SIN AND SWASTIKA; WOMANS CