Mad Heidi Is Delightfully Cheesy

Image Courtesy: Swissploitation Films

Mad Heidi is a very odd movie to explain. You take some ideas from the original Heidi book, flip and distort them into a gory genre film. You then create a political narrative based on, of all things, cheese, spearheaded by the film’s clear Nazi analogs, the Meili’s cheese corporation, and their quasi-eugenics in their quest to eradicate the “lactose intolerant” from Switzerland. From there, the ingredients for a potential disaster are clearly in place; this premise is simply odd and messy. But Mad Heidi is simply too good to fall into this trap. the film is not only good fun, but it’s also an earnest, gleefully antifascist genre film.

Still from the film MAD HEIDI showing Heidi (Alice Lucy) holding a large axe.
Alice Lucy as Heidi. Image Courtesy: Swissploitation Films

Mad Heidi stars Alice Lucy in the role of Heidi, here predictably a young girl living in a small village in the Swiss Alps with her grumpy, misanthropic grandfather (David Schofield). Switzerland in this world is ruled by President Meili (Casper Van Dien), who uses his position as president to further promote his cheese corporation, and has made it his mission to eliminate the lactose-intolerant from Switzerland. Heidi is in love with Goat Peter (Kel Matsena), a local goat farmer who turns out to be dealing in illegal cheese smuggling. When Goat Peter is killed and Heidi is sent to prison, she endures a number of trials on her journey to avenge Goat Peter and free Switzerland from the Cheese Fascists.

Still from the film MAD HEIDI showing the characters Commandant Knorr and President Meili
Casper Van Dien as President Meili (right). Image Courtesy: Swissploitation Films

From the beginning, Mad Heidi is sparing with its pacing. It could almost be called a slow burn for how it takes its time with developing Heidi’s character and the characters and world around her. It is also a rather short 92 minutes, so it’s not like the audience is stuck watching Heidi simply suffer in prison for an hour or more. Such is to say that Mad Heidi wastes no time, but is also, crucially, in no rush to simply show its hand in blood, guts, and explosions. There is plenty of that, but there are plenty of steps along the way to get to them, and the film has a lot up its sleeve that warrants going in without knowing too much.

The film is schlocky and takes a lot of pride in its silliness, but crucially, it isn’t treating itself like a joke. Alice Lucy is completely earnest in her performance, resisting the exhausting brand of detached meta humor that seems to have poisoned the films with some of the highest budgets coming out in today’s landscape. There are elements of the film that are funny or absurd simply because of the nature of what they are, not because some character looks at it and makes an obnoxious quip. It feels unfair to Mad Heidi to put it in dialogue with big budget blockbuster films in this way, but simply with how poisoned popular film has been by those sensibilities, watching a film like Mad Heidi feels oddly refreshing and hopeful.

The film’s villains, the “Cheese Fascists,” are all seemingly having fun hamming it up to no end. The prison warden Fraulein Rottweiler (Katja Kolm) and Commandant Knorr (Max Rüdlinger) are particular standouts in just how much they commit to being complete sickos, but the film does build up a large supporting cast of twisted villains, from mad scientists to the crazed dictator himself. Each major villain figure is introduced with their own title card, which is a small touch, but is just one more element that helps lend the film a nice sense of style. It’s an uncomplicated story, but it’s earnest absurdism and genuine sense of care and effort make it a story worth telling.

Still from the film MAD HEIDI showing five soldiers standing in a row. the Man in the middle, Commandant Knorr, points a gun forward toward the camera.
Max Rüdlinger as Commandant Knorr (Center). Image Courtesy: Swissploitation Films.

On a visual level, too, Mad Heidi shows deep talent. The film is visually vibrant from the jump, with incredible landscapes of the Swiss Alps, coupled with remarkable sets, bright colors, and exceedingly gross special effects. It all works to create a tangible feel to the film that makes nearly every moment visceral and impactful.

Still from the film MAD HEIDI showing three prison guards and the prison warden, Fraulein Rottweiler.
Katja Kolm as Fraulein Rottweiler (Center Left). Image Courtesy: Swissploitation Films.

Mad Heidi‘s unequivocal antifascism is a simple but important stance that puts it in a league with other recent-ish Nazi-punching genre films like Overlord or Dead Snow. The villains’ quest to eliminate lactose intolerance, however, seemingly as a goofy stand-in for the Holocaust, feels very strange. I won’t pretend to know how exactly to unpack this, but the portrayal of such a devastating historical event in this light might leave some uncomfortable.

Walking away from Mad Heidi, however, does not leave one with weighty thoughts on fascism and genocide. The ingredients to the film—the original Heidi story, the violence, the Nazi-punching, the cheese—are not set up to really grapple with this, and they don’t aim to. At the end of the day, Mad Heidi is a film about coming of age, being free, and killing Nazis. And it rocks.  

Written by Chris Duncan

Leave a Reply

Film Obsessive welcomes your comments. All submissions are moderated. Replies including personal attacks, spam, and other offensive remarks will not be published. Email addresses will not be visible on published comments.

A theater marquee advertises the movie Mant!

Growing Up with Bugs and the Bomb in Matinee

Documentarian Sav Rodgers poses with "Chasing Amy" writer-director Kevin Smith.

Tribeca 2023: Chasing Chasing Amy’s Queer Media Reckoning