SS Experiment Camp (1976)

This is a film about Nazis. It’s also about a testicular transplant. It’s also known as SS Experiment Love Camp. It’s a film about prisoners of war used in experiments to perfect the Aryan race, while Colonel von Kleiben receives an oral testicle castration by a Russian girl. Its advertising campaign featured a naked woman handing upside down on a crucifix — which gave this film its infamy.

Courtesy of the cover, SS Experiment Camp easily found a slot on the U.K.’s “Section 1” list — but the British Board of Film Classification passed it with no cuts. The BBFC claimed that “. . . despite the questionable taste of basing an exploitation film in a concentration camp, the sexual activity itself was consensual and the level of potentially eroticized violence is sufficiently limited.”

Okay then, BBFC. But why didn’t you mention the film behind the VHS sleeve was boring.

Honestly, even being a Sergio Garrone fan — and aficionado of all things VHS taboo — the hoopla over this Nazisplotation film, while certainly worthy of its suffix, Garrone’s dip (one of two!) into the Nazi pool isn’t — as most “Video Nasties” — as shocking or offense as its reputation.

In addition to the boredom of it all, the production values, frankly, stink; as result, the entertainment value of the crowded jewel of the genre, Isla, She Wolf of the SS (1975), and the deeper, psychological study of — and superior scripting of — The Gestapo’s Last Orgy (1977) is utterly void from SS Experiment Camp.

It’s hard to believe Sergio Garrone made this, the writer-director who gave us spaghetti western buffs Django the Bastard (1969), Kill Django . . . First Kill (1971), and Bastard, Go and Kill (1971). Then, of course, there’s his superior work with Klaus Kinski in the pseudo-Frankenstein romp, The Hand That Feeds the Dead (1974), that we love amid the B&S About Movies’ cubicle farm.

The sleeve is more shocking that the film inside.

The “experiment camp” of this tale is just that: a medical facility experimenting in perfecting the Aryan race with German soldiers copulating with female prisoners. When one of the soldiers makes the mistake of falling in love with his prisoner-mate — he becomes Colonel von Kleiben’s testicle donor.

And that’s pretty much it, for this film is all about the genre hopping: It’s just a whole lot of lesbian wardens, sadistic guards, and softcore sex punctuated by (and not as graphic as you’d think) torture scenes (a water tank that both boils and freezes prisoners into submission), and lots of “superiority of the” Third Reich babbling. Oh, and lots of full frontal female nudity. Lots. But hey, when you’re an overweight and acne-covered kid berated for wearing a Misfits tee-shirt — and even the girl wearing a Clash tee-shirt turns you down — you get your naked girls where you can. That’s how it was in the video ’80s.

Oh, and the caveat here is that Garrone — to maximize his Lira (before the Euro) — shot this back-to-back with the even more abysmal SS Women’s Camp, aka SS Camp 5: Women’s Hell (1977) — which is not to be confused with the even more awful Women’s Camp 119 (1977) by Bruno Mattei. Both of Garrone’s Nazi romps are rife with sloppy camera work, worse acting, and dubbing that makes a Godfrey Ho flick seem in-sync. Don’t get us started on Mattei’s flick!

You can purchase a copy of SS Experiment Camp as part of the “SS Hell Pack Triple Feature” disc set, which also features SS Girls, aka Private House of the SS by Bruno Mattei (1977), and Garrone’s SS Camp Women’s Hell (another of that film’s alt-titles) from Exploitation Digital on Amazon.

You can learn more about the production and reception of SS Experiment Camp as part of the superior genre documentary Fascism on a Thread: The Strange Story of Nazisploitation Cinema (2020).

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook.

Todo Modo (1976)

One Way or Another is a film that those of us who grew up in America may struggle to understand.  By 1976, Italy felt as much in crisis as our country feels at times, but it went way beyond the issues we’ve been dealing with. During gli anni di piombo (the years of lead), political turmoil went beyond protest to become outright terrorism, with bomb attacks and left and right groups that went from idealogy to being paramilitary groups prepped for combat.

