Saturday, June 4, 2022

Love Camp 7 (1969)

... aka: Camp 7: lager femminile
... aka: Erikoisleiri no 7 (Special Camp No. 7)
... aka: Et sexdyr i lejr 7 (A Sex Animal in Camp 7)
... aka: Le camp spécial N° 7
... aka: Nazi Love Camp 7

Directed by:
R.L. (Lee) Frost

Let's assume ver one ridiculous moment zat I may be interested in vat chu sink!” - The Commandant

Imagine holding the dubious distinction of being the film to kick-start the über-tasteless "Nazisploitation" movement of the 1970s. Yes, this cheap, sleazy and almost comically unconvincing American production may well have been the very first film to use real-life Nazi atrocities as a platform to titillate kinky weirdos out there with gratuitous nudity, rape and torture-bondage. This little film would lay down the foundation for the notorious (and highly successful) ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS (1975), which would itself spawn loads of copycats, particularly in Italy. The common link between Camp and Ilsa was veteran producer David F. Friedman, who later claimed to have regretted being involved in these kind of films. Had Camp not been such a huge success in Canada, Friedman would have never been offered a chance to make Ilsa for Cinépix Film Properties and thus we'd have been deprived such later cinematic classics as S.S. EXPERIMENT LOVE CAMP (1976) and The Beast in Heat (1977). In addition to that, this film would help establish the template for countless women-in-prison exploiters to follow. On these two fronts alone, that makes this one of the most influential exploitation titles of the entire decade!

Camp was met with derision and controversy upon release and ended up banned in numerous countries (including Australia) but it has had an especially hard time in the UK. In 1985, it wound up on their official video nasty list of prohibited titles and was refused a classification. 

A write-up from the BBFC explains their stance: "LOVE CAMP 7 is an exploitation film set in a Nazi 'love camp' during the second World War. The film contains numerous scenes of women prisoners being abused, tortured and humiliated by their Nazi captors. Indeed the whole purpose of the work is to invite male viewers to relish the spectacle of naked women being humiliated for their titillation. LOVE CAMP 7 contains both eroticised depictions of sexual violence and repeated association of sex with restraint, pain, and humiliation. These sequences were in clear contravention of the Board's strict policy on depictions of sexual violence, which prohibits scenes that eroticise or endorse sexual assault. The possibility of cuts was considered. However, because the sexual violence runs throughout the work cutting was not considered to be a viable option'. Other attempts to pass the film in the UK, including in 2002 and again in 2020 for streaming, were both denied.

After the opening narrator informs us, "The story you are about to see is true! It is based on actual fact as told by one who lived it!," we're off to London, where factory president Mr. Latham (uncredited James E. McLarty) and his assistant Johnny (Robert Aiken) are just closing a deal with Texas tycoon Mr. Johnson. Johnson inquires about an unusual framed map on the office wall, prompting Mr. Latham, a former staff sergeant for the Allied European Forces, to go into flashback mode describing how he "directed one of the most unusual spy cases in the world."

We're now in the midst of World War II when much of Europe has been taken over by the Nazis and the UK is under constant bombardment. Germany has been working on a top secret fighter jet that, upon completion, would give them the upper hand in the war. One of the chief scientists who'd been working on the jet is a Jewish captive named Martha Grossman, who has since been transferred to a prison camp in Steingaden, which is used as a rest and recuperation area for tired Germany military officers. The all-female prisoners there have been forced into serving as prostitutes for the men.

Latham and General Olson (uncredited Hugh Thelman) devise an outlandish scheme ("Dat zounds a little var-vetched!"), which involves sneaking two female officers into the camp and having them obtain and memorize as much information about the jet project from Martha that they can. Olson has found the perfect women for the job: Women's Army Corps lieutenants Linda Harmon (Maria Lease) and Grace Freeman (Kathy Williams). Both women are experts in guerrilla warfare, hand-to-hand combat and karate, speak fluent French and German and have gone through a strenuous memorization course which has given them the ability of total recall. They'll be secretly parachuted into enemy territory, given the necessary fake identification cards and false family histories by French revolutionary Robert Calais (John Alderman), then go to a café where they'll be arrested by the Gestapo and thrown into the prison camp. They'll then have five whole days to get the information before being rescued from the camp. Dat plan zounds a little var-vetched!

