The Bad Movie Report


It's February, time for Sweeps Month, when TV networks pull out all the stops to get high ratings for their programming. Me? I just take it as a signal to spend a month visiting the 'R' rated films of my drive-in youth. If you don't buy that reasoning, you can cynically consider it my reaction to Valentine's Day. In any case, THIS REVIEW CONCERNS VERY NAUGHTY THINGS AND IS RECOMMENDED ONLY FOR MATURE READERS. Now that I have your attention....

Love Camp 7

How do I get myself into these things?

Okay, so I choose February (for admittedly arbitrary reasons) to examine the sexploitation end of the low-budget spectrum. Fair enough. So an essential part of that is examining the Women in Prison (WiP) film. Fair enough. So Love Camp 7 has been sitting in my Watch Box for a year, and that's a sort of a Nazi Women in Prison film. Fair enough.

Trouble is, now I have to think of something to say about it.

The Buchanan Campaign welcomes another volunteer.After a fairly superfluous opening where an aging British chap is entreated by his annoying American client to tell his WWII story, we join a meeting of four Allied Generals: American, French, Russian (the uniform is Russian, but the accent is dime-store Mexican) and British (our narrator). The good news, the Yank tells everyone, is that Dr. Schell, who was developing a jet fighter for the Reich, has died. The bad news is, his assistant Dr. Martha Grossman (who was delivering secrets to the French Resistance) is a Jew, and without Schell's protection, she has been sent to the infamous Love Camp 7, where Jewish women are forced to act as prostitutes for officers on leave.

The information Grossman is carrying in her head is essential to the Allied drive to beat Hitler to the jet fighter punch, but all is not lost. All they have to do is sneak two women of their own into Love Camp 7, locate Grossman, find out everything she knows, then the Resistance will bust all three of the women out. "Sounds far-fetched," opines one of the Generals, perfectly reflecting the opinion of the audience. Nonetheless, we are assured, two WACs, Grace and Linda, have volunteered for the job.

Now, I have accepted giant monsters, talking brains and 90 minute long gun fights without batting an eye. But accepting the idea that two women of at least moderate intelligence have volunteered for what they know will be five days of near-constant rape has my willing suspension of disbelief asking for a transfer to the Russian Front.

"Now, you vill cooperate or ve vill make you watch Jungle Hell, ja?"The ladies have no problem getting arrested and sent to Love Camp 7, as everything has been arranged by (trumpet fanfare) Calais of the French Resistance! (Did the French Resistance actually operate on German soil like this?) To their dismay, after multiple humiliations and nude scenes, they find that Grossman has been remanded to Detention, where the recalcitrant inmates are punished. Linda acts up so that she will be sent to Detention, and after being whipped by the sadistic guard Klausmueller (who has taken a lecherous shine to the protesting woman), she finally finds Grossman. The planned escape goes awry, however, when the new Acting Commander for the region orders an orgy for his men at the agreed-upon time; it is up to Grace to grab a Luger and make herself useful.

Oh, yeah, in case you were wondering: we win the war.

Boy, this makes this movie look better than it actually is...There is a fairly interesting subplot regarding Sgt. Gothardt, the Sensitive Nazi. Gothardt longs to return to the War, and sees absolutely no purpose for the suffering and abuse of the women, and acts as kindly toward them as possible. Grace even tries to enlist his help in the escape, but he refuses, siting his duty as a soldier. When, during the final orgy massacre, he rushes in, gun drawn, there is a moment when he and the similarly-armed Grace freeze; Grace probably shows herself the better soldier by killing Gothardt on the spot.

Probably the standout in this whole exercise is producer Bob Cresse as the commandant of Love Camp 7. Fellow producer David F. Friedman once said that Cresse was a closet Nazi, and he does indeed give the performance of an actor in his dream role - by turns decadent, bored, sadistic, sniveling... he attacks all these with a singular gusto. In the final massacre, he is blinded by flying glass and fires at random into the room, barely missing Grossman and Linda, but actually managing to This is SO CLOSE to the ending of 'Hamlet'....kill Grace (her death is probably demanded by Bad Movie Law, as she not only shot the single sympathetic guy in the flick, she actually enjoyed having sex with him). Cresse's final moments, crawling across the vista of dead bodies, sobbing for his dead adjutant, who can neither reply nor help, is almost touching, certainly bathetic. There are so many dead bodies littering the floor at the last, it's almost like Shakespeare. Except for the Nazis, of course. And the nudity.

I could go on and do a laundry list of the heinous acts enacted in Love Camp 7, but there wouldn't be much point, really. You've got your boot-licking, suspension bondage, hosing down, forced lesbianism, whipping, and lots of rape. Throughout the 60's, it was practically impossible to avoid a spate of Men's Magazines that featured this sort of thing prominently on its covers: scantily clad women enduring all sorts of inhumanities at the hands of depraved Nazis. And somehow, this movie manages to make all these things dull. It's a problem that crops up many times in the filmography of Friedman - there's no joy in the storytelling, there's not a filmmaker here with a particular axe to grind or a point to prove, unless it's Cresse finally getting to be a Nazi - it is completely about making money.

Love Camp 7 kept showing up at drive-ins well into the 70s. And you won't find any better barometer of its success than the"Don't be schtupid, be a schmarty!  Come and join the Nazi Party!" fact that David F. Friedman went on to also produce the thematically similar Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, with a bigger budget and the ability to have better exterior shots, employing as they did the standing sets for TV's Hogan's Heroes. Love Camp 7, by comparison, is almost entirely shot in unconvincing interiors and nondescript exteriors, a wall here, a bush there. And its atrocities are similarly low-budget and home-grown, unlike the gory medical horrors of Ilsa. Which may perhaps be Love Camp 7's major weakness: it's really no different from any other roughie, like Friedman's other period nudies, The Defilers and Brand of Shame; there is not much to recommend it past naked women (of the 60's kind, the sort that makes today's idiot anorexia culture complain, "she's fat!") and a lot of German memorabilia on display. It is, quite simply, smut - and much as I like smut (I am male, after all), there's better examples out there.

"How did all these 60's hairstyles get in here?"After this, came the deluge, with a flood of Euro-imitations like Salon Kitty and Nazi Love Camp 27. You can't really say any of the acts contained within Love Camp 7 are tastefully done, but compared to what came after, this movie is almost a model of restraint. And whatever else you may think about Friedman, the man is no fool - he has a feel for what sells that Barnum might have envied. He also had a hand in starting two major genres, with this picture, and the grandpa of gore films, Blood Feast. To paraphrase his collaborator on that movie, H. G. Lewis: these flicks should be regarded with a certain amount of honor, like Walt Whitman poetry: they're no damn good, but they're the first of their kind.

Fair enough.



Well, at least Cresse's having fun.

- February 13, 2000