OCTOBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SS HELL CAMP
I grew up in a household where horror films were the order of the day, and my parents had no problems with me watching all of the classic slasher and zombie flicks of the eighties and early nineties. Every weekend, my stepfather, my brother, and myself would all head down to the local video store to pick up a couple of new movies, and we'd then sit around and watch them together. There was one movie that my parents put their foot down on, however, and it was SS Hell Camp - and that was only after my mother walked in on a scene in which a nude woman sexually tortures a nude man. I've always wanted to revisit this film to see if it held up after all these years, and today, I did just that.
There are basically two movies contained within these ninety minutes. The one you came to see based on the title and that infamous Video Nasties list runs for about twenty minutes, and it tells the tale of Dr. Ellen Kratsch (Macha Magall), a sadistic female Nazi officer who is conducting experiments on a half-man / half-beast (Salvatore Baccaro) that is fed a constant diet of mega-aphrodisiacs so that it can be used as a rape machine on the local Jewish girls. The Nazi officers will simply throw a nude young girl into its cage and it will go into a sexual frenzy, literally raping the poor gal to death (and in one scene, it actually rips her pubic hair off with some flesh still intact and consumes it). When Kratsch isn't using the beast to satisfy her own perverse goals, she simply herds the girls down to her underground torture chamber, where women are subjected to having rats eat their innards, having their fingernails ripped out, and even getting electrical prods shoved up their nether regions.
The other seventy minutes consists of the movie that you didn't come to see, and it features a group of rebels led by Drago (Gino Turini) trying to overthrow the Nazi troops, townsfolk lying about the whereabouts of the rebels, and more footage from other films that you can shake a stick at. As a huge contrast to the other chunk of the film, this part is almost clean: there are plenty of shoot-outs and explosions, yes, but it is the old western style of violence in that one man can mow down twenty other men with a machine gun and not a drop of blood will be spilled.
This latter half of the movie is what really drags the entire affair down. It is badly acted, it is atrocious even by war movie standards, the plot is nonsensical, and quite frankly, it's boring as all hell. Here, let me break it down for you: Drago and his men swear vengeance for a third of the time, the Nazis unsuccessfully hunt for the rebels for another third of the time, and the final third consists of a loop of grenades and guns causing men to grab their chest and keel over. Sprinkle this with stock footage of varying quality from other, better war films, and you have the vast majority of SS Hell Camp.
Fortunately, the lab and torture sequences fare much better. Macha Magall is downright sadistic as the leading officer, and she is the only person involved with the film who turned in a halfway decent performance. The events that take place are graphic and disgusting, and yes, exploitation fans will be pleased to see some of the things that go down in that lab. Some of the effects are a bit silly (the "rats" are actually guinea pigs which have been painted black, for example) and it's far from the most graphic film ever released, but it's still entertaining for those who love this sort of filth.
Unfortunately, that was not enough to save the overall film. As mentioned, the film runs for ninety minutes and the "good stuff" only runs for about twenty of them, so sitting through a load of trash to get to the few hidden treasures just isn't worth it. Maybe if it had been a short film I would have given it a recommendation, but as it stands, I just can't do it. 3/10.
OCTOBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SS HELL CAMP
A small band of verbose partisans spend the best part of a movie standing around in the countryside while all around rages a stock footage conflict in a Luigi Batzella war effort that would, no doubt, be largely forgotten were it not for the presence of the beast. The caged beast himself is a hirsute, slightly rotund and perpetually flaccid sex pest of a pube munching monster who lives in a Tiswas cage and "woof bark donkeys" like a crazy Fred West and Jack Black hybrid given to channeling the outbursts of Charlie Chuck.
While the sadly underused exploitation sequences provided ample shocks to send a censorious and moralistic British government into veritable apoplexy, resulting in the inclusion of this title on the video nasty list, the less prudish may find some moments of unintended comedy gold in this blatant attempt at low rent provocative cinema.
Giuseppe Castellano is in this for a few seconds and some guinea pigs in blackface appear in the role of rats but it is the scene stealing Salvatore Baccaro with his manic pouts and grunts who is the true star of the show.
The film may well be unintentionally funny but in terms of achieving the shocks the Beast in Heat fails miserably as it is, beyond a shadow of doubt, not very good and only likely to put the flaccid willies up oversensitive politicians
OCTOBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SS HELL CAMP
SS Hell Camp / The Beast In Heat / Horrifying Experiments of the SS Last Days / Nazi Holocaust / SS Experiment Camp Part 2 / La Bestia in Calore (1977) -****½
It is widely agreed that for most of its existence, the British movie industry has labored under the most intrusive and unreasonable film-censorship regime to be found in any democratic state. Since 1912, when the British Board of Film Censors (now called the British Board of Film Classification— by all accounts, the name-change was purely cosmetic) was constituted to coordinate and standardize censorship and certification rules throughout the land, filmmakers in the UK have had so many hoops to jump through that broad categories of subject matter and even entire genres were often effectively off-limits, even to the most toothlessly innocuous treatment. But for all the hassles confronting native producers and directors, the importers of foreign films generally had it even worse, and nowhere was this more true than in the case of those who sought to import foreign horror films specifically. Where ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedly beasties and things that go bump in the night were concerned, the BBFC could almost always be counted upon to order extensive cuts, to impose absurdly onerous certifications, or even to ban the importation of particularly offensive movies altogether. Some of the censor board’s foreign-film rulings over the years were simply jaw-dropping. Return of the Fly, Dead Men Walk, and Captive Wild Woman were given adults-only ratings. The Mystery of the Wax Museum’s opening title card (identifying London as the setting for the initial scene) was ordered deleted. Island of Lost Souls, Bedlam, and even The Mad Monster were banned for years— decades in the case of the first two! So basically, the BBFC had more than earned its reputation as a bunch of sissies and killjoys by the early 1980’s, and nobody who lived in a country where such an organization was deemed necessary should have been surprised in the slightest by the Video Nasties panic.
