Very much a case of judging a video by its cover, Go Video's incredible sleeve artwork was largely responsible for the DPP fingering SS Experiment Camp (1976) as a Video Nasty. Interestingly, some Nazi exploiters were completely passed over - Red Nights of the Gestapo and Deported Women of the SS Special Section to name two, were available in stores across the UK, but SS Experiment Camp became one of the most notorious entries on the DPP's list of 39, and along with The Beast In Heat, and Gestapo's Last Orgy forms the final entry in the Video Nasties' unholy trinity of Italian Nazi Exploitation films.
The plot of SS Experiment Camp is rather unfocused - it's never clear the purpose of the experiments carried out in the laboratory of the camp, all of which involve soldiers on leave from the frontline copulating with female prisoners, sometimes in bizarre circumstances - one couple is seen making love in a vat of icy cold water (perhaps the Third Reich were thinking of colonizing Antarctica?). It's only in the film's final act that a plot of sorts kicks in, when an amorous soldier has his testicles removed and transplanted to the camp's commandant (who lost his some years earlier when a woman he raped cut them off). Amusingly the emasculated soldier only realises the theft when bedding down with one of the prisoners, the enraged soldier confronting the commandant with one of European Trash Cinema's greatest lines "What have you done with my balls" It's a rare moment in an otheriswe dry and humourless film.
SS Experiment Camp is a dull film. Aside from the gruelling pre-credit sequence where a haggard looking woman is electrocuted for refusing to swear an oath to the Nazis, the film is full of endless dialogue about the glory of the Third Reich and interminable scenes where the soldiers and the prisoners speculate on the nature of the experiments. Unlike Gestapo's Last Orgy, which is forthright about Jewish extermination, SS Experiment Camp skirts around the issue, the female detainees referred to as "political prisoners". The film does have one strangely poignant moment when the camp's surgeon, a Jew incognito dons traditional garb before shooting himself in the head. As required of the genre, the film is full of nudity, and there's a smattering of surgical gore but director Sergio Garrone renders the whole thing a rather lifeless and plodding affair. Even the film most contentious image of naked bodies burning in a crematorium is undone by its sheer weirdness, as the bodies jerk their limbs like puppets writhing in the flames.
SS Experiment Camp is available courtesy of Exploitation Digital in the US as a standalone DVD or better still, as part of a triple feature with SS Girls and SS Camp Women's Hell. This 2005 disc features a very nice anamorphic 1.85 transfer, the print used is in very good shape with minimal wear. Audio is offered in English only and for the most part is fine except for a few cases where the dialogue sounds a little blunt. Extras include a 10-min interview with Sergio Garrone, and a bunch of Exploitation Digital trailers. SS Experiment Camp is available in the UK again on the Blackhorse label, uncut but the picture quality is said to be quite poor.