The amazing success of 1974's Ilsa â€“ She Wolf Of The S.S. starring Dianne Thorn spurred a whole whack of cheaply made Italian knock offs, each one trying to outdo the other in terms of on screen depravity and shock value. Luigi Batzalla's 1977 entry, S.S. Hell Camp, comes pretty close to being one of the nastiest in a series of nasty films.
Dr. Ellen Kratsch (Macha Magall) is a lovely looking but deadly and sadistic officer of the S.S. who is in charge of a grizzly Nazi concentration camp. She spends much of her time parading around in tight leather outfits and doing nasty things to the various prisoners there, such as teasing them with her body or cutting off their fun bits. She's an odd duck, and one with a penchant for torturing people.
Kratsch's experiments have lead to the successful creation of a sort of mutated beast man (Salvatore Baccaro) who the good doctor uses as a guinea pig in her plan to breed a new race. While the monkey man comes out on top in this situation, sadly the poor lovely ladies who are tossed into his cage do not. While all of this is going on there's a rather unremarkable subplot comprised of stock footage and segments swiped from another earlier Italian war film where some of the prisoners decide to make an attempt to get out of the camp before it's too late. It pads the film out to the standard hour and a half running time and kinda-sorta gives a reason for the film to exist in the first place.
Luigi Batzalla got his start as an actor but later moved on to work behind the camera and in addition to this one also helmed such Eurocult favorites as Nude For Satan and The Devil's Wedding Night as well as another nasty Nazi movie the very same year in the form of Achtung! The Desert Tigers. This film though, remains one of his better known efforts thanks in no small part to it being labeled as a 'Video Nasty' by the BBFC in the 1980s and subsequently banned in England (and also Australia) because of that.
Also known as Beast In Heat, the high points of the film include Baccaro (credited as Sal Boris though he also sometimes appeared under the alias or Boris Lugosi!) ripping off a woman's pubic mound and grunting his way through some poorly shot softcore sex scenes, and Magall ripping off finger nails and vamping it up for the camera.
Though it is very poorly made and tasteless as tasteless can be, the haphazard editing, shameless use of stock footage and recycled footage, bad special effects and wonderfully goofy performances make this one worth of the 'so bad it's good' stamp of approval. Don't go into this bad boy expecting Schindler's List - it's not that kind of film. It's simply an excuse to show atrocity after atrocity and plenty of naked female flesh.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is sharp with minimal print damage and nice color reproduction. Some of the stock footage inserts are a little worse for wear but the actual shot footage looks very good indeed. Edge enhancement is noticeable only in the most minor of instances and there aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts. Print damage only appears in the form of some small specks here and there and a scratch or two that pops up on the screen momentarily but none of that is distracting enough to really warrant complaining about it. This is a very nice transfer.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack sounds nice and clear without any evidence of hiss or distortion present in the mix. The film's cheese ball synthesizer score comes through nice and clean but the sound effects and background music don't overshadow the dialogue at all. It's a pretty basic mono mix, but it sounds just fine.
There aren't a ton of extra features on this release but the film's trailer is included as is a still gallery and trailers for a few other Media Blasters titles. There are also some liner notes included that give a basic history of the Nasty Nazi sub-genre.
S.S. Hell Camp looks and sounds just fine on this release, and despite the minimal extra features, if you're a fan of Italian trash and exploitation cinema you'll want to check this one out. Obviously not family fare, it's hard and nasty stuff, but for those who appreciate the kind of depravity that only Italy could produce in the sadistic seventies, this one comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.