There was a big difference, though, between the Video Nasties scare and, say, the ongoing controversy over movies about devil worshipers in the mid-to-late 1960’s. In the 80’s, the movies that had the professional bluenoses running through their supply of smelling salts at ten times the usual rate often really were as offensive as they were reputed to be. What’s more, the distributors were practically begging for a beatdown, using advertising displays and cover art calculated to draw the maximum possible attention to the most antisocial qualities of their merchandise. Now if it’s antisocial qualities we’re talking about, it really is hard to outdo a 1970’s Nazi atrocity movie. The bastard spawn of the previous decade’s roughies, the death-camp porno-violence flicks were just about the vilest things you could see on a commercial movie screen, and a strikingly disproportionate number of the films that would eventually be expelled from the video stores of the UK could be counted within the genre. As if this needed saying, it was in Italy that the greatest numbers of these putrid films seem to have been produced, and in Italy that they are generally held to have reached their high-water mark of putrescence. And that, my friends, brings us at last to SS Hell Camp. There are those who will tell you that SS Hell Camp represents that very high-water mark, and I’m not entirely sure that I’d disagree with them. Lord knows writer/director Luigi Batzella seems to have done everything he could think of during its 80-odd minutes to offend every conceivable audience. On the other hand, he did so with such uniformly slack-assed ineptitude as to make SS Hell Camp one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in 2005.
We begin with what we are assured is an SS-run laboratory where SS doctor Lieutenant Ellen Kratsch (Macha Magall, from The Daughter of Emmanuelle and— go figure— SS Girls) conducts what we are assured are insidious SS-sponsored medical experiments. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s just a ground-floor room in a genteel country inn somewhere. And those medical experiments? They consist of Kratsch tossing a succession of nude women into the cage in the center of the room, where a similarly nude subhuman (Salvatore Baccaro, who also played subhumans in Starcrash and Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks) squats in a heap of filthy straw, waiting to rape them to death. Somehow, this has something to do with breeding an artificial new master race, but I’ll be damned if I understand how that’s supposed to work. For one thing, you’ve got to wonder how genes from that guy in the cage could confer mastery of anything except maybe nose-picking or shit-flinging. For another, wouldn’t it be just a little inconvenient for a breeding program to employ a stud who invariably kills every female who mates with him? And finally, I thought the Germans themselves were supposed to be the master race. What the hell do they want with competition from a bunch of selectively bred neo-Neanderthals?
All those questions can safely be put on the back burner, however, because Kratsch’s “experiments” don’t actually have anything to do with what we may loosely describe as the story. No, to the extent that there’s a plot in this movie, it concerns the activities of the Italian Resistance cell led by Lupo (Xiro Pappas, of Frankenstein ’80 and The Devil’s Wedding Night) and Moreno (Alfredo Rizzo, from The Slaughter of the Vampires and Five Graves for a Medium). Their most effective agent is a demolitions expert named Drago (Gino Turini, from Bloody Pit of Horror and Caligula and Messalina), who has a most unexpected hangup about killing people; he’ll blow up all the strategic bridges Lupo wants, but only after the Nazi troop trains pass over them. Even so, his talents cause the Germans a lot of headaches. The local commander, Captain Hardinghauser (Spirits of Death’s Edilio Kim), has had no success whatsoever in bringing the rebels to heel during the last five months, and his commanding officer, General von Kreutzen, is out of patience with him. Maybe the fact that Hardinghauser’s mistress, Doretta, works for the Resistance herself has something to do with the captain’s ineffectuality, you think? For that matter, Doretta’s sister, Irene (Brigitte Skay, from Bite Me, Darling and Twitch of the Death Nerve), works as Hardinghauser’s cleaning lady, and she’s a Resistance fighter, too. Even when Hardinghauser sends his men to round up the young women of the village which he believes to be the partisans’ headquarters, he has no luck in uncovering the identities of the guerillas or the location of their hideout. That being the case, von Kreutzen decides to send Dr. Kratsch out to give the captain some much-needed backup.
