Scott Murphy returns with another video nasty. This time he breaks down SS Experiment…
The Nasties Review #2
While the Video’s Nasties list does not always make sense (and many would argue its whole existence didn’t) there are certainly themes that begin to appear in what seem to particularly bother the censors. Such as the use of explicit sexual violence (Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, House on the Edge of the Park), murderers that use household items (Driller Killer, The Toolbox Murders), anything with the Cannibal in the title (Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Apocalypse, Mountain of the Cannibal God). Another one was Nazi’s or specifically the Nazisploitation sub-genre. Now while somethings get less shocking over time even to this day anything that could be seen to glamorise the Nazi’s or to exploit the horrors unleashed by the Nazi’s would be seen in poor taste and likely to offend. However many of the films within the Nazisploitation sub-genre are so campy and ridiculous that is hard to be truly offended by them even if they are in very deliberate bad taste. Weirdly the most infamous of all the Nazisploitation films “Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS” managed to avoid the list but our entry today did not:
SS Experiment Camp (1976) (AKA SS Experiment Love Camp AKA Lager SSadis Kastrat Kommandantur)
Director: Sergio Garrone
Starring: Mircha Carven, Giorgio Cerioni, Paola Corrazzi, Attilio Dottesio, Serafino Profumo
Run Time: 91mins
Originally: Part of the Prosecuted 39
Current staus: released uncut in 2005.
SS Experiment Camp is a classic example of moral campaigners denouncing things based on what they think the content is rather than what the actual content is. I mean it is a film certainly in questionable taste and has some nasty moments but it is not really worthy of the notoriety that surrounds it.
The thing that got it in such trouble and made it one of the first “nasties” to be widely written about was the box cover of the video. This is an illustration of a topless women who has been hung upside down on a crucifix (there is a scene like this in the movie but it is not as shocking or horrifying as this image). In the background is the glowering face of an SS Officer. Accompanying this image is the tagline “HORRIFYING EXPERIMENTS…in pursuit of the Master Race”. You can see why it caused a bit of a stir with the censors and moralists of the time.
The thing is the movie itself does not live up to the nastiness of that infamous pre-cert cover. Which is not uncommon amongst exploitation films, as the people producing these types of films like to convince audiences that they have made the most shocking/controversial/hardcore picture you have ever seen – which is often very much not the case.
The film itself is pretty much a box ticking effort of the subgenre. There is bunch of nasty, if not totally convincing, torture scenes, some lesbian scenes, an attempted prison and, of course, the standard over-long leering shower sequences.
The plot is loosely built to give us the requisite helpings of sex and violence. Basically the female prisoners are tortured in a variety from being freezed, to boiled, to have the inner ears pressurised till they bleed. This is apparently to see who the strongest amongst them are and the chosen ones are forced into mating with the finest soldiers Nazi high command have to offer.
This being a movie naturally one of these couplings used for the experiments fall in love. The lovers are French prisoner Mirelle (Paola Corazzi) and “good Nazi” Helmut (Mircha Carven). Helmut while disapproving of the experiments does not exactly do much to try and stop them until much later on in the movie, for hilarious reasons we will get to in a minute, but more just stands about giving disapproving looks and occasionally asking if all this is really necessary.
Like most things in the movie the love story is not entirely convincing. Also proceedings quickly become repetitive as we repeatedly oscillate between torture porn sequences and soft porn sequences. There is some entertaining elements here but most of them not intentional. Like many of the Italian features which appear on the Nasties list the dubbing is pretty hilarious. There is also some amusement to be had at the lack of reality as the women here, who are supposed to be in a Nazi concentration camp!, all look in pretty fine health all things considered while the SS officers seem somewhat suspiciously swarthy for, you know, Germans.
The best thing though is the scenery-chewing performance of Giorgio Cerioni as Col. Von Kleiben who runs the camp. He is so over the top that it is hard not to be amused by him. Also he leads to reason Helmut eventually tries to overthrow the camp (SPOILER ALERT) basically Von Kleiben is ball-less, literally so due to having them bitten off in an attempted rape, and undergoes the world’s first testicular transplant using Helmut as the unknowing donor (he thinks the surgery is for something else). When Helmut eventually realises, which takes much longer than it really should, that is where he draws the line and then goes on a Nazi-killing spree. This lead to the films best moment where Helmut screams at the Colonel: “How ya been doin’ with my balls!”
Overall: If you want to see a good Sergio Garrone film you should probably check out one of his Django films. This is pretty shoddy by-numbers Nazisploitation which is boring and repetitive for long stretches but it is made somewhat entertaining by the cheesy dubbing, wooden acting and the aforementioned bizarro final act.
Nastiness rating: 6/10
Movie rating: 4/10