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Thursday, July 19, 2012

ITALIAN HORROR WEEK: SS EXPERIMENT CAMP FROM THE BLOODY IRIS



The Nazi exploitation (or Nazisploitation) film is considered by some to be one of the most offensive subgenres of cinema, due to its graphic depictions of human experimentation, rape, torture, and degradation. The structure of these is similar to “women in prison” films, only much nastier and with more emphasis on the wartime atrocities of Nazi Germany. It is not suprising that these films were targeted by British censors in the early 1980’s, when a total of four titles were officially designated as Video Nasties – Love Camp 7 (1969), The Gestapo’s Last Orgy (1977), The Beast In Heat (1977), and SS Experiment Camp (1976).


Italian director Sergio Garrone’s SS Experiment Camp (also known as SS Experiment Love Camp) was initially singled out by the censors for its video advertising artwork and listed as a Video Nasty in 1983. The artwork in question, which featured a topless woman tied upside down to a cross, immediately gained negative attention. When the film was eventually allowed to be released uncut in 2005, the British Board of Film Classification admitted that, although the film was offensive, the actual content did not warrant censorship.




SS Experiment Camp centers on a group of female prisoners at a Nazi prison camp which specializes in unusual medical experiments. The camp is run by Colonel von Kleiben (Giorgio Cerioni), while the experiments are overseen by the sadistic lesbian Dr. Renke (Patrizia Melega) and a blackmailed Jewish surgeon, Dr. Steiner (Attilio Dottesio). Most of the prisoners are used as test subjects in the lethal experiments, while others are sent to work as prostitutes in the camp’s brothel. A small group of the more attractive women are chosen to participate in a special kind of experiment, which involves  six of Germany’s finest soldiers – including the sympathetic Helmut (Mircha Carven), who questions the morality of taking innovent lives. One night, new prisoner Mirelle (Paola Corazzi)  catches Helmut’s eye while he is outside smoking, and an attraction immediately develops between them. As the special experiment commences and is revealed to be of a sexual nature, Helmut and Mirelle are both pleased that they have been partnered together.




Trouble begins when Helmut learns that the experiment will soon require the soldiers to alternate partners, as he has fallen in love with Mirelle. Desperate, he goes to the Colonel and asks that Mirelle stay with him, to which the von Kleiben offers a deal. If Helmut agrees to volunteer for an undefined medical surgery, then he will be allowed to stay at the camp longer and remain with her. He agrees and the two lovers are allowed to stay together in another part of the camp until the surgery. After a month passes, Mirelle is taken to see Helmut, who is still recovering from the surgery. As the two begin to make love, Helmut is horrified to discover that his testicles have been removed and implanted into von Kleiben (who had previously had his own bitten off by a rape victim). Chaos erupts as a furious Helmut confronts the Colonel and attempts to escape with Mirelle.





Compared to other entries in the Nazi exploitation film cycle, SS Experiment Camp is not necessarily the most disturbing, but that does not make it any easier to watch. The abuses inflicted upon the women are cruel and guaranteed to unsettle most viewers. Throughout the film, women are dehumanized as disposable objects who serve as either guinea pigs or whores, and who are tossed like garbage into the furnace when they are no longer useful.





The film opens with a pair of women being electrocuted until they pledge allegiance to the Third Reich, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Prisoners have to contend with various medical experiments, which range from ovary removal to eardrums being ruptured in high-pressure tests. Punishments for disobedience are painfully severe. When one of the women is less than enthusiastic with the German man she is assigned to have sex with, she is placed in a tank of water where the dial is alternately turned to boiling hot and then extreme cold, resulting in her being frozen to death. In another scene, a new addition to the brothel is raped when she refuses to have sex with the drunk Sargeant (Serafino Profumo). She gets her revenge by stabbing him repeatedly with a fork and tries to escape but she is shot, hung upside down and left to slowly bleed to death in the center of the camp, as an example to the other prisoners.




Luckily, the ridiculous plot elements, awful English-dubbed dialogue and poor special effects lighten the mood slightly and allow viewers more than a few laughs at the film’s expense. One example is Helmut’s surgery, in which an unusually large set of testicles are removed. With testicles that large, it seems very strange that Helmut doesn’t even notice that they are missing until he tries to have sex with Mirelle a month later.



This film can really only be recommended to Nazisploitation enthusiasts or those who simply have to watch every Video Nasty on the list. The violence will seem tame to those accustomed to modern torture porn or Hong Kong atrocity-themed films like Men Behind the Sun (1988) and Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre (1994), but it still contains enough offensive content to make it an uncomfortable viewing experience, especially for women. Garrone made a second Nazisploitation film right after this one, using most of the same cast and crew of SS Experiment Camp. SS Camp 5: Women’s Hell (1977) is arguably more brutal and is known for its extremely tasteless use of actual concentration camp footage during the credits.



Jenny

Originally published: May 08, 2011


Jenny Spencer is a life-long fan of horror and exploitation films, especially those released in the 1970’s-80’s. She is the editor of the giallo/slasher film blog The Bloody Iris and co-editor of Italian Film Review. On occasion, she has written for other film-related websites, including Hysteria Lives!, The Blood Sprayer, and Videotape Swapshop. 




 Note from Dr. TERROR: Many Bothans died to bring us this information.

 Note from Dr. TERROR #2: YAY!  

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