Kratsch’s big chance to help out comes when Hardinghauser’s soldiers capture a partisan named Stefano. Supposedly, the idea is to seduce the desired information out of him, but before Kratsch can make any headway, she gets distracted by the lecherous squawking of one of the other prisoners, and drops everything in order to cut the second man’s dick off with a bayonet. (This seems like a good time to mention that SS Hell Camp is extraordinarily egalitarian when it comes to full frontal nudity. Not coincidentally, it also seems like a good time to apologize to the women of the world for my sex’s appalling laziness in maintaining the appearance of our bodies.) Having thus failed to accomplish anything at all, she forgets all about her supposedly infallible new interrogation technique, and begins overseeing more conventional tortures instead. Stefano eventually blurts out (rather by accident, incidentally) that the partisans are being aided by village priest Don Lorenzo (Brad Harris, from The Mad Butcher and King of Kong Island). Hardinghauser and his men go to the church to follow up on this tip, but picking a fight with a man who used to star in Hercules movies isn’t a very smart idea. Don Lorenzo hulks out and beats an entire squad of soldiers senseless. The Nazis do eventually subdue him, but he makes his escape on the way to the chateau, and Kratsch never gets a chance to see if her vaunted boobs-in-the-face technique is effective on men of the cloth.
Meanwhile, a powerful Wehrmacht unit is on its way to the village, withdrawing before the Allied advance. They find the route blocked by the Resistance, leading to two grand orgies of destruction, spliced clumsily in from Luigi Batzella’s earlier When the Bell Tolls— a project that had sufficient backing to afford things like convincing uniforms, respectable pyrotechnics, large numbers of extras, and borrowed surplus military vehicles. (Note, however, that the higher production values of the recycled battle scenes do not extend to the strafing Allied aircraft, which are nothing but model-kit P-47s dangling shoddily from visible strings. It’s the same technique my high school friends and I would have used had our no-budget homebrew war movie, Flying Rednecks, ever made it past the planning stages.) With the main threat to the village thereby contained, Lupo and Drago lead a small band of partisans in a raid on Hardinghauser’s chateau, which ends with them freeing the surviving hostages and shoving Kratsch (who, it turns out, wears nothing beneath her white lab coat but a garter belt and stockings) into her own freak cage. As the ape-man goes to town on his creator, the two rebels look on with approximately the same mixture of disbelief, distaste, and resignation with which a person might observe their dog fellating himself in front of the holiday guests. It makes for a more eloquent assessment of SS Hell Camp than anything I could ever write.
If Larry Flynt had been allowed to direct an episode of “Hogan’s Heroes,” it might have come out looking something like SS Hell Camp. It surprises me not a bit that easily 90% of the cast and crew accepted no screen credit for this movie, or that the handful of people who did put their names on the screen hid to a one behind pseudonyms. It’s not just that SS Hell Camp is awe-inspiringly stupid and sleazy, but that everything about it is so woefully incompetent that you have to work hard to take actual offense at even its most belligerently offensive elements. A graphic fingernail-extraction scene might sound squirm-inducing on paper, but when the victim lethargically mumbles, “You’re hurting me…” as the pliers wrench away at her cuticles, it kind of spoils the effect. A woman with a pair of rats on her belly beneath a heated tin bucket, burrowing into her flesh to escape the flames, might sound like a nightmare scenario, but when the bucket comes off and we see that the rats are actually two of the world’s most adorable guinea pigs, it puts an entirely different spin on the situation. The repeated and seemingly endless ape-rapes might have had a little more bite to them were it not for Sal Baccaro’s conspicuously flaccid cock flopping hither and yond with abandon, putting the lie to his ludicrously enthusiastic humping. And my God, the facial expressions that man makes!!!! Particularly in the scene where the subhuman yanks out his victim’s pubic hair and eats it, Baccaro’s expressions could inspire nothing but giggles in even the most humorless audience. But honestly, would you expect anything less than an end-to-end travesty from a scenario like this one in the hands of the same man who wrote and directed Nude for Satan? No. Of course you wouldn’t.
This review is part of a B-Masters Cabal salute to the Video Nasties. Click the banner below to see just how much nastiness my colleagues and I could take.
OCTOBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SS HELL CAMP
THE SETUP: Sexual sadism is the name of the game as a bunch of Nazis go around being as venal as they can possibly be.
DISCUSSION: I had always been somewhat curious in what goes on in the notorious Ilsa [she-wolf of the SS] series, so when I saw this Ilsa rip-off [with some glowering uniformed sadist, not in the film] on the cover, I thought I’d check it out.
Now the problem with exploitation films and me is that when I first get it I fast-forward through the first parts to see if there’s anyone hot in it, and to get a preview of what happens. The problem with this is that most of these films turn out to be, well, crap, obviously, but also disappointing in the titillation department. Which means that once I’ve gotten my preview, I kind of dread going back and watching the entire thing. That resulted on this one languishing in my apartment for more than a week before I finally set aside some time to watch it, and even then I was not looking forward to it. I am happy to report, however, that it has entertainment value that made my time expenditure worthwhile—at least until things got too repulsive.
It would seem that our Ilsa stand-in, Doctor Kratsch [sounds like Crash, and amusingly, Trash], our requisite icy blond Nazi, is conducting experiments to increase the virility of this little dwarf she keeps naked in a cage. She claims that these experiments are stupendously important. Often. So in the first scene she brings in this virgin [a little old to be a virgin if you ask me, but times have changed] and tosses him into the dwarf’s cage. He rapes her [shown by him grabbing at her and bouncing up and down], until she’s dead, at which point he cums. And we’re off!
