being wearisome.”
Behind the camera
Splitting his time between Greensboro, North Carolina and Los Angeles since 2022, Blattenberger looks back on his childhood in Hamilton with fondness. The Maryland native lived and was homeschooled in Butler County from age 9 to 15, a formative period that sparked his sense of imagination and storytelling.
“It was a classic, middle America upbringing,” he recalled. “It was a cross between the suburbs and rural living. When I didn’t have the Internet to stand in the way of imagination, my childhood was full of running around streams and lakes, fishing and building forts in the woods. I was creating stuff in one way or another. I left in the early 2000s, but I have unbelievable amounts of fond memories of living in that area.”
Blattenberger received bachelor’s degrees in history and anthropology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. While working on his master’s degree in cultural anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, he traveled to Vietnam researching narrative conflict in contemporary Vietnam in relation to the Vietnam War. During his travels, he said he began writing a screenplay as a stress reliever, which eventually led to the development of his 2019 debut feature, “Point Man.”
Set in the bullet-torn jungles of 1968 Vietnam and spotlighting the perspectives of African-American soldiers, “Point Man” was filmed across multiple Southeast Asian locales, including Cambodia and the Mekong Delta. It is also the first American original narrative Vietnam War movie to shoot on location in Vietnam. During the film’s festival engagements, Blattenberger was nominated for the Emerging Filmmaker Award at the St. Louis International Film Festival.
Savoring the moment
A fan of iconic directors such as Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino as well as Alejandro G. Iñarritu’s “The Revenant,” Blattenberger says he is still formulating his own aesthetic. His third film, “Desiccation,” is in development.
“I tend to find myself repeatedly writing stories that involve a pursuit of some sort,” he said. “The idea of chasing something – be it internal or external – is certainly compelling and a core part of what it means to be human. One unique element to historical (films) is that there is something inherently fun and visceral (about) immersing ourselves in a world we may never otherwise get to experience.”
Shot on location in summer 2021 in North Carolina and Peru, “Condor’s Nest” also features Arnold Vosloo (“The Mummy”), Michael Ironside (“Top Gun”), Jackson Rathbone (“The Twilight Saga”), Jorge Garcia (“Lost”) and Academy Award nominee Bruce Davison (“Longtime Companion,” “X-Men”).
“This is an entertaining tale, a geographical sweep across South America, that’s almost like an ‘80s or ‘90s pastiche (action-thriller),” said Blattenberger. “But it’s not all blazing guns and car chases. ‘Condor’s Nest’ strikes a different chord than most action-thrillers.”
“Condor’s Nest” is rated R for violence, language and brief drug use.