Directed by: Luigi Batzella
First released: June 1982
Current status: Banned in the UK, available uncut in the US
The Beast in Heat is one of the most famous of the Video Nasty’s, and goes by many other names, most famously SS Hell Camp but also under the titles SS Hell Camp 2 and Horrifying Experiments of the SS Last Days. Clearly from the titles this film’s whole intention was to shock, and shock it did. There were a number of films released in the 70’s based on Naziploitation including the Ilsa series, The Gestapo’s Last Orgy and Red Nights of the Gestapo. All were depraved in their own wonderful way, but it was The Beast in Heat which made The List and managed to get itself banned outright in the UK. Of the 39 films actually banned from the Video Nasty’s List, The Beast in Heat was one of them. The film was released uncut in June 1982 by JVI and was added to the Video Nasty list in October 1983 and has never been available in the UK since. It’s reputation alone makes it one of the most sought after of all the Video Nasty’s, with dodgy VHS copies selling for up to £500 back in the 80’s! Thankfully you can get it on region 1 for a pretty good price, but the fact it was selling for so much at one point just goes to show how in demand this film was. It was actually one of the rarest of all the Video Nasty’s.
Now, if you look at the quality of the film it most certainly does not warrant £500 but I can definitely see what all the fuss was about. To be honest, this is one of those so bad its great films that has so many errors and dodgy dubbing, it’s very hard to take seriously. However, as it’s clear the main intention was to shock then the film most definitely lives up to its reputation. How the hell anyone came to ever be involved in making this film, let alone a studio actually agreeing to it is beyond me. This is exploitation of the most obvious kind, with the plot simply added to allow the makers the chance to slot in their scenes of torture, rape and violence. Is it enjoyable? Well, I just re-watched it and actually found it highly enjoyable, if laughable, but it certainly kept me entertained with its brilliant mix of war movie and nasty torture-porn. For those that don’t know I shall explain the plot…
The Nazi’s are losing the war and are doing all they can to hold on. In a tiny village in the country there is a group of soldiers intent on stopping the Nazi’s who are based close by. Blowing up a bridge, the soldiers have cut off the Nazi’s main train route for weapons etc. This angers the Nazi leader, who calls up his man in charge of the bridge and interrupts him having sex with a prostitute. In a cleverly comical moment, the guy in charge of the bridge answers the phone, realises who it is and gives a great big Nazi salute allowing his trousers to fall down and making him look pretty damned stupid. Tongue n cheek is the name of the game here really, and it’s only the torture and rape that comes across as disturbing, if a little over the top. Anyway, the Nazi’s are now on the hunt for the rebel soldiers and decide to grab as many wives’, girlfriends, daughters and nieces and take them to their hideout where Warden/Dr Ellen Kratsch (Macha Magall) is carrying out experiments on her prisoners, and what gloriously nasty experiments they are. She also keeps a Man/Beast in a cage and feeds him drugs which give him an enormous sexual appetite. To satisfy his needs and to entertain her own sexual and brutal desires, she often throws in a female prisoner for the Man/Beast to rape. The rebel soldiers are desperate to save the women, and so decide to attack the Nazi hideout. That’s your plot, so let’s get to the good stuff.
Quite simply if ever there was a film to offend just about everyone, this is it. Nazi’s are always a dodgy subject for starters and so heighten the level of brutality on offer here. To give you an example of just how proudly offensive this film is, just take a look at the first seven minutes. Incredibly, in seven minutes we have witnessed a vicious rape by the Man/Beast on a poor woman prisoner, the rape is bad enough but as he claws at her naked body he draws blood and so you could call this violence in the most horrific way possible too. We are introduced to the Man/Beast as he stands in his cage, stark naked with it all hanging out shaking the door of his cage, he cannot wait to have his way with this poor girl, she herself is thrown in naked and we see more naked flesh than you would do in an average soft porn movie, and just to top off everything Dr Kratsch becomes aroused and kisses one of her female guards. Now, I don’t know quite how accepted lesbians were in those days, but I’m sure it wasn’t as normal as it is now. So, an indication as to how proudly this film lives up to its reputation is there in less than ten minutes of the film being on and it has probably managed to piss off just about everyone in one way or another! However, the comedy is always just around the corner to keep you both entertained as well as shocked. As the rape is going on, the brutal Dr Kratsch bellows at the poor girl being punished and tells her “what are you screaming for you silly fool! After all, my creature is only showing you some affection!” Wise words indeed and I’m sure the poor girl has taken it all on board and thought “yeh ok, I suppose” and stopped screaming and let the Man/Beast have his wicked way! Then there’s that brilliant use of the word fool again as Dr Kratsch turns to a male guard and asks him if he is aroused. Honestly he answers yes and is met with the angry words of “spineless fool! A soldier of the Third Reicht is not allowed to get excited!”