So anyway, like I said, toward the beginning this thing has a lot of entertainment value. The icy blond Nazi is hilarious with her overdone venality and lip-smacking evil glaring and glowering and tormenting. Then you have a bunch of Italians [some quite swarthy, hairy, and hot], trying to look like rural Germans. All of them are badly dubbed, especially funny in the case of the German resistance, as they’ve been dubbed with extremely broad Brooklyn accents. One of them says to a woman who rebuffs him: “Oh, you don’t like bumpkins?” All in all, quite a hoot and much more worth watching than I expected.
However, soon to the atrocities. I didn’t mind the baby being thrown up into the air and machine gunned [because you know, babies, whatever]. The man putting a gun to a woman’s vagina and pulling the trigger I could do without, but by the time we’re seeing women tied up with blood streaming out of their vaginas, I was no longer on board. Then it gets worse. We see a woman’s nails being pulled out, a whole room of torture [which I fast-forwarded through, but it was still nasty], and then the kicker, for me, which was when the dwarf starts pulling the pubic hair out of this woman in his cage. Only, he doesn’t just pull out the hair, whole chunks of skin come off with it [which he eats, btw], giving us several detailed shots of her mutilated pussy. It’s that that point where one starts queasily feeling like “WHY did I want to see this?” And this leads to all sorts of unpleasant self-reflections probably best saved for analysis, not some crap exploitation DVD.
So toward the end the rebels raid the encampment [aided by a great deal of poorly-matched stock war footage], and justice is served. I have to say I found the conclusion, in which there is a bit of recompense for the evil a certain character has doled out, to be rather powerful and compelling. It actually makes one consider that there may have been something more compelling than simple exploitation to the desire to make this film; a leftover rage against the Nazis and a desire for revenge against them for their occupation. It may be true, but the rest of the movie is gleefully wallowing in their venality.
SHOULD YOU WATCH IT?
It actually has some level of interest to it, but it does go a little far for me in the sexual torture department.
OCTOBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SS HELL CAMP
'Naziploitation' flicks are the true bottom-feeders of the cult movie universe... You just can't get any lower in terms of sleaze and depravity without resorting to outright fetish porn. While certain films of the notorious 'Nunsploitation' subgenre might give 'em a run for their money in the perversity department, the Gold Party Badge for Abject Heinousness goes to these freaky fascists in a cakewalk. One of the most notorious Naziploitation films is 1977's SS Hell Camp (aka The Beast In Heat), which earned its bad boy rep when banned in the U.K. during the "Video Nasties" era. The movie's actually more stupid than offensive, though it does contain enough vileness to disgust just about anyone. Luckily for us the filth is inundated by an avalanche of cheese. When a film can be both utterly revolting and unintentionally hilarious at the same time — well, I suppose that counts for something.
In Nazi-occupied Italy, foxy female SS scientist Dr. Kratsch (Macha Magall) is conducting experiments to "artificially" create a Master Race. Somehow this involves giving injections to a Neanderthal-like brute and throwing naked women into a cage for him to rape to death. (This sex-crazed "Beast" is played by Salvatore Baccaro, billed here as "Sal Boris", though cult movie mavens will recognize him as "Boris Lugosi" from Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks.) Partisan raids and acts of sabotage increase in the area as Allied forces approach, so the local German Army commander launches a wave of brutal reprisals on the villagers. Old ladies and kids are shot. Young, good-looking women are rounded up and taken away. Later some of the resistance fighters are captured. The twisted Dr. Kratsch is ordered to lend her expertise to their interrogation. She and her co-ed squad of private SS bodyguards amuse themselves with the prisoners as the rapacious Beast enjoys a steady supply of test subjects. Meanwhile, the surviving partisans — aided by a kindly priest (Brad Harris) and a prostitute (Brigitte Skay) spying on the Germans — plan a full-scale attack on Kratsch's HQ...
SS Hell Camp is so hideously awful and embarrassing that I can easily understand why its (semi) 'name' performers — 'eurospy' star Harris (the Kommissar X series) and the voluptuous Skay (Twitch of the Death Nerve) — would want to remain uncredited despite playing central roles, and why director Luigi Batzella (Nude for Satan) helmed under an alias. The actors and craftspeople who did use their real names obviously have no shame or even an ounce of dignity.
The film manages to avoid total debasement by steering clear of the Holocaust as sexploitation fodder, yet one can't have a Z-grade Naziploitation pic without atrocities. SS Hell Camp certainly has its share: a baby is tossed into the air and machinegunned; a woman is raped and then shot point blank in the vagina by her attacker; various methods of sexual torture are applied with lascivious glee by the horny Dr. Kratsch and her minions. The rape scenes with the Beast are simply appalling, plumbing subterrene depths of crudity even within the realm of exploitation. Most repellent of all is the infamous sequence in which Kratsch's caged monstrosity bloodily rips a large patch of pubic hair from one of his victims — dangly bits of skin still attached — and proceeds to eat it... all in extreme close-up. (To be blunt: this is some SICK-ASS SHIT, y'all.) Mercifully, the bulk of this carnage is so sloppily, ineptly staged that it's funny rather than horrifying. In one scene docile, black-painted guinea pigs stand in for (supposedly) voracious rats... Shades of Bruno Mattei!
