(A.k.a. SS EXPERIMENT LOVE CAMP; LAGER SSADIS KASTRAT KOMMANDANTUR)
The film opens with blonde Nazi Colonel von Kleiben (Giorgio Cerioni), his sadistic bald Sergeant (Serafino Profumo) and even more evil female doctor/assistant Renke (Patrizia Melega) electrocuting two female prisoners - naked, of course - in a bid to force them to confess that the Jewish race is inferior. This particular "experiment" seems a tad futile, as both women soon wind up dead and thrown into a giant furnace along with several other corpses.
From the offset, it's made clear that this concentration camp is not going to offer much fun for Jewish women. So we bear that in mind when the latest consignment of prisoners are farmed into the camp via truck. They're swiftly stripped, hosed down and sent to Renke's medical chambers for inspection.
The pick of the crop are then selected to "serve" the Third Reich. We learn, you see, that a group of top Nazi soldiers have been stationed at the camp specifically to take part in experiments that entail ... well ... humping these women, in various situations (in a tank of warm water is one example ...).
A tender, illicit romance develops between pretty blonde prisoner Mirelle (Paola Corazzi) and handsome soldier-with-a-conscience Helmut (Mircha Carven).
All of which seems a lot more comfortable than we were expecting, right? Well, not for long. Things turn sour for the ladies when they start rebelling against complying. One objects to be the subject of an orgy and so is hung bloodied and naked in the camp's courtyard for all to see; another is lowered into the temperature tank and subjected to extreme degrees of hot and cold.
Meanwhile reluctant Mengele-alike Dr Steiner (Attilio Dottesio) is enlisted at the camp to perform operations on the women - to what end, I have no idea. But at least these scenes allow for the film's solitary moments of minor gore.
It soon transpires though, that the real reason famous surgeon Steiner has been drafted into the camp is so he can help von Kleiben with his own personal cause: his testicles were bitten off while raping a Russian girl some years back, and now he wants Steiner to transplant unwitting Helmut's bollocks into his empty ball-sack.
Yes, you read that correctly.
I needn't go on. The story really is as flimsy, a corny as that. It's also fairly episodic, the film largely lunging from one scene of ugly sex to the next. Some beatings here, some sadistic (and yet, oddly tame) violence there ... it's typical Nazisploitation fare, from the not-terribly-adept writer-director Sergio Garrone.
Made back-to-back with Garrone's nastier SS CAMP: WOMEN'S HELL in 1976, SS EXPERIMENT CAMP lacks the finesse of DEPORTED WOMEN OF THE SS SPECIAL SECTION, outrageous sexual violence of THE BEAST IN HEAT or accomplished misanthropy of THE GESTAPO'S LAST ORGY. Slow, tepid, uninvolving, insipid: it is, for lack of a better word, shit.
And yet, there's a squalid charm to it that perhaps can only be sensed by virtue of nostalgia. You know, when you KNOW you're watching something bad (and not even 'so bad it's good') but derive some perverse pleasure from it anyway. I have a guilty passion for SS EXPERIMENT CAMP and I'm unafraid to say so.
On the plus side, for those who don't have the benefit of VHS-era nostalgia on their side, the film is often unintentionally hilarious (Helmut's outburst of "What have you been doing with my balls?!" is justifiably infamous), the squalor feels authentic and there is more pubic hair on display here than in most golden-era pornos.
Lesbian encounters, drunken orgies, forced showers, unconvincing but mean-spirited violence, copious female nudity: you know the drill.
SS EXPERIMENT CAMP was, of course, originally banned in the UK as a video nasty when GO! Video released it on VHS back in the 1980s. Despite its lack of overt nastiness, the tasteless subject matter and suggestive cover art was enough to trouble the DPP back in the day.
It was granted an uncut DVD release on these shores in 2006. Unfortunately the initial release was fucked up by accidentally carrying the Laura Gemser film LOVE CAMP on its disc; the repressing presented the correct movie, albeit in a horribly murky, pan-and-scan transfer.
All that has changed now that 88 Films have seen fit to unleash this ignoble cult film onto UK blu-ray (the disc is region B encoded), uncut and in 1080p HD.
The print used for the new HD master on this BD25 disc is very clean for the most part. Light grain is natural; images are brighter and more defined than ever before, making for a marked improvement over the old Media Blasters DVD - which had previously been the best way to view this film.
Colours are warm; blacks are deep and strong. Detail is often striking: be it hairy bushes or spotty faces, you can almost smell the sleaze. Noise is pleasingly absent. The 1.85:1 ratio is accurate and contributes to the film looking more cinematic than it has done in the past. Don't get me wrong, it's still a naturally ugly movie - but this is by far the best it has ever looked.
Lossless mono audio comes in choices of English dubbed or, for the first time as far as I'm aware, original Italian language. While the former holds a special place for me in terms of nostalgia, the latter is a minor revelation - hearing the actor's original voices makes the action marginally less cheesy. I did say "marginally" ... and I still prefer the guy who dubbed the Sergeant in that ridiculously forced manner, over Profumo's ever-so-slightly more reserved delivery.
Well-written and easily readable optional English subtitles are provided on the Italian track.
The disc opens to a static main menu page. From there, a pop-up scene selection menu allows access to the film via 8 chapters.
Extras begin with the opening titles in their original Italian language. These run for 101 seconds, also in HD, and oddly enough contain English audio on the soundtrack.
We also get the original Italian language closing titles, which clock in at 69 seconds in length.
As per usual, 88 Films have graced their disc with a canny promo reel showcasing some of their other blu-ray delights. In this instance, we get trailers for CHILDREN OF THE CORN, SPASMO and ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST.
The disc is defaulted to open with a 3-minute trailer for 42ND STREET MEMORIES, the High Rising Productions documentary which also features on 88 Films' ANTHROPOPHAGUS THE BEAST blu-ray.
Although unavailable for review purposes, this release also comes with double-sided reversible cover art (the reverse is a reproduction of the iconic original UK video artwork) and an art-card.
A guilty pleasure that's perhaps unlikely to win many new fans, SS EXPERIMENT CAMP is a cheap and tawdry addition to a most questionable and short-lived sub-genre of 1970s exploitation cinema. It's also remarkably tame by today's standards. But it's served very well here and if, like me, you're a die-hard nasties fan, you must surely already know that you NEED this one in your collection.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by 88 Films|
|see main review|