A fascist takeover felt like it may happen any day, just as the Communists taking over could also be possible. Then there was the Italian secret service infiltrating groups, creating their own and the ruling Christian Democrats infighting and falling apart. Then their leader Aldo Moro was kidnapped and executed by the Red Brigade. We never had anything like that happen lately, right?

So yeah, this movie may have a disclaimer about the fact that it’s not based in reality, but it totally is.

It’s also about a country dealing with an epidemic that no one understands or can control, so maybe it still hits a bit too close to home.

So into this strange world that is definitely our own, we find the Christian Democrats hiding out at Zafer, which could be a retreat or a hotel or a prison, a place where they go through Bohemian Grove-style exercises that are much like the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, which help followers to “discern the will of God in their lives, leading to a personal commitment to follow Jesus whatever the cost.”

These exercises are to help them atone for their corruption and lack of ethics, but perhaps the most lawless of all of them is the man guiding them, Don Gaetano (Marcello Mastroianni). But as the supposed religious activities continue, a series of murders also begin.

Director Ello Petri lived the life to be able to tell this story. He was expelled for political reasons from religious school San Giuseppe di Merode and joined the youth chapter of the Italian Communist Party, which he left after the 1956 Hungarian uprising. His films, like We Still Kill the Old WayA Quiet Place in the CountryThe 10th Victim and Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion may flirt with the genres of crime, giallo and science fiction, but they also have something to say about the direction of Italy and its future. Sadly, he died at just 53 years old from cancer and we were robbed of more works that have so much to say.

The House with the Laughing Windows (1976)

Pupi Avati made Zeder, the zombie movie that really isn’t a zombie movie, so I was excited to see his take on the giallo, basing it on a story he heard about a priest being exhumed in his childhood.

The Valli di Comacchio area has a fresco on the rotting wall of a church that may be the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. Painted years ago by the long-dead and always mysterious Legnani, it is being restored by Stefano, who is also living in the home of the painter’s sisters. Those very same sisters — according to town legend — assisted their brother in torturing and killing people so that he would have inspiration for his artwork.

No one wants Stefano to fix this painting. People start dying and the secret behind the murders may be in the very painting that our lead is fixing.

I love when the giallo moves out of Rome and into the small cities, such as Fulci’s masterful Don’t Torture a Duckling and Antonio Bido’s The Blood Stained Shadow. Why should the metro locales have all the deep, dark secrets and horrific murders, right?

Don’t go in expecting sleaze and gore. Do expect to be surprised and delighted by the world and mood that this movie creates. This one needs to be unearthed and celebrated by way more than know it now.

 

Blood Bath (1976)

Man, ever since I’ve obsessed over Night Train to Terror, I’ve been searching for a movie that has the same absurdist edge and amateurish energy that feels like a million monkeys had been working a million hours in a million room’s worth of typewriters and this is the alien manuscript that they delivered to us.

What makes Blood Bath a movie that instantly went to the top of my list was who made it: Joel M. Reed, who may have made only six movies, but one of them was Bloodsucking Freaks*. This film has the same berserk zeal as that film, a movie I rented so many times as a teenager that I really should have been considered for counseling.

Yet unlike that film — which has pretty much full nudity for most of its running time and some of the most aberrant behavior I’ve ever seen — Blood Bath is, well, nearly bloodless. That doesn’t make it any less strange.

Harve Presnell (Wade Gustafson from Fargo) plays Peter Brown, a man who is at once the most Satanic director of all time and also the husband of an actual demon and a New York City cop. The cast of his latest film wants to convince him that the supernatural is real, so they all gather to tell several stories to him that creates the heart of this portmanteau.

From a killer whose big hit goes wrong to a novelist who escapes the drudgery of marriage into a fantasy that doesn’t live up to his dreams, a businessman locked in a vault with the ghost of a black man that he indirectly killed and a martial artist who steals the most important secret of a secret sect of mystics and sells it as part of his strip mall karate classes, none of the stories are going to set you ablaze (then again, the end of the martial arts story is absolute beyond insane, which is exactly what I want this entire movie to be), the stories all kind of pale to the real weirdness of seeing Raymond’s mom Doris Roberts, Andy Milligan stock player Neil Flanagan, Jerry Lacy — who played Bogart to Woody Allen — and a brunette P.J. Soles tying to get with our director protagonist before his half-demon goat boy son goes off.

The art director of this movie, Ron Sullivan, is probably better known as Henri Pachard, the director of The Devil in Miss Jones Part II and Taboo American Style. One of the actors in this, Sonny Landham, may be better known as both Billy in Predator and a hardcore conservative political career, but he started things off in movies like this (and also doing adult).

This is the kind of movie that has a newspaper headline that shouts “Kung Fu Master Opens Supermarket!” and karate masters — one has no arms and legs — sitting down to eat egg rolls before they battle to the death.

This movie is not well made and that means that to me, it’s beyond perfect. It’s an absolute mess, shot on stages that feel barely put together with doors literally coming off their hinges. It has the kind of heart that today’s endless streaming horror anthologies are missing. I demand more karate in my horror anthologies and films unafraid to be this incredibly odd.

*He also made the Jamie Gillis-starring Night of the Zombies.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Gus (1976)

The Disney live action world of the 1970s is the kind of place where a Yugoslavian goat can come to America, get a job in the California Atoms NFL franchise and interact with owner Hank Cooper (Ed Asner) and Coach Venner (Don Knotts) and not a single person mentions how completely on drugs the entire thing is.

I also love that the NFL helped make this movie and Asner’s character is so in debt from gambling that he makes a deal with bookies Charles Gwynn (Harold Gould) and Cal Wilson (Dick Van Patten). If the Atoms win the Super Bowl, all gambling debts will be forgiven. If they lose, the crooks will take ownership of the team.

Originally, Gus was just going to perform in the halftime show, But Coach Venner puts him in a game and that venerable rule of movies shows up: there’s no rule in the books that says your kicker has to be human!

Also — the fact that a kicker can help win footabll games is a weird concept, as field goals only get three points, so basing the entire offense around an animal that can only get half the score of a touchdown seems kind of shortsighted. I mean, if the rule books are so illogical, why not have a gorilla on the defensive line?

At this point I wondered, how can this movie get any better? Could it also have two 70s comedy stars as gangsters? The mouse heard my prayers and rewarded me with Crankcase (Tim Conway) and Spinner (Tom Bosley), whose scheming cause the Atoms to lose two games.

Look, any movie that unites Bob Crane, Johnny Unitas and Dick Butkis is going to be something I’ll watch. I have a strange weakness for movies that make an utter mockery of the game of football, to be frank.

Director Vincent McEveety was all over the 70s Disney map, making everything from The Castaway Cowboy to The Strongest Man in the WorldSuperdad and two Herbie movies. His last directing job was a TV movie that united Markie Post and Robert Urich called Stranger at My Door, which is completely the kind of movie that I spend weeks tracking down.

The Shaggy D.A. (1976)

Where can you go after The Shaggy Dog? Well, you become a canine district attorney, I guess. And after eighteen other films for Disney, this would be the last film of director Robert Stevenson. Those movies made him the most commercially successful director in the history of film (at least in 1977).

Made in 1959, The Shaggy Dog had been at that point the most profitable film produced by Disney and created the template for their live-action films: place something supernatural inside modern life and then let hijinks ensue. These were inexpensive movies made with TV actors on summer break from their series shot on the Disney backlot that had little to no risk. They could play matinees and then would eventually show up on The Wonderful World of Disney*. Made for around a million, The Shaggy Dog made $9 million on its first release and even more when it came out of the fabled Disney vault for another release in 1967.

Another thing that obsesses me about these Disney movies is that they are set in a cinematic universe before that even became a fact of moviemaking. Yes, so many of them are set in Medfield, a town that is also the setting for The Absent-Minded Professor, Son of Flubber and the Dexter Riley trilogy that contains The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Now You See Him Now You Don’t and The Strongest Man in the World.

In the seventeen years between movies**, Wilby Daniels (Dean Jones) became a successful attorney and married Betty (Suzanne Pleshette). When they return from a vacation, they discover that they’ve been robbed and Wilby blames district attorney John Slade (Keenan Wynn — wait what!?!) who is connected to mob boss Edward “Fast Eddie” Roshak (Vic Tayback — again, this movie has the casting of my dreams). After he’s burglarized again — two times in a day — Wilby decides he’s going to run for district attorney.

Seriously, it’s like they asked me to pick people and roles for them in this movie. I would answer, “Please put Jo Anne Worley in this as a roller derby star” and poof! My dream comes true! “How about Richard O’Brien as a desk sergeant?” Disney may say, “You mean Riff Raff? You want him to randomly show up?” And it happens! “Can Jo Anne Worley date Tim Conway?” You know it!

Look, this movie is absolutely ridiculous but it’s made for kids and as a child, if someone turned into a dog when they were trying to do grown-up things I’d literally piss my pants. That’s how I reviewed movies back then.

*And now we watch them on Disney Plus.

**Someone at Disney is as big a continuity maniac as the old DC Universe used to be, because they made The Return of the Shaggy Dog, an attempt at showing what happened in the period between these movies. Gary Kroeger played Wilby Daniels. That said, let me get a little deep here, but the transformation ruleset changes in each film. In the first one, Wilby read the inscription on the ring once and then would randomly become a dog until he did something heroic. In the sequel, he becomes a dog any time someone reads the words and it only lasts for a few minutes. And then in the TV movie, Wilby’s transformation is triggered any time the inscription “In canis corpore transmuto” is read. Man, that’s like Dial H for Hero trying to figure out how to work in a smartphone world.

Freaky Friday (1976)

Based on the 1972 novel by Mary Rodgers — who also wrote the screenplay — the magic that switches the mother and daughter in this movie is quite simple. In Friday the 13th, all you have to do is say, “I wish I could switch places with her for just one day” and it happens.

Actually, this whole thing reminds me of Goofy Minds the House, a 1977 Disney Wonderful World of Reading storybook that features the character Goofy and his wife switching jobs for one day and learning that they both have rough lives. That story was based on a Norwegian folktale and taught me that women were much stronger than men. Also — Goofy once had a wife named Mrs. Geef and Mrs. Goof, but now he’s thought to be dating Clarabelle the Cow, so something happened at some point. Perhaps even odder, Goofy was once called Dippy Dawg.

But I digress.

Just as much as that story is part of my childhood, so is Freaky Friday, a movie that I know for a fact that I saw at the Spotlite 88 Drive-In in Beaver Falls, PA.

Ellen Andrews (Barbara Harris) and her daughter Annabel (Jodie Foster) are constantly battling with one another until they switch places, which enables each of them to see life from the other side, connect better with other people and, of course, water ski.

The cast of this movie is made up of people that a five year old me would see as big stars, like John Astin, Dick Can Patten, Charlene Tilton, Marc McClure and, of course, Boss Hogg. Strangely enough, George Lucas wanted Foster for the role of Princess Leia, but her mother wanted her to complete her contract to Disney.

Disney can’t seem to stop remaking this movie. And really, no one else can either, because it’s the mother of body switch comedies, including 18 Again!All of Me, Dream a Little DreamVice Versa and Freaky, a film which combines the Friday the 13th of this story with the slasher side of the holiday

Junesploitation 2021: Special Cop in Action (1976)

June 27: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is cops.

I am a conundrum. I speak up against the brutality and the militarization of our police nearly every day, but then the movies I choose to relax and watch are poliziottesco films in which cops go against the system and act nearly as bad — if not worse — than the criminals they are after.

The third film in the Commissioner Betti trilogy — after Violent Rome and Violent Naples — Special Cop In Action is also known in Italy as Italia a mano armata (Italy at Gunpoint). This was directed by Marino Giorlami, who went from being a physical therapist to the director of films such as The Fury of Achilles and Zombie Holocaust. He’s also the father of director Enzo G. Castellari.

The mobsters in this film are the kind of Italian movie bad guys that go from realistic to super villains by the end of the film, moving from robbing banks and taking hostages to hijacking school buses filled with children.

Cops Betti (Maurizio Merli, Highway Racer) and Ferrari (Aldo Barberito) are trying to find one of those kids when one of the criminals assaults a female cyclist, altering authorities to their hiding place. When one of the kids is killed, a mother unloads on Betti, who decides to take the place of the children as a hostage. Man, Betti gets abused throughout this movie, shot multiple times, beaten and dumped on a highway and even set up for murder.

Man, this movie starts off hot and never slows down. Cops get dragged behind cars, John Saxon shows up, there’s a J&B appearance and a downbeat ending — the dead kid’s mom and our hero have dinner when some syndicate thugs blow him away in a drive-by. I’d say that that was a massive spoiler, but that ending doesn’t appear in every print, so who knows if they added it in the hopes they could make a fourth film someday. Or perhaps when they realized this was the end, they remembered it was the 70s and nearly every movie has to end with a downer, so they edited on this closing.

Honestly, I kind of think that Betti can shrug off getting gunned down. If anything, the excessive abuse he endures in this movie is proof.

Norman J. Warren Week: Satan’s Slave (1976)

Editor’s Note: We reviewed this British horror obscurity on February 15, 2021, as part of our tribute reviews to Mill Creek’s Gorehouse Greats 12-Film Pack (Amazon). We’re bringing it back as part of our “Norman J. Warren Week” tribute of reviews. Visit our Gorehouse Greats Round-Up for all of those reviews.

How is it that we could go on all day about British actor and Hammer stalwart Michael Gough, starting with his first role as Sir Arthur Holmwood in Hammer’s Horror of Dracula (1958), watch his work in Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) multiple times, and watch him in The Phantom of the Opera (1962), The Skull (1965), and Horror Hospital (1973), but never encountered his work on Crown International Pictures’ Satan’s Slave? Even with all of our combined video store memberships and watching Friday and Saturday late night horror blocks on our local UHF-TV stations, we’ve never heard of it or seen it (at least it slipped by me). How is that possible? We fell in love with Euro-obscurities like A Bell From Hell and Symptoms from multiple UHF showings — and even seen them on home video shelves.

Well, let’s unpack this flick brought by the great Norman J. Warren!

Turns out, director Norman J. Warren has two flicks on Mill Creek’s Gorehouse set: this and Terror (1978), which is also on the B-Movie Blast 50-Film pack that we also reviewed back in February 2020. Truth be told, while he’s legendary — at least in B-Movie and video nasty circles — Warren is an under-the-radar obscurity to most horror fans (well, except for FUBAR’d dudes like Bill Van Ryn who’s made his fandom of Warren’s Prey well known), with only 16 credits. The Warren films you (may or not) know are the insipid, Star Wars-inspired sex comedy Spaced Out (1979), aka Outer Touch (that we passed on during our “Star Wars Month” tribute; the similar, better known Galaxina won that review pole position), and the Alien rip off (that we did cover with our “Alien Week” tribute) Inseminoid (1981). Then there’s that off-the-nut sci-fi zombie romp Prey (1977) that Bill Van Ryn digs, and Warren’s final tour de force: Bloody New Year (1987), that Sam digs. All of those films were, of course, better distributed projects that turned up in theaters, cable, and VHS (for me, that would be as Inseminoid; Spaced Out was an oft-aired HBO programmer).

Perhaps it’s because it was only Warren’s third feature film — after two Italian sex shenanigans flicks issued in 1968: Loving Feeling and Private Hell, which makes Satan’s Slave his first horror film. In between his Alien romp, Inseminoid, and his Slasher romp, Bloody Birthday, Warren changed it up with, well, looking at the cover, a Stallone Rambo-cum-Arnie Commando rip called Gunpowder (1986) — has anyone seen it?

Now, the writer on this, well that’s a different story: While he wrote Warren’s Satan’s Slave and Terror, he gave us the video rental favorites of ’70s British horror: White Cargo (1973), House of Whipcord (1974), Frightmare (1974), the sleaze-o-rama that is The Confessional (1976), and Schizo (1976): Lord Smutmeister David McGillivray (and we mean that as a complement).

This time we have a supernatural horror tale with Catherine (British horror “Scream Queen” Candace Glendenning; The Flesh and Blood Show) who comes to live with her uncle and cousin (Michael Gough and Martin Potter; his work goes back to Fellini Satyricon) after she survives a car crash that killed both of her parents. Of course, Uncle Alex and Cousin Stephen are behind the crash: they’re necromancers who need her as a sacrifice to resurrect a powerful, spiritual ancestor.

To say more will spoil the film, as this Rosemary’s Baby-inspired tale (but not at all like a cheap Italian ripoff of that film or The Exorcist) is an excellent watch; one that’s far above the fray of the exploitative-norm discovered on Mill Creek sets. The scripting, set design, and acting — from all quarters — is top notch. I loved it. Consider it one of my new classics in the British ’70s cycle of gothic horror tales, right alongside Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter and Hammer’s Karnstein Trilogy.

The production story: There’s additional material shot that was even more violent, and alternative versions of existing scenes that are in the film are available in other prints in the overseas markets. So, what we get is an amped up, Gothic psychological-sexploitation tale that programs nicely with the better distributed (as with the aforementioned A Bell from Hell and Symptoms via VHS and UHF-TV) Virgin Witch (1971) and the always incredible to watch The Wicker Man (1973). Of course, keen eyes immediately notice that the house and grounds of the Yorke estate appeared in Virgin Witch; and when you watch Terror off this same Mill Creek set, you’ll notice the Gothic estate, reappears.

Another choice: Paired with Warren’s Terror.

While you can get this on the Mill Creek sets we’ve unpacked in February, the more serious Warren fan can get Satan’s Slave, along with Terror, Prey, and Inseminoid on Anchor Bay’s Norman Warren Collection DVD box set. Vinegar Syndrome and Severin also offer restored single-disc reissues. However you watch it: watch it. There’s a copy of Satan’s Slave on You Tube.

The Grim Reaper (1976)

Ron Ormond’s journey — from Southern deep-fried drive-in fare to religious grindhouse filmmaker — is the kind of thing that obsesses me. Usually working with Rev. Estus Pirkle, his films reach a level of ecstatic mania that I could only dream of discovering in a snake church revival, yet can do it in the comfort of my basement.

There’s a line we can follow from Ormond’s Mesa of Lost Women to these films, because at its heart, exploitation is exploitation. It’s getting you to not just want to watch something but need to watch it. Just look at the poster for this, which uses the same language and cues as a horror film, which is what this really is.

Verne (Cecil Scaife, who was in nearly all of Ormond’s religious movies, plus Girl from Tobacco Road; as well as producing and starring in The Hollywood Beach Murders) and Ruby Pierce (Viola Warden, who was also in The Burning Hell) have a son named Frankie (Eddie King, who was in The Burning Hell after a career in small Hollywood roles; he also worked with Ron’s son Tim to start the first video firm that was allowed to videotape legal depositions for showing at trials in Tennessee courtrooms) who is a wild man, racing cars and says, “Religion? Not fos this dude.”

When Frankie dies in a car crash, he goes straight to hell and the Pierce’s pastor refuses to preach at his funeral. So while Ruby clings to God, her husband goes into the occult to try and save his son from the left hand path, working with Dr. Kumran to speak directly to the dead. Yet this is putting him on the same way to the flames of the abyss, so his other son Tim (Tim Ormond, who I love in everything he appears in) tries to save his father.

Finally, the family gets to hear the words of Jerry Falwell and heed the altar call. But it’s too late for Frankie, who we see as a ghost and watch burn in hell, surrounded by masks that Ben Cooper would shun.

Best of all, the film uses church parishioners to recreate Acts 16:16-40 and 1 Samuel 28 with wigs and basic makeup instead of the special effects that were possible in 1976. Then, we see Moses in the desert before going back to hell again, which is populated by witches and even Dracula. Let me be as clear as possible: this movie is the kind of thing that I devour like a cool lemonade on a balmy day.

At one point, this comic book poster was up on church walls and people gathered to watch this movie in basements and rec halls. We’ll never have a time like that again, when movies like this were sermons, unless you come to my house, where beer will be our communion.

You can watch this on YouTube.