Of course the real atrocities here are the acting, dubbing and dialog. They are pathetic — some of the worst I've ever seen in an Italian film. The script is brimming with nonsensical howlers which the wretched dubbing only accentuates. (One of the partisans has an Oklahoma drawl, while a Wehrmacht lieutenant reports to his superior sounding like cartoon voice artist Arnold Stang!) As to the film's technical merits, there are none. It's shoddy, inept and woefully cheap-looking. Military history buffs like me will guffaw at the screwed up German uniforms/regalia and the toy P-47 fighter-bombers. Anachronisms abound. (German soldiers sport long 1970s hairstyles under their helmets; a pair of men's bright red bikini briefs is seen hanging on a clothes line.) Most of the battle footage is lifted from another movie, made years earlier, and is poorly integrated with the partisan scenes. Naturally, all the sex and torture stuff is completely gratuitous. (And follows the pattern for most Naziploitation fare in being gender-neutral in its misanthropy. There's quite a bit of full frontal male nudity on display, and men are tortured and sexually abused as well as the women.)
Thank goodness SS Hell Camp is loaded with cheesy laughs... Otherwise I'd feel pretty icky for having watched it.
With the release of SS Hell Camp Media Blasters launches a new DVD sub-label, Exploitation Digital, to join the ranks of Tokyo Shock, Shriek Show and Guilty Pleasures. This debut disc presents its subject in anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen, utilizing a transfer in that's in pretty fair shape — some of the nighttime scenes are too dark and there's some print damage here and there, but overall it's quite acceptable when one considers that the movie was made on a shoestring. (It should be noted that stock footage incorporated into the battle scenes looks decidedly worn and washed-out in comparison to the rest of the film.) The DVD's mono track is reasonably clear, permitting full enjoyment of all the screams, grunts and ridiculously bad dubbing. For bonus materials you get are a photo/still gallery and a slate of trailers (for this film and three other MB titles, including a future Exploitation Digital release, Elsa: Fraulein SS). Brief liner notes on Naziploitation flicks (and SS Hell Camp in particular) are also included. Curiously, the Nazi officer depicted on the disc's cover art and Main Menu screen looks a lot like an angry Bruce Willis! 1/15/05
OCTOBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SS HELL CAMP
The Italians always maintained a hard-on for remodelling hits, and with the advent of German concentration camp films (Nazploitationers) such as Love Camp 7 (1967) and the more successful Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1974) the celluloid phallus was violently caressed until it ejaculated into a gas chamber full of copycat spawn. These were mostly made by Italian filmmakers with the desire to shock and titillate, relying on sensationalism by money and success hungry production companies who seemed to have as much conscience as ol' Adolf had love for the Jews.
Before this Shriek Show release SS Hell Camp (or the The Beast in Heat as it is more widely know) proved to be quite obscure, and as well as earning itself a spot on the infamous British video nasties list it also brought in a small fortune among collectors and the depraved alike, where copies would go for anywhere up to 600 hundred bucks Australian .The film is also quite perverse and it has been noted at one stage the majority of the cast and crew had wanted their names removed. Welcome to The Beast in Heat/ La Bestia in Calore, or in another of it's alternate names that seems more fitting, Horrifying Experiments of the S.S. Last Days.
The story itself is standard fare about an Ilsa Koche like character called Dr. Krash (played by Macha Magall). Dr. Krash, like Ilsa, is a dominant, buxom, whip cracking blonde, who is just as of fond of filling her crack as advancing the white race by conducting bizarre experiments. One of the results of her latest experiment is a grotesque, libido boosted, Neanderthal fuck machine to whom she feeds nubile young virgins to satisfy his hungers. How this will further the Germans war efforts is beyond me. Anyway Salvatore Baccaro (aka Sal Boris who also plays "Oook" in Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks) is the Beast in question, and he hams it up in great fashion. Sal, who also goes under the name Boris Lugosi (a composite of two great screen fiends) is a Michael Berryman type actor, cast for his looks which only a mother could love. Apart from bonkin Sal Boris the rest of the film consists of a flimsy plot about Partisan resistance attempts to hide and conceal info from the Nazi's.
SS Hell Camp is by no means a great film and doesn't have as much pizzazz as some of it's classier and more stylish cousins like Salon Kitty (1976) and Red Night's of the Gestapo (1976) although it does have quite a nasty and sometimes ludicrous side to it if you can look past some of the dodgy FX and dead pan acting, more similar in tone to the nauseating, repulsive, but enjoyable Women's Camp 119 (1977) and Gestapo's Last Orgy (1976).
SS Hell Camp boasts plenty of male and female nudity, sleaziness, and some extremely sinister scenes if you don't allow yourself to be too subjective. Ol Bonkin Boris rips flesh and pubes straight from the groinal garden with his teeth and babies are used for clay pigeon shooting practice even if the scene is a little unconvincing. A teen girl is raped and then has a pistol inserted into her twat and shot, labia are cooked by sparkling electrodes, men are castrated, finger nails are extracted and in another hilarious scene a guinea pig is the understudy for a rat during a torture sequence.
