Over fifty years after it was made, Bob Cresse and Lee Frost’s trashy bad taste movie is still beyond the pale for the British censors.
It’s good to know that in these unique times, our moral superiors are still hard at work protecting us from problematic imagery. The British Board of Film Classification might seem a more liberal body these days than they once did, but rest assured – they will still step forward to protect the nation from corruption.
In this case, they’ve once again banned the gleefully trashy 1969 sex film Love Camp 7, officially making it some sort of line in the sand for how liberal they are prepared to be. Love Camp 7 was also banned outright in 2002, and before that became a mainstay on the Video Nasties list, and so you might well assume that it is some sort of uniquely horrific affair. And certainly, the film still pushes all sorts of buttons – arguably, this tale of a Nazi love camp where women are subjected to all manner of humiliation and atrocity is more tasteless today than it was at the time, given that the further we have gone from the horrors of World War 2, the more sensitive people are to anything relating to Nazis. It’s hard to imagine the stream of Nazi sexploitation films that emerged in Italy during the mid-1970s being made today.
Love Camp 7 is arguably the grandfather of the Nazi sexploitation movie – it would directly inspire Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, which – alongside the more respectable Salon Kitty and The Night Porter – gave birth to that brief but prolific period of Italian (and French) Nazi sleaze cinema of the Seventies. It also set something of a template for – ironically – the ‘tamer’ end of the genre, where female prisoners were forced into prostitution in special camps or love trains (love trains were a curiously popular concept in the genre), serving the soldiers of the Third Reich. These films were softcore costume dramas primarily, while the more extreme end of the genre focused on torture and horrific experiments carried out on naked prisoners.
Bad taste is not, these days, a good reason to ban a film, and indeed the BBFC have passed SS Experiment Camp, arguably the most notorious of the Nasty Nazi films (at least in the UK), uncut, despite it featuring naked girls being abused and tortured throughout. Love Camp 7, although cruder, trashier and less graphic, has proven to be a harder pill to swallow, primarily because it combines Nazi fetish fantasies, BDSM, non-consensual sex and leering sexploitation in a tale of two British female spies who infiltrate the titular love camp to help an important prisoner escape. That their mission seems to mostly involve being trussed up and whipped is where the problem lies.
As the Board’s statement says, “such scenes are frequently gratuitous, both in terms of length and detail, going some way beyond what is required by the narrative, and in some cases perpetuating harmful rape myths.”
Well. Given that the film is entirely based around kinky softcore sex scenes, we might argue with claims that any such scene goes beyond the requirements of the narrative, or is gratuitous, and my memory of the film is that none of the women are shown to be enjoying the sexual abuse that they endured, other than in an attempt to placate their captors. I might be mistaken – it’s admittedly been a long time since I last saw the movie. Of course, BDSM of any sort is still very problematic for the BBFC, even when shown as consensual, so it was hard to imagine that they would step out on a limb for this film.
The BBFC’s issue with Love Camp 7 is that, although ‘dated and risible’ (their description), “the sequences of sexual violence and abuse are not”, and still have the potential to arouse. This seems a touch disingenuous – either the film is laughably dated full stop, or it isn’t. And of course, this is a movie that looked old-fashioned in every way, even back in the mid-1980s when it was first banned as a ‘nasty’ – the production values, the acting, the look of the actors and the sound all date it terribly, and the idea that anyone would still find this sexually arousing is frankly laughable. More to the point, in a world where everything from high definition hardcore BDSM to incest and rape themed fantasies is available on adult tube sites, the belief that anyone will be even watching this geriatric film for erotic purposes, let alone actually getting turned on and uniquely corrupted by it, seems frankly laughable. Like any adult movie of the era, its appeal is now strictly to cult movie connoisseurs. Is it offensive? Perhaps. Is it dangerous? Hardly.
It should be noted that the current ban has no legal weight – it was submitted by Screenbound Pictures (more fool them) for VoD, which the BBFC have no jurisdiction over. However, as all the online platforms have shamefully kowtowed to following BBFC ratings, the likelihood of this film ever appearing on any of them seems unlikely. But a quick Google search has revealed that the full film is freely available for viewing on several platforms, both adult and mainstream, as well as on easily-imported Blu-ray from Blue Underground, all of which renders the BBFC’s ban little more than a pouty display of moral disapproval and, perhaps, free publicity for a film that few would have heard of otherwise.