A look at Blue Underground’s Blu-ray release of early Nazisploitation film Love Camp 7
A few weeks ago, one of our writers reached out to exploitation film icon and beloved performer (and ordained minister!) Dyanne Thorne — Ilsa herself — and asked about conducting a new interview about her work in film, primarily her role in 1974’s landmark trash favorite Ilsa She Wolf of the SS. She politely declined. Her reason? The western world was in enough of a state of escalating tension of hate without dragging up stories of sex and swastikas and historically-documented sadism and genocide.
You know if Ilsa declines talking about the unsavory subgenre known as Nazisploitation, then it must still carry some taboo weight.
True, Nazisploitaion is a grim and unfortunate offshoot of the exploitation/sexploitation genre, one that was indefeasible then and remains so today. Sure, we almost always crib from reality to sculpt our fantasies, but is there really anything particularly entertaining about using one of the most outrageous and devastating documented examples of mass-madness, murder and misery in order to see some titties and fake blood? I don’t know. I’m no prude. But I’ve never really “got” Nazisploitation, or at least I’ve never gotten any real pleasure out of watching it.
There are exceptions of course. Tinto Brass’ Salon Kitty. Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter. These are masterpieces of real deal cinema that simply use the holocaust as a setting for real stories of human transgression. But at the end of the day, it was the success of these pictures that led to Ilsa and her Euroskeezy ilk. Or were they? Which came first?
In truth, it was a little American greaseball trasher called Love Camp 7 directed by Lee Frost, who had previously helmed the legendary nudie The House on Bare Mountain. The film is produced by the late David F. Friedman, the ex-carny and junk film pioneer who made gore history with his frequent partner, H.G. Lewis (and later helped steer Ilsa to the screen). In fact, the blueprint for Love Camp 7 was brought to Lewis by Friedman in the early ’60s, but Lewis balked and they made Blood Feast instead.
Love Camp 7 starts as an Ian Fleming-esque spy adventure, with the allied forces in WW2 plotting a daring rescue of scientist Martha Grossman from a concentration camp. Said camp is really a glorified brothel, populated primarily by women prisoners who are kept to sexually pleasure the SS honchos. Enter female spies Linda Harman (Maria Lease) and Grace Freeman (Kathy Williams), a pair who swallow their dignity and hide out as prisoners in the camp and are quickly dragged into a cesspool of sickness and depravity. The camp is run by an Artie Shaw looking, chubby Nazi (Bob Cresse, who also co-produced) who really loves his work and totally hates women. Much rape, torture and murder ensues and — thankfully — the bad guys get theirs at the end. That way Friedman and company can have their cake and eat it too, getting off their audience with the nasty stuff and justifying it with bloody comeuppance. An old exploitation film trick, to be sure…
Because Love Camp 7 was an early entry in the genre, it’s not as vulgar as, say, Gestapo’s Last Orgy or SS Hell Train. But it ain’t a movie you’ll want to watch with your mom, unless your mom thinks these sorts of things are funny or you have a really kinky relationship with her. And Love Camp 7 is pretty funny and kinky. Because it’s an American sleaze flick from the ’60s, there’s a certain look and tone to it that somehow lightens up the depravity, or at least gives it a weirdly accessible vibe. It’s not as oppressive as you might think and Blue Underground’s pretty HD remaster of the film really draws out the garish color palette. It looks like an episode of The Brady Bunch. You know that one where Mike dressed up as a Nazi Commandant and stripped, whipped and raped Marsha and Jan? It’s exactly like that.
This writer isn’t a big fan of Nazisploitation but I recognize the historical significance of Love Camp 7 and, like all vital pieces of film lore, it deserves this handsome edition. Those looking for a flurry of extras to put the picture in better context might be bummed to learn that there’s not much in the way of extras. And older Charles Band compilation film shows up on the back end and it’s ample fun but certainly doesn’t deepen the Love Camp 7 experience. Better is the illustrated booklet, which zips through the greasy history of this icky subgenre in an easy to digest way. But the main attraction is the film itself, looking better than it ever has… maybe better than it should look!