Title: LOVE CAMP 7
Other Titles: NAZI LOVE CAMP 7
Director: Lee Frost (as R.L. Frost)
Cast: Bob Cresse, Maria Lease, Kathy Williams
Wine opener to the throat
Bottle to the face
The Nazisploitation subgenre has crossed the line of demarcation between good and bad taste since its inception. Marking the genesis of women-in-prison films like WOMEN IN CAGES (1971), and of Nazisploitation films like ILSA: SHE-WOLF OF THE SS (1974), Lee Frost’s LOVE CAMP 7 is a subpar but thoroughly popular commercial cash grab that got people in theater seats by appealing to their inner depravities. LOVE CAMP 7 in particular is roughly based upon the Lagerbordell (for non-Jewish criminal “clients” within concentration camps) and Soldatenbordell (in the townships and solely for Wehrmacht and SS soldiers) of the early 1940’s; while not as depraved as SS EXPERIMENT CAMP, the film still pushes the envelope in its dramatic treatment of WWII-era Nazi brothels. The film’s offense lies not in its topic (its loose historical tethers oblige it a spot in the public sphere of discussion), but in its voyeuristic presentation of that sensitive subject matter.
LOVE CAMP 7 is follows two young WAC officers (Maria Lease and Kathy Williams) who embark on an undercover intel mission as inmates in a “love camp” that services the more primal needs of German officers. The film is helmed by director Lee Frost (THE DEFILERS, CHAIN GANG WOMEN, THE THING WITH TWO HEADS), and produced by R.W. Cresse (HOUSE ON BARE MOUNTAIN, MONDO BIZARRO, THE HAREM BUNCH). Co-producer David F. Friedman (THE DEFILERS, BLOOD FEAST, ILSA: SHE-WOLF OF THE SS) rounds out the sleaze dream-team behind the movie.
As with most low-budget shock-and-awe trash cinema, LOVE CAMP 7 is filled with flaws that are by-and-large forgivable by virtue of their exploitation label. While the film does pass the Bechdel Test (seriously), the strength of the female leads is truncated by their poor character development and by the lopsided focus given to their victimization, seemingly for a male gaze. The sexual assault scenes are overextended to the point of exhaustion, though that could be another attempt on Lee Frost’s part to provoke the viewer by not allowing them to look away. When we do look away, it’s toward the sweaty, twitching faces of their tormentors.
The Nazi tormentors, for the most part, are silent villains whose only job seems to be raping women. The Commandant is the only interesting character, the most caricatured version of a Nazi as possible. Bob Cresse, after finishing the film’s screenplay, saved this juicy role for himself as he did for most of the lurid films he wrote or produced.
According to Nazisploitation!: The Nazi Image in Low-Brow Cinema and Culture, there are observations to be mined from LOVE CAMP 7 and films like it:
“When analyzing representations of Hitler and the Holocaust, there is hardly any question as to where the identification of the viewer should lie; these works tend to offer an uncomplicated understanding of the perpetrator-victim dynamic, a simplicity that is reflected in its cinematography. All of the standard tricks are employed: the low angle shot of the Nazi, the soft-focus closeup on a trembling victim, the unity of the protagonist’s perspective with that of the camera. Yet, while such films promote an identification with the victims, their presentation of the victims is often highly sexualized; the threat faced often comes not merely in the form of violence but sexual violence, and the viewer’s identification is complicated by a simultaneous eroticized objectification of the victim.”
Perhaps that’s the source of such off-putting discomfort throughout the film; it’s not the fun sort of torture-as-entertainment that one can find in any wisecracking 80’s slasher film. It’s the sort of barbarity that had me checking to see how much time was left in the film’s 96-minute run, a personal prison sentence. In any case, the film deserves its spot on the Video Nasties list.
Both the boldness and the resulting controversy in LOVE CAMP 7 lies less in gore and sexuality, and more in the sum of its parts and how provocative it was in its time. It’s the first film to sexually exploit the internment camp setting and to begin fetishizing the SS uniform as the ultimate symbol of peak sadomasochistic violence (which is then mixed with pornography for maximum titillation). These are war crimes and inhumane atrocities depicted for entertainment purposes. The humiliation treads as lightly as bootlicking and as heavily as rape, but the majority of the film entails Nazis gleefully whipping the backs of nude women and forcing themselves upon them (though one inmate consents to sex with one of the “nice” Nazis and even enjoys the intercourse). A particularly squeamish scene depicts the masculine female Nazi doctor (a solid trope in Nazisploitation) administering forced vaginal exams on writhing, whimpering incoming prisoners who are beaten if they make too much of a fuss. The only bloody scene is that of the inmates’ vengeance and violent escape (which isn’t a spoiler, merely an element within the tried-and-true genre formula). In three minutes the body count rises dramatically, with one notable wine-opener-to-the-face kill to boot.
The makers of the cult classic were fully aware that they created deviant trash cinema, and advertised with a focus on the voyeuristic desires of cinemagoers with the tagline, “A Place of Total Despair. All the youthful beauty of Europe enslaved for the pleasure of the 3rd Reich.” Naturally, a movie of this caliber is bound to run into opposition. LOVE CAMP 7 was prosecuted under Section 1 of the Obscene Publications Act 72 in the UK and consequently banned. The film was submitted to the BBFC in 2002; it was refused a certificate (later released uncut in 2005). The BBFC elaborated:
“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.”
In January of 2017, Blue Underground released a 2-disc 4K restoration of LOVE CAMP 7 on Blu-Ray, using a newly-discovered original camera negative.
This seems like a film made to gratify specific desires, and while I’m not one to kink-shame, LOVE CAMP 7 is simply not my cup of tea. That said, its contribution toward a genre of exploitation films that enjoys a large following is undeniable. Those looking for quality cinema of the 1960s would be better suited to look elsewhere, but Lee Frost’s work here has a forefather status that can’t be dismissed. Later Nazisploitation movies would outdo LOVE CAMP 7 in their debauchery and perversion, but the film still offers enough sleaze and excess to displease the average moviegoer, and to please fans of the cinematic niche. Tackling the taboo subject matter before anyone else thought to try such provocations qualifies LOVE CAMP 7 as a must-watch for enthusiasts of that particular genre.
VIDEO NASTIES ALREADY IN THE BIN: