Friday, 16 July 2010

SS Camp: Women's Hell (1977)

Nazi experiments to create the ultimate "three-legged race"
contestant didn't go as well as anticipated

Like Bruno Mattei's twin Nazisploitation efforts SS Girls and Women's Camp 119, Sergio Garrone shot this one back-to-back with SS Experiment Love Camp. It recycles the same actors, sets, costumes etc, but unlike Mattei's films it doesn't try as hard to establish a different identity for each film. It's virtually the same fucking movie, save for one difference: this one isn't as squeamish about exploiting it's setting. The first film delicately avoided any topic that might be deemed too holocausty, but this one begins with real holocaust photographs of emaciated corpses being loaded into incinerators, shovelled into mass graves etc. Faaantastic.

Like all of these movies, it starts bunch of semi-attractive young women being herded into a camp and lectured by villainous SS officers, here Colonel Strasser (Giorgio Cerioni) and his female second-in-command (Patrizia Melega). Both of these actors are playing pretty much the same characters as in SS Experiment Love Camp, even down to Melega being an evil lesbian. There's also Magda (Paola Lelia), the madam of a local brothel, who has the authority to take her pick of the girls. She takes a particular interest in Alina (Rita Manna) and I can't really blame her since Alina's easily the most attractive of the bunch. Alina is apparently Jamaican even though she has a broad American accent, but I guess everybody in this film has a broad American accent so it's not a big deal.

Subsequently there's the obligatory shower scene (Magda leers over them creepily as she insists that they must "take perfect care of their bodies") and in preparation for a big party the girls are led into the brothel where they laugh and fight over dresses. All except one girl, who inexplicably stares at a sequined dress in confusion for the entire scene. Once they are all dolled up and led out to the guests, Colonel Strasser becomes infatuated with Alina. I don't know why, since she displays no emotion and peppers him with passive-aggressive insults, but if I've learnt anything from these Nazisploitation flicks it's that these SS guys were into some weird shit. Later, back at Strasser's private quarters, she starts fondling a plastic banana and then does a sexy nude dance with the banana dangling suggestively over her crotch. Like I said, weird shit.

Meanwhile, the girls rejected by the brothel are used as fodder to test an experimental burn ointment. They set fire to the girl's gams, sans anaesthetic of course, and then apply the ointment to the wound. Apparently they've killed over a thousand prisoners this way with no progress, which would suggest that the ointment is pretty useless, but the evil scientist demands more time and more test subjects. There is one scientist, Dr. Abraham (Attilio Dottesio, once again playing virtually the same character), who disagrees with the experiments and only works under the condition that his daughter Judith (Paola Corazzi) is spared from the gas chamber.

When Alina isn't busy boinking Strasser she helps some of the other girls to get employed at the brothel so they can execute a daring escape plan. One of the girls steals a bottle of poison from the infirmary by pretending to be sick and seducing the lesbian officer, who is for some reason treating injured prisoners instead of the doctors. Actually the infirmary is just a storage room with red crosses painted on some cardboard boxes and the her treatment for a head injury is a sensual boob massage, so it's not surprising the camp has had so many fatalities among it's test subjects.

After they get the poison they take it to the brothel and use it to kill the madam and all their clients. They sneak through some surprisingly lax security and try to escape through the crematorium, through the back of the ovens, which for some reason open out into freedom. Unfortunately the camp guards are waiting for them, and they lock them inside the ovens and burn them alive. I don't know why the guards didn't intervene earlier and save the lives of all the officers at the brothel, but I guess the irony of burning the escapees alive in their own escape tunnel was too much to resist.

As further punishment, the same bald sargeant from the first film (Serafino Profumo) and the evil lesbian gather up some random prisoners, strip them naked and try to torture some information out of them. One girl gets her fingernails pulled out with pliers and the old matches-under-the-fingernails trick. One girl has a metal strap tightened around her head until it crushes her skull. One girl is punched in the gut with a pair of spiked knuckle dusters until her flesh is torn to ribbons. Another girl has her tongue torn out with a pair of tongs. Wow, this is a pretty nasty scene actually.

The bald sargeant also develops the hots for Judith (between this and the previous film, I guess he's got a thing for blondes) and eventually rapes her while she's trapped in a jail cell. She gets pregnant, but when she goes to see her father he refuses to abort her rape-baby. Seriously? Now is probably not the time to come over all Pro Life. They've been executing prisoners by the truckload; do you really think they are going to think twice about sending her to the ovens, pregnant or not? In desperation she goes to the evil scientist, who agrees to perform the operation. When her dad walks in on them he flips out, throwing Dr Evil onto some electrical equipment, killing him. Daaang.

While lounging around with Colonel Strasser, Alina learns that the Russians are approaching and that orders have come in from Berlin to eliminate all the evidence (including the prisoners) and abandon the camp. While Strasser is talking to a couple of guards Alina uses the opportunity to steal a pistol from his desk. It's pretty weird because she is standing right in front of them and they don't even notice her until she shoots the guards and Strasser cops a gutful of their return fire. Alina tells Dr Abraham about their plans to exterminate all the prisoners, so they decide to kill a bunch of guards with a makeshift gas chamber, steal their guns, and make a last stand against their oppressors.

What do you say about a film like this? Debating it's quality (bad) seems beside the point, since a quick glance at the title is enough to tell you whether you are interested in seeing it or not. The threadbare production values and terrible acting may save it from being truly horrifying, but the lack of taste involved in a production like this is truly mind-boggling. It's pretty surreal having characters explain how Jewish prisoners are "processed", complete with real holocaust footage, juxtaposed against standard women-in-prison tropes like sexy shower-room catfights. Jesus, now I need a shower. Not recommended for the easily offended, arduously offended, or indeed anyone capable of being offended at all.

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