The Beast in Heat (AKA Hell Camp) (1977) Dir. Luigi Batzella (as Ivan Kathansky), Italy, 86 mins
Hooray! It's Nazispolitation time! Some of you might be wondering 'what the hell is Nazosploitation', so to answer that before we go further this is a subgenre of extreme horror offering films set in Nazi Germany, often centred on bizarre and disturbing experiments or torture techniques in SS camps. If you go looking, you'll actually be surprised how popular this niche was – Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS and The Gestapo's Last Orgy are a couple of the most prominent examples. And from any of these movies you can expect a good smattering of gore, plenty of nudity and lots of actors and actresses giving their best dastardly and sinister efforts.
So, The Beast in Heat might be about forty years old, but is still no stranger to controversy – it was one of the DPP's 72 Video Nasties and, even further to that, was actually one of the final 39 eligible for prosecution. Now I feel it's fair to say that the video nasties offered a very mixed range of quality, some very good and some very bad, but all with extreme violence and often graphic nudity and sex acts. Remarkably, this one is still banned in the UK, which made me very curious to see what was so awful here to get this on the contraband list.
Well, for me, not much. The story itself is largely about an Italian town's resistance to the invading German forces, which takes us all over the two and into the surrounds. It feels as though we barely see the same character twice, and the actions of the partisans rarely seem to make much of a dent to the Nazis themselves. The acting – in particular what I can only assume is dubbing – is largely awful, very much overdone and amateurish in places. There are moments it comes across as almost comedic – SS soldiers flinging themselves to the floor when a grenade goes off within ten feet of them is just something else.
OK, so we have a badly-delivered tale of rebellion, but what about 'The Beast in Heat' the title promised us? Well, he is in there, although only appearing in three scenes. The beast is an oversexed, devolved human being with insatiable carnal appetites who is granted the chance to rape his victims by demented doctor Ellen Kratsch. As I say, we only see him a trio of times, which is a little disappointing given the title is devoted to him – it also would have been good to see more of this strange experiment to alleviate just how poor the rest of this movie really is. The Beast itself seems almost shoehorned in, a circus sideshow to bring people to watch this one. It promises one thing but delivers quite another, although one of the scenes in particular with the beast does make for pretty uneasy viewing.
With this one serving as my introduction to the Nazispoitation patch, I can't say it's made an overly great impression. To be honest, it borders camp rather than disturbing and it blows my mind that this one caused such a stir at the time. The acting is passable at very best and nothing short of laughable at its worst, the whole thing looks extremely cheaply made and is obviously made very much for shock and titillation, but honestly rarely achieves that in its 86 minute runtime – and indeed it rarely seems to even aim at that. It's as though someone cooked up the concept but then decided to half bottle out of it.
RATING: 2/10. Not one of the highlights of Film Gutter, this is pretty cheap, trashy and ultimately lamentable effort to create something edgy and controversial that falls well short of its intentions. For the most part its a poorly made war movie with a splash of titillation, and for that reason the beast gets a distinctly chilly 2/10 from me.