In the UK, if you remember the early 80's there's a very good chance that you'll have heard of the exploitation movie SS Experiment Camp (1976). This was after all an infamous flick that was majorly responsible for helping kick off the whole video nasty furore in Britain back at that time. The promotional poster used for it was the one from its video box and it depicted a naked woman hung upside down with a swastika hanging from her, while an ominous face of an SS officer looks sinisterly on. This, along with a title that promised all kinds of atrocities played out in the hugely taboo arena of the Holocaust, meant that it quickly became an enemy of the state and condemned by all manner of people who most probably hadn't seen it. I reckon most couldn't have because in reality SS Experiment Camp turned out to be an enormously silly film with some genuinely hilarious moments (I realise that is hard to believe but trust me on this one please). Whatever the case, along with fellow nasty Driller Killer (1979) its legend far outstripped its content, which was admittedly in poor taste but hardly shocking stuff. Anyway, getting back on track, its director Sergio Garrone made another nazisploitation film back-to-back with it called SS Camp 5: Women's Hell. This one never made the notorious video nasty list but only due to the trifling matter that it was never actually released on home video in the UK at that time because if it had I would be willing to bet my mortgage that it would have found itself on that list in super quick time. Despite having a less prominent reputation, there is no question that this is the nastier film of the two.
The Italian nazisploitation sub-genre is one that I have some interest in given that it still seems incredible that there was an actual cycle of these kinds of movies. Even today they are pretty notorious and are not necessarily the kind of thing you would tell everyone you had spent time watching. But the way I see it is that in the 40's if Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler had envisioned that thirty-five years in the future a bunch of low budget Italian film-makers were to depict their beloved Nazi regime as compromising of badly dubbed sexually deviant sociopaths in a bunch of z-grade exploitation movies, I daresay Adolf and Heinrich would have been mortally offended. So for this reason, I say hooray for nazisploitation. In fairness, it's a genre which is decidedly ropey and with some entries that are particularly unpleasant. But they are a historical oddity now and so seem safer to prod and check out with the benefit of hindsight.
Like the genre in general, SS Camp 5: Women's Hell operates under the women-in-prison bracket of film. In this one, the women are immediately divided into two groups by the Germans. Those that will work as forced prostitutes and those who will be used for human experiments. To this end, both the soft-core and horror bases are covered right away. Of the latter there isn't necessarily a lot but what there is is pretty sleazy and violent – a group of escapees are burned in one of the camp ovens (very unconvincingly to be fair), while a grim torture scene follows on from this where we witness all manner of delights such as a tongue being ripped out, fingers being burned, a stomach being shredded by a metal knuckle-duster and a head being crushed in a vice. The camp experiments themselves restrict themselves to legs being set on fire. None of this stuff is particularly convincing but it's the thought that counts and its pretty mean-spirited throughout. The soft-core stuff compromises of lashings of nudity and some rape scenes – if you're looking for erotica it sure isn't to be found here! Despite all this depravity, the most offensive thing about the film is the decision to include genuine death camp footage in amongst all this sleazy movie exploitation. Now, that is bad taste in the truest sense of the word and definitely not in a good way. On the whole, I enjoyed this one though. It's basically another slice of successfully unpleasant Italian Nazi exploitation. Its neither in the bracket of the most extreme of this genre, nor is it one of the softer ones; I would say it falls slap bang in the middle and could accurately be described as a textbook example of this kind of thing.
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