After successfully parachuting in, the ladies locate Robert. They're given their new identities (Linda will now be "Kara Strasberg;" Grace "Bertha Lichtig") and are told "For the next five days, you will be whores for the Third Reich... and you will have to be convincing for that task!" before being instructed to strip in front of Robert and his leering men. After the ladies are captured by the Nazis, they're told their only function will to be pleasure Nazis but they will be given a cosmetics ration, cigarettes and the proper "toilet accessories" for their "pleasure, cleanliness and hygiene" if they cooperate. They first must earn their place by servicing all of the guards at the camp, which then promotes them to Stalag 2 duties, where they get to service officers, unlisted men and whatever other Nazi wants a piece of the action. Everything is run with an iron fist by the sneering, sadistic Commandant (Bob Cresee - HOUSE ON BARE MOUNTAIN).

The various indignities the girls go through include being put up against a wall and sprayed off with a powerful hose, terrorized by dogs and going through a "medical examination" where they're held down on a desk and violated by a butch, scar-faced, rubber-glove-wearing female doctor, who also subjects them to her sterilization experiments involving injecting poison directly into the womb (something discussed but we never get to see). They're forced to strip off their clothes at the drop of a hat, perform lesbian acts on each other, get on all fours and lick boots, sit on the crotch-splitting "seat of honor" and are subjected to the usual beatings, whippings and rapes. An empathetic but very dumb guard, Sgt. Gotthardt (played none-too-well by monotone Wes Bishop, also the associate producer), is involved in a minor romance subplot with Grace.

The endless sadism and torture grow tiresome after awhile, though it's tempered somewhat by the sheer ineptitude on display, which keeps viewers from ever being able to take a second of this seriously. Most of it takes place on cheap-looking sets with minimal action, what little bit of plot is there is simply absurd and the less said about the accents (when the actors even bother with them!) the better. The cast is mostly comprised of untalented sex film regulars who go through the proceedings with a bare minimum of interest and emotion. Thankfully, there are at least a couple of others on hand trying to one-up everyone else when it comes to giving the most ridiculous OTT camp performance, with Cresse (also the producer and writer) easily taking top honors there, often to hilarious effect.

Female lead Lease, who's a better actress than most of the others featured here, actually went on to have a very interesting career. Not only did she appear in over 20 exploitation films in the late 60s to early 70s (working for the likes of Joe Sarno, Ed De Priest and Al Adamson), but she also went on to a successful career in Hollywood, primarily as a script supervisor for popular TV shows like Boston Legal, The Practice and The Guardian. She also worked as an editor (on films like PLANET OF DINOSAURS and SCHOOLGIRLS IN CHAINS), a writer and even made a handful of hardcore X-rated films in the late 70s and early 80s, often taking a page from Doris Wishman's book and using male aliases. In 1990, she directed and produced the killer doll film Dolly Dearest, which became a big hit on home video. I'm amazed that no one ever tracked this woman down for an interview!

The cast also includes Bruce "Kemp" / Kimball as the most lecherous of the guards, Friedman in a cameo as a military officer, "Shelly Martin" / Shari Mann (star of the same team's much better Starlet!) and Sheri Jackson as prisoners and director Frost in a cameo as a taxi driver.

Released theatrically in the U.S. by Olympic International Films (Cresee's own company), this first showed up here on home video on the Something Weird label in 1994. That was followed by a DVD-R release from the same company in 2001 and then Blu-ray and DVD releases from Blue Underground in 2017. This also received VHS releases in many European countries (including a pre-cert release in the UK) and Japan. The Italian advertising materials list the wrong cast (from Frost's The Scavengers, released the same year).

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