Ah, Dr Kratsch, believe it or not there is something incredibly sexy about her. She is actually very attractive, and the way she is so open about sex in general, showing a stocking here and a bra there makes her one of the sexiest bad women EVER to grace our screens. The fact she is in complete control is also domineering and exciting, and then there’s that Nazi uniform. Basically, she is every man’s secret crush, no matter how evil she is there is something about her which is hard to deny. Hell, it may just be me but damn she’s good! In a bizarre, unsettling way you actually find yourself routing for her! Anyway, moving on from the lovely Dr we head into a more war like film after witnessing what goes on in the Nazi hide out, and the film quickly tries to bring a story of the Rebels to the surface to get the viewer to actually choose sides. We all know who are the good guys, but the bad guys are just way too much fun and after having a taster of what the film has been banned for, we want more! Unfortunately we get more, but at times it does go a bit too far. A scene involving a baby wrapped in a blanket being tossed in the air by the Nazi’s and coldly shot at whilst on its descent is too much, and then when the Nazi casually shoots the Mother as well it’s clear that elements of this film are incredibly distasteful.
But there is so much bad stuff in the film; it is very hard to really allow it to get under our skin. One moment of horrific violence is followed by another laugh out loud moment. Thankfully the dubbing plays a strong part in keeping the laughter going as it is absolutely terrible, but in a good way! An indication as to how bad it is is when they actually dub over something that wasn’t even said. Meeting with the Nazi leader, Dr Kratsch is asked “would you care for a drink?” which is met with her response of “have you got any brandy?” However, Dr Kratsch’s lips do not move at all while she says it, genius! Intended or not, it’s moments like these that help clear your head from the harsh realities of what else is going on. We get to know a few key characters, the names of which escape me but there is a Priest in the village who helps the rebels and there are a few rebels themselves who we get to know and feel for. Incredibly, for such an exploitation movie, the plot (thin as it is) really really works. The Rebels against the Nazi’s throws up some great moments like a big fist fight in the Church and also some great gun battles which look like real footage has been mixed with the actual film to brilliant effect. Bombs go off, guns are fired and running battles commence to stimulate your senses and really get you involved in the story. On second watch i was able to see past the violence and rape and actually try and take in the rest of the film and it was actually very well put together. I fully appreciate the whole point to the story is to give an excuse for the offensive stuff, but it actually really works. Intentional or not, the maker’s have hit all the right notes perfectly.
The mix of cheap effects and stock footage of the War make the action scenes actually rather impressive, but as with all the Video Nasty’s, it’s the violence we’ve come to see. We want to know exactly why these films were banned in the first place, and this film answers all those questions and more. Back to Dr Kratsch’s “torture chamber” a group of local girls have been rounded up, with one of them telling the others “even if you have to die, be strong. Be strong girls, resist” That speech of almighty power and enthusiasm is then met with the camera suddenly jumping to an extended torture scene involving all those girls and some silly looking men. We now go through over ten minutes of pure torture and horror and it’s so incredibly vicious you cannot help but be totally enthralled by the guts of the film makers. Men are strung up and Dr Kratsch teases them by removing her shirt. One guy finally loses it and screams out “I WANT YOU!!” which is a much better response than he first guy who calls her a “Bitch on heat”. The poor fella who wants her so badly is castrated and the sorry, sad thing is Itch that scene and think to myself “damn, that’s what I would’ve said too”.
To finish the film off in fine and expected style we are given the opportunity to witness some of the most degrading sexual violence and brutality we are ever likely to see. Yes it all looks rather dodgy and crap as the effects are not all that great, but just get past all that and think about what the makers were willing to show you: a woman having her private bits eaten by rats (which were actually guinea pigs painted black!), another woman having her private parts electrocuted, the man who is castrated screaming and looking dead straight at the camera as if to say “Look at how much pain I’m in!” and then there’s the Man/Beast who viciously tears off a woman’s pubic hair and eats it in a horrible scene of violence and over the top ecstasy. The Man/Beast has many moments like this and even though it’s clear the actor is doing his best to insult the viewer and camp it up, there’s too much fun involved and it borders on being too acceptably vicious.
There is so much to like about this film, and there is so much to be offended by. What I do love and respect about this masterpiece is that there are films out there that try their best to hide the fact that they are offensive and violent, and yet films like this happily cherish in the fact that they will upset pretty much everyone. Personally I love that, why hide the fact you have made an exploitation movie, enjoy it for Christ sake. Not one person could use the excuse they have watched this film based on plot, it’s all about how brutal it is, how nasty. I really love the fact that this film is happy to cherish the fact that it is wrong, it is nasty and it is violent, and the film itself is honest in its portrayal of it. It doesn’t leave anything to the imagination and it doesn’t sugar coat anything. It simply adores the fact it is a nasty little film and I love it. Honesty is always the best policy!
Did this film deserve to be banned as a Video Nasty: Hell yeh!!
Does this film deserve to still be banned today: Damn fucking right it does, this is the most lovingly depraved film you will ever see. It is intended to shock, that’s its whole purpose and it damnwell exceeds and does it well. Nasty, wrong, offensive and vicious all rolled into one tight, perfect little exploitation flick, enjoy!!!
[pt-filmtitle]SS Hell Camp[/pt-filmtitle]