As for the negative side of things, the film never seems to be sure whether it's an action or Exploitation film. The pacing and direction by Batzella, who incidentally started his career as an actor, leaves a lot to be desired (He never ever shot another film after this). The majority of the cast's performances make primary school play actors look like bonafide thespians with the exception of Macha Magall who was becoming a Nazploitationer regular after appearing in Bruno Mattei's SS Girls the same year and Salvatore Baccaro who really doesn't have to do much apart from acting the imbecile, grunting and raping. The script doesn't help much either and the dialogue in places is hilariously bad.
With the Italian legacy of inserting Barry Mannilow boring stock war footage plus extra included scenes from Batzella's previous war film When the Bell Tolls to pad out the movie your fast forward button becomes a hard won ally. Have I mentioned how bad the shoot out scenes are?
OCTOBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SS HELL CAMP
SS HELL CAMP (1977)
Director: Ivan Kathansky (Luigi Batzella)
Media Blasters/Exploitation Digital
During the 1970s, Italy took its fetish of making Nazi movies to two different levels. Some of the efforts were overbaked exercises in artsy decadence, while another group of films just played the genre for all its distasteful worth. With the release of the U.S.-produced ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE S.S. in 1974, the rise in Italian-made swastika sleaze was on the rise over the next few years, and S.S. HELL CAMP (aka THE BEAST IN HEAT) was one of the most outrageous offerings of the lot. It happens to have been one of the infamous “video nasties” in the U.K, but unlike most of the titles on that list, the outrage over this one seems duly justified.
Though released in 1977, the film actually uses a lot (and I mean a lot) of padding from a 1970 war film titled WHEN THE BELL TOLLS (from the same director) which presents a subplot about partisans forming an uprising and fighting the Nazis within their village. This allows for a lot of ordinary TV violence type situations; a lot of gun fights, embarrassingly faded stock war footage from another entity, and several toy planes on wires. A number of familiar faces from Italian horror and exploitation movies grace these scenes, including Brigitte Skay (TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE), Gino Turini (THE VAMPIRE AND THE BALLERINA) and Alfredo Rizzo (PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE). You’ll also spot American muscleman star Brad Harris as a bearded priest who proves he can kick some Nazi ass, as he sprouts absurd dialog like “The Lord won't betray you, he's the best!" These scenes can be tedious, but actually allow for something of a plot and are blended well with the atrocities to follow…
SS HELL CAMP’s new, genuine footage mostly takes place on one lab setpiece, and it’s a set you’ll feel like hosing down after the viewing experience! The star is German-born Macha Magall as Dr. Ellen Kratsch, a lieutenant in Hitler's Third Reich. Garbed in black, she looks quite attractive as she portrays a ruthless, sadistic and quite kinky character -- whether she’s rubbing her bare breasts against a tied-up pretty boy or castrating the poor bastard imprisoned next him! Her prize creation is a Neanderthal man, played to the hilt by Salvatore Baccaro (here billed as Sal Boris, but he also went under the name Boris Lugosi!). Although the European posters promised a gorilla-like figure, Baccaro plays the part with no make-up at all, and like Rondo Hatton before him, he doesn’t need any. The truly ape-resembling actor spends the whole time naked (with a disturbingly large pimple above his fanny) and in a cage, while beautiful girls are tossed in with him for the purpose of breeding some sort of new race, even though his subjects perish in a violent and bloody manner. The softcore stimulated sex scenes allow the actor to grunt, grown and make obscene faces at the camera, and one of his screaming victims has her pubic hair torn off as he munches on it like it was a handful of Oreo cookies! Baccaro also played smaller roles in other Nazi exploiters like SS GIRLS and SALON KITTY, but he is probably best known for this one, as well as playing “Ook” (a Neanderthal man) in FRANKENSTEIN’S CASTLE OF FREAKS.
Other atrocities in the lab/torture chamber include women being shocked with electrodes attached to their genitals; another's belly made a snack for rats (actually guinea pigs); a naked guy being hung upside-down, while one is whipped and dunked head-first into a tub of water; and another frizzy-haired gal having her fingernails torn out with an metal instrument as she deadpans, “Stop, you’re hurting me!” Also, on the outskirts of the village, a baby in a blanket is tossed in the air and machine gunned, and an unfortunate teenage girl is raped and then shot in her womanhood! Pretty wild stuff, huh? At any rate, S.S. HELL CAMP may not be the nastiest of the Nazi exploitation films, but it certainly well represents the explicitness and unbridled silliness of the genre, and a great place to start for those unfamiliar with it.
For anyone who ever owned or rented the old Video City VHS version of this title will be presently surprised here. Media Blasters has inaugurated its new Exploitation Digital label with SS HELL CAMP, and it’s presented in an anamorphic widescreen with its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The image is sharp and looks very good, with vivid color schemes. Only when the film switches briefly to some shoddy stock footage does the picture become inferior, but there are few visible defects in the source print. The English dubbed audio track has clear and audible dialog, with the sound effects being fine and the synth music score never overpowering.
