No Room for Modesty: A Beginner’s Guide to Nazisploitation
We exploit everything. It’s unavoidable. We see a fad, a pattern emerging in all forms of entertainment. We utilise its strengths to the extreme to the point it becomes part of the film lexicon. We milk that cow until it is well and truly dry and embedded into film history. Whether its impression is good or bad is irrelevant, the point that it’s there is the only thing that matters.
As film fans we will always defend what we love, it’s natural. However, there are some sub-genres of film that get cast aside like that red-headed stepchild that no one wants to deal with. They deem them unworthy, a waste of time, sleazy, no artistic merit and everyone’s favourite word, problematic. I don’t think we should have to defend films, we should let them all co-exist. But because I am a lover of sleaze, excremental Z-Grade trash, and all-around smut, there are certain films and genres I will always go into bat for. Nazisploitation films are no exception to this.
I have always had an interest in history, especially where World War II is concerned. Books, documentaries and films on the subject have been a big thing in my life since I was a kid. Films like Escape from Sobibor and World At War made a huge impression on me at the age of five. But it was a huge jump for me to find an interest in Nazisploitation films. Because of the history surrounding the Holocaust, I felt it was a genre of film you do not go near, and that it was disrespectful to do so. But in my mid-twenties, I bit the bullet and decided to watch The Gestapo’s Last Orgy — that changed everything for me. Initially, I thought it was wrong to love that film, but over time I thought “fuck it” and embraced it. A lot of people deem Nazisploitation as trash, and that these films have no redeeming qualities. I know a lot of people have a hard time with these movies because they exploit the atrocities of the Holocaust. But exploitation happens in all genres. A lot of films are just better at being subtle about it.
I enjoy watching Nazisploitation films just as much as I enjoy watching the mainstream dramas that depict the atrocities of WWII. Those mainstream dramas pull out your raw human emotion through their historical accuracy (to an extent) and stellar performances. But if you peek behind the curtain of Nazisploitation, you will find films built around a shred of historical accuracy, pumped full of cinematic steroids, consisting of insane characters, depravity, sex and practical fx. The way I see it, Nazisploitation takes an important moment in history and manages to flip it on its head, using it as a backdrop to showcase pure exploitation.
This one grabs you by the balls as soon as you turn it on. Two female American officers, who have a great talent for memorising everything, volunteer to be captured by the Nazis and sent to Love Camp 7 as Jewish prostitutes for the SS soldiers. Their mission is to try and make contact with another woman who was working against the Nazis on behalf of the United States government, only to go radio silent. That’s the plot, but this piece of Nazisploitation is so direct and doesn’t mess around with giving you long backstories about each character. Love Camp 7 is extremely self-aware. There are several things I enjoy about this film, including the end shoot-out. If it was placed with the music from the Benny Hill TV show, it would be even more incredible. And secondly, I am a huge sucker for films in which the title is said in the movie. That happens a whole lot in Love Camp 7. There are a lot of sex scenes, and the camera lingers too long in some of them, making the audience feel uncomfortable. So they did their job there. And I have to say I love the portrayal of the evil Commandant played by Bob Cresse. Sure he’s evil, but you can tell Cresse relished the role and his performance is hilariously absurd.
The Night Porter (1974)
This is probably the classiest film I watched of the bunch. Do I feel this film has artistic merit? Absolutely. Did I like it? God no. But it’s important to include because, even though I thought it was absolutely boring, it brought more of a sense of realism, as opposed to being completely outlandish and ridiculous. There are moments in the flashback scenes which are indeed a little bit ridiculous, but when you incorporate them with the film’s desire to be taken seriously, it was just a hard sell. This did however showcase voyeurism, obviously on a much more grand and somewhat depraved scale, and that was the most interesting thing about The Night Porter. Nazi voyeurism used as the glue to hold a sexual relationship together between a Nazi and a Jewish woman, was definitely a unique take, I will give it that.
Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975)
Of course, I was going to put this on the list. I would say this is probably the most infamous of all of the Nazisploitation films. Even if you haven’t seen it, you all know the poster and you know what genre it is in. In my notes when researching Nazisploitation, I wrote “Doesn’t fuck around with getting started” — and Heavens to Betsy, it really doesn’t. Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne) is wonderful in this role for many reasons. What I noticed throughout watching this, and the rest of the Ilsa franchise is that her character is incredibly charming. She has this maternal glow about her and is able to make anyone trust her. But she has the ability to switch into a pure psychopath who doesn’t have a shred of empathy for anyone; this is why she is one of the most dangerous antagonists in Nazisploitation cinema. The torture scenes get more and more intense and violent as the film progresses, and over-the-top performances are what will let the audience breathe between the gore. The pacing moves like a lightning, and there is no time for filler. It’s just pure schlocky entertainment, and nothing more.
This film made me question my life choices. How did I get to a point where I somehow decided to watch Nazisploitation themed, hardcore porn? Here we have two American nurses, who are being held by a depraved Nazi and his female counterparts, and all hope seems lost until a shipwrecked sailor comes to their aid…and boy does he come to their aid. I know this may seem like an odd choice to put in here, but Nazisploitation films were so popular that you can’t blame filmmakers for injecting them with hardcore porn. And if I am being totally honest, the film is actually entertaining. There is an actual plot, the production values are top-notch and the cinematography is better than some of the run-of-the-mill Nazisploitation films. I went in with the lowest expectations, and I came out very surprised. Don’t disregard this because you get to see the penis of John Holmes many times. Instead, accept the fact that creativity and porn are not mutually exclusive.
Nazi Love Camp 27 (1977)
This Nazisploiation film actually made me feel a tiny bit depressed. The plot centres around two lovers, Hannah (Sirpa Lane) and Klaus (Roberto Posse), right before the breakout of WWII. We see them frolic in the water and make love along a riverbank through a dreamy filter. Yet, as an audience, we know this will end very abruptly. After Hannah’s parents are murdered, she is sent to a love camp and, along with one other female newcomer, is gang-raped. This was filmed in a way where the camera really focuses on facial expressions, whether it’s the two women or SS soldier’s committing the crime. We are also shown a tiny bit of penetration, so this is classified as a hardcore porno, however, it is not to the same extent as Prisoners of Paradise. Nazi Love Camp 27 really brings forth the themes of dehumanisation, and with each degradation of Hannah, the more I felt falling into a depressive slump. It manages to incorporate exploitation incredibly well but it melts into reality with ease. Hannah’s former lover Klaus becomes an SS soldier, and we are shown his struggle in following the Nazi regime, and the duality of him being Klaus the man, and Klaus the SS Soldier. By the end of the film, Hannah does get her revenge for all of the pain she is made to endure, just so she can survive. However, the ending is not like other Nazisploitation films, where there is a big shootout or an overthrow of power. This one is very bittersweet and sombre.
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