I've enjoyed reading the many comments on IMDb about this obscure film, which I saw on video back in 1986. Here's some background about its production (I advise you to just click on the personnel for further info): it was made at a time of very liberal tax shelter laws for international co-productions, with Canada making several arrangements with European nations and even Israel.
The writeoffs available to investors, often 200% or more, encouraged backing many oddball films that would not have been made normally -for example a lot of German and British-backed pictures I remember fondly like The Internecine Project (w/James Coburn), Inside Out (w/Telly Savalas), Paper Tiger (w/David Niven) or the weird robot movie Who? (w/Elliott Gould). Born for Hell was structured as a a complicated co-production, based in Germany with a veteran German producer (GEORG RUETHER), an up-and-coming French Canadian director DENIS HEROUX, plus story and script co-written by veteran director GEZA VON RADVANYI (who made one all-time classic neo-realist film, Women Without Names, way back in 1950).
When I saw Born for Hell ten years after it was made I was shocked by the unbelievable cast of European greats and near-great talents that had been rounded up. Quota systems meant that actors from each co-production country had to be chosen, and in this case we have quite a lineup:
MATTHIEU CARRIERE from Germany is the lead; he's starred in many top-notch features, back to Schlondorff's Young Torless and some fine films by Andre Delvaux, Erich Rohmer, Marguerite Duras (classic India Song), the title role in the memorable Egon Schiele, Robert van Ackeren's A Woman in Flames and even some U.S. and Canadian assignments.
His female costars are: CAROLE LAURE, French Canadian, the star of Dusan Makavejev's Sweet Movie, Gilles Carle's excellent The Head of Normande St. Onge and later on Bertrand Blier's Get Out Your Handkerchiefs;
CHRISTINE BOISSON, the French star who had been featured in the mega-hit Emmanuelle, but blossomed as the star of Antonioni's Identification of a Woman, while also working for Miklos Jancso, Alain Robbe-Grillet and other top helmers;
MYRIAM BOYER, French character actress who had already been in a Claude Sautet hit Vincent, Francois... but in 1976 was part of the ensemble of the breakthrough Swiss picture Alain Tanner's Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the year 2000;
EVA MATTES, German star of many classics by Fassbinder, notably Jail Bait, Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and In a Year of 13 Moons, Herzog's brilliant Stroszek and Woyzeck, plus her best assignment in the title role of Percy Adlon's Celeste (about Proust's loyal servant);
DEBRA BERGER, an Austrian starlet with nutty credits, going from a Hawaii Five-O episode (!) to starring in one of Marcel Carne's last films The Marvelous Visit (a fascinating, forgotten movie), one of the discoveries (alongside Isabelle Huppert and Kim Cattrall) in Otto Preminger's flop Rosebud and finishing her career by toiling in 5 Cannon productions in a row, ranging from sexploitation Nana to sci-fi Invaders from Mars;
LEONORA FANI, underage-looking Italian sex goddess whose best of many '70s assignments was Salvatore Samperi's beautifully-shot Nene;
ANDREE PELLETIER, young French Canadian actress who showed promise in Gilles Carle's Les Males, and went on to work mainly in Canada in the Craig Russell cross-dressing hit Outrageous!, Micheline Lanctot's sensitive The Handyman and Teri McLuhan's unjustly forgotten The Third Walker;
and ELY GALLEANI, an Italian actress who never made the big time but did everything from giallos to comedies for top directors like Dino Risi, Carlo Lizzani, Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci before joining the Joe D'Amato stock company.
I've gone on at this length to demonstrate why the 1970s are so fondly remembered -it wasn't about big budgets and big box office in those days, especially before Jaws and Star Wars changed everything. It was a period of productivity: Ken Russell and Robert Altman cranking out 3 films a year, and European filmmakers as busy as the Hollywood film factories of the '30s -not all of it good (Born for Hell is nobody's classic) but most of it interesting, even 30 years later.
Current strategies of romantic comedies, comic book adaptations and torture-horror films, mostly made on huge budgets, are yielding ephemeral results -junk like the recent The Spirit which has a shelf life measured in weeks not decades. The current slump is nothing new; I noticed a remarkable resemblance to today in the Warner Bros. 1961 lineup: consisting of mainly romantic vehicles for young contract talent: Warren Beatty, Connie Stevens, Diane McBain and Troy Donahue (all fun to recall but of no lasting interest) plus the inevitable gimmick film: the Canadian hit The Mask (...put on the mask now!), in 3-D.