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February 23rd, 2017

We lost Herschell Gordon Lewis last year and it was a terrible blow to the exploitation world. In Frank (Frankenhooker) Henenlotter’s documentary, you can see how truly funny and self-deprecating he was. What’s great about the film is that you can now see how that personality carried over to his films. He knew the movies he was making weren’t high art, but you can see his distinct vision in every single one of his pictures. Lewis made them for a certain type of audience and that audience definitely appreciated them.

I loved that nearly a half hour was spent on his nudie-cutie movies. This segment is quite interesting as it is here where his relationship with producer David F. Friedman is formed. Working as a two-man crew, they convinced several women to disrobe and talked their way into filming at various nudist camps in order to make their films.

The best part of course focuses on their infamous gore trilogy. A lot of time is spent on the making of Blood Feast and the scenes of Lewis and Friedman revisiting locations for 2000 Maniacs (many of which still look the same) is really cool. After Color Me Blood Red, they had a falling out, and the two went their separate ways. Lewis became a gun for hire making a bunch of varied films from horror (A Taste of Blood) and drug (Something Weird) films, to hillbilly (Moonshine Mountain) and biker (She-Devils on Wheels) movies. After a return to the gore genre with The Wizard of Gore and The Gore-Gore Girls, he retired and went into direct market sales.

I’m glad Lewis was alive long enough to film this. Henenlotter shows all sorts of love and appreciation for the man as this is about as spot-on of a tribute as one could hope for. Just hearing him sit around and tell stories about the making of the films would’ve been enough, but it’s the care and heart that went into the feature that really shines through. It was also cool seeing snippets of his unfinished film An Eye for an Eye too, along with several outtakes from a variety of his pictures. Although not all of his features are covered (I would’ve liked to have seen Lewis’ brief flirtation with hardcore porn discussed), this is an essential documentary that any exploitation movie fan worth their salt needs to see.

LOVE CAMP 7 (1969) ** ½

Love Camp 7 was the first Naziploitation movie. Being the first of its kind, it seems relatively tame in comparison to what came later. You can tell they hadn’t worked all the bugs out yet. Still, it delivers enough exploitation goods to make it rank slightly higher than a mere curiosity piece.

The film was the brainchild of director Lee Frost and screenwriter Bob Cresse, who had previously worked on the terrific nudie-cutie, House on Bare Mountain. It was produced by the legendary David F. (Blood Feast) Friedman, who also has a role as a Nazi colonel. Friedman, of course, would later go on to make definitive Naziploitation movie, Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS. While Love Camp 7 isn’t nearly as good as that one, it remains an important stepping stone for the genre.

Two American female soldiers are sent undercover to a Nazi Love Camp where women are forced into prostitution to pleasure soldiers against their will. They have to find a woman held prisoner there who has vital information about one of their secret experiments. Once inside the camp, they are subjected to hosings, body cavity searches, torture, boot licking, bondage, and orgies.

The awkward flashback structure does the film a great disservice. The present day scenes only act as padding and since they don’t feature any T & A or B & D, they’re pretty useless. Another debit is the fact that we keep hearing about all these disgusting Nazi experiments, but we never get to see any of them. Because of this, the movie works better as a Women in Prison picture than as an outright Naziploitation flick.

Oh sure, there’s still plenty of nudity and assorted sadism to be found. In fact, the film goes along at a steady clip until about the third act. It’s here where things devolve into a series of interchangeable unsexy sex scenes of women struggling underneath grungy guards. Despite its flaws, you still have to tip your cap to Love Camp 7 for blazing the trail for an entire genre.

AKA: Nazi Love Camp 7.

HORNS (2014) **

A young man (Daniel Radcliffe) is accused of brutally murdering his girlfriend (Juno Temple) and no one in town believes him. One day, he mysteriously grows a pair of horns on his head, which makes everyone he comes in contact with confess their darkest secrets. He then uses his new power to find the real murderer.

Daniel Radcliffe does a good job at putting Harry Wizard behind him and finding a more adult role to play. His performance is probably the best thing about this muddled adaptation of the Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) novel directed by Alexandre (The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha remakes) Aja. You can’t fault Radcliffe for trying to get out of the kid star shadow. One thing is for sure, no one will mistake him for that wizarding whiz kid in this.

The film contains a good idea. I liked the idea of random people confessing their most twisted sins to our hero. The problem is there’s enough plot here for two movies. Using this power to find a murderer just seemed like overkill, especially when the interrogation scenes are so damn repetitive.

Speaking of overkill, there’s more subplots here than you can shake a stick at. All the flashbacks to Radcliffe’s youth didn’t work at all and seemed more like something Hill’s dad would write than a logistical extension of the story. I didn’t get the whole subplot with the snakes either. The third act goes on way too long too. I mean there was no reason this needed to be two hours long. Chop out a couple of the snake scenes and trim the final confrontation down to one scene instead of three and you might’ve had something there.

The supporting cast is stellar. I mean any movie that has James Remar AND David Morse in it is going to have my complete attention. Toss in Juno Temple having another quality nude scene and you have the makings for a terrific flick. Sadly, it just kinda shits the bed at the halfway mark and wallows in its own filth for too long.

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