Extras on the disc include the film’s trailer (as well as trailers for other Media Blasters releases), a decent still gallery, and a booklet with liner notes by Paolo Zelati, giving a good overview on this film and Italian Nazi cinema in general. (George R. Reis)
OCTOBER 19 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : SS HELL CAMP
Directed by: Luigi Batzella
First released: June 1982
Current status: Banned in the UK, available uncut in the US
The Beast in Heat is one of the most famous of the Video Nasty’s, and goes by many other names, most famously SS Hell Camp but also under the titles SS Hell Camp 2 and Horrifying Experiments of the SS Last Days. Clearly from the titles this film’s whole intention was to shock, and shock it did. There were a number of films released in the 70’s based on Naziploitation including the Ilsa series, The Gestapo’s Last Orgy and Red Nights of the Gestapo. All were depraved in their own wonderful way, but it was The Beast in Heat which made The List and managed to get itself banned outright in the UK. Of the 39 films actually banned from the Video Nasty’s List, The Beast in Heat was one of them. The film was released uncut in June 1982 by JVI and was added to the Video Nasty list in October 1983 and has never been available in the UK since. It’s reputation alone makes it one of the most sought after of all the Video Nasty’s, with dodgy VHS copies selling for up to £500 back in the 80’s! Thankfully you can get it on region 1 for a pretty good price, but the fact it was selling for so much at one point just goes to show how in demand this film was. It was actually one of the rarest of all the Video Nasty’s.
Now, if you look at the quality of the film it most certainly does not warrant £500 but I can definitely see what all the fuss was about. To be honest, this is one of those so bad its great films that has so many errors and dodgy dubbing, it’s very hard to take seriously. However, as it’s clear the main intention was to shock then the film most definitely lives up to its reputation. How the hell anyone came to ever be involved in making this film, let alone a studio actually agreeing to it is beyond me. This is exploitation of the most obvious kind, with the plot simply added to allow the makers the chance to slot in their scenes of torture, rape and violence. Is it enjoyable? Well, I just re-watched it and actually found it highly enjoyable, if laughable, but it certainly kept me entertained with its brilliant mix of war movie and nasty torture-porn. For those that don’t know I shall explain the plot…
The Nazi’s are losing the war and are doing all they can to hold on. In a tiny village in the country there is a group of soldiers intent on stopping the Nazi’s who are based close by. Blowing up a bridge, the soldiers have cut off the Nazi’s main train route for weapons etc. This angers the Nazi leader, who calls up his man in charge of the bridge and interrupts him having sex with a prostitute. In a cleverly comical moment, the guy in charge of the bridge answers the phone, realises who it is and gives a great big Nazi salute allowing his trousers to fall down and making him look pretty damned stupid. Tongue n cheek is the name of the game here really, and it’s only the torture and rape that comes across as disturbing, if a little over the top. Anyway, the Nazi’s are now on the hunt for the rebel soldiers and decide to grab as many wives’, girlfriends, daughters and nieces and take them to their hideout where Warden/Dr Ellen Kratsch (Macha Magall) is carrying out experiments on her prisoners, and what gloriously nasty experiments they are. She also keeps a Man/Beast in a cage and feeds him drugs which give him an enormous sexual appetite. To satisfy his needs and to entertain her own sexual and brutal desires, she often throws in a female prisoner for the Man/Beast to rape. The rebel soldiers are desperate to save the women, and so decide to attack the Nazi hideout. That’s your plot, so let’s get to the good stuff.
Quite simply if ever there was a film to offend just about everyone, this is it. Nazi’s are always a dodgy subject for starters and so heighten the level of brutality on offer here. To give you an example of just how proudly offensive this film is, just take a look at the first seven minutes. Incredibly, in seven minutes we have witnessed a vicious rape by the Man/Beast on a poor woman prisoner, the rape is bad enough but as he claws at her naked body he draws blood and so you could call this violence in the most horrific way possible too. We are introduced to the Man/Beast as he stands in his cage, stark naked with it all hanging out shaking the door of his cage, he cannot wait to have his way with this poor girl, she herself is thrown in naked and we see more naked flesh than you would do in an average soft porn movie, and just to top off everything Dr Kratsch becomes aroused and kisses one of her female guards. Now, I don’t know quite how accepted lesbians were in those days, but I’m sure it wasn’t as normal as it is now. So, an indication as to how proudly this film lives up to its reputation is there in less than ten minutes of the film being on and it has probably managed to piss off just about everyone in one way or another! However, the comedy is always just around the corner to keep you both entertained as well as shocked. As the rape is going on, the brutal Dr Kratsch bellows at the poor girl being punished and tells her “what are you screaming for you silly fool! After all, my creature is only showing you some affection!” Wise words indeed and I’m sure the poor girl has taken it all on board and thought “yeh ok, I suppose” and stopped screaming and let the Man/Beast have his wicked way! Then there’s that brilliant use of the word fool again as Dr Kratsch turns to a male guard and asks him if he is aroused. Honestly he answers yes and is met with the angry words of “spineless fool! A soldier of the Third Reicht is not allowed to get excited!”
Ah, Dr Kratsch, believe it or not there is something incredibly sexy about her. She is actually very attractive, and the way she is so open about sex in general, showing a stocking here and a bra there makes her one of the sexiest bad women EVER to grace our screens. The fact she is in complete control is also domineering and exciting, and then there’s that Nazi uniform. Basically, she is every man’s secret crush, no matter how evil she is there is something about her which is hard to deny. Hell, it may just be me but damn she’s good! In a bizarre, unsettling way you actually find yourself routing for her! Anyway, moving on from the lovely Dr we head into a more war like film after witnessing what goes on in the Nazi hide out, and the film quickly tries to bring a story of the Rebels to the surface to get the viewer to actually choose sides. We all know who are the good guys, but the bad guys are just way too much fun and after having a taster of what the film has been banned for, we want more! Unfortunately we get more, but at times it does go a bit too far. A scene involving a baby wrapped in a blanket being tossed in the air by the Nazi’s and coldly shot at whilst on its descent is too much, and then when the Nazi casually shoots the Mother as well it’s clear that elements of this film are incredibly distasteful.
But there is so much bad stuff in the film; it is very hard to really allow it to get under our skin. One moment of horrific violence is followed by another laugh out loud moment. Thankfully the dubbing plays a strong part in keeping the laughter going as it is absolutely terrible, but in a good way! An indication as to how bad it is is when they actually dub over something that wasn’t even said. Meeting with the Nazi leader, Dr Kratsch is asked “would you care for a drink?” which is met with her response of “have you got any brandy?” However, Dr Kratsch’s lips do not move at all while she says it, genius! Intended or not, it’s moments like these that help clear your head from the harsh realities of what else is going on. We get to know a few key characters, the names of which escape me but there is a Priest in the village who helps the rebels and there are a few rebels themselves who we get to know and feel for. Incredibly, for such an exploitation movie, the plot (thin as it is) really really works. The Rebels against the Nazi’s throws up some great moments like a big fist fight in the Church and also some great gun battles which look like real footage has been mixed with the actual film to brilliant effect. Bombs go off, guns are fired and running battles commence to stimulate your senses and really get you involved in the story. On second watch i was able to see past the violence and rape and actually try and take in the rest of the film and it was actually very well put together. I fully appreciate the whole point to the story is to give an excuse for the offensive stuff, but it actually really works. Intentional or not, the maker’s have hit all the right notes perfectly.
The mix of cheap effects and stock footage of the War make the action scenes actually rather impressive, but as with all the Video Nasty’s, it’s the violence we’ve come to see. We want to know exactly why these films were banned in the first place, and this film answers all those questions and more. Back to Dr Kratsch’s “torture chamber” a group of local girls have been rounded up, with one of them telling the others “even if you have to die, be strong. Be strong girls, resist” That speech of almighty power and enthusiasm is then met with the camera suddenly jumping to an extended torture scene involving all those girls and some silly looking men. We now go through over ten minutes of pure torture and horror and it’s so incredibly vicious you cannot help but be totally enthralled by the guts of the film makers. Men are strung up and Dr Kratsch teases them by removing her shirt. One guy finally loses it and screams out “I WANT YOU!!” which is a much better response than he first guy who calls her a “Bitch on heat”. The poor fella who wants her so badly is castrated and the sorry, sad thing is Itch that scene and think to myself “damn, that’s what I would’ve said too”.
To finish the film off in fine and expected style we are given the opportunity to witness some of the most degrading sexual violence and brutality we are ever likely to see. Yes it all looks rather dodgy and crap as the effects are not all that great, but just get past all that and think about what the makers were willing to show you: a woman having her private bits eaten by rats (which were actually guinea pigs painted black!), another woman having her private parts electrocuted, the man who is castrated screaming and looking dead straight at the camera as if to say “Look at how much pain I’m in!” and then there’s the Man/Beast who viciously tears off a woman’s pubic hair and eats it in a horrible scene of violence and over the top ecstasy. The Man/Beast has many moments like this and even though it’s clear the actor is doing his best to insult the viewer and camp it up, there’s too much fun involved and it borders on being too acceptably vicious.
There is so much to like about this film, and there is so much to be offended by. What I do love and respect about this masterpiece is that there are films out there that try their best to hide the fact that they are offensive and violent, and yet films like this happily cherish in the fact that they will upset pretty much everyone. Personally I love that, why hide the fact you have made an exploitation movie, enjoy it for Christ sake. Not one person could use the excuse they have watched this film based on plot, it’s all about how brutal it is, how nasty. I really love the fact that this film is happy to cherish the fact that it is wrong, it is nasty and it is violent, and the film itself is honest in its portrayal of it. It doesn’t leave anything to the imagination and it doesn’t sugar coat anything. It simply adores the fact it is a nasty little film and I love it. Honesty is always the best policy!
Did this film deserve to be banned as a Video Nasty: Hell yeh!!
Does this film deserve to still be banned today: Damn fucking right it does, this is the most lovingly depraved film you will ever see. It is intended to shock, that’s its whole purpose and it damnwell exceeds and does it well. Nasty, wrong, offensive and vicious all rolled into one tight, perfect little exploitation flick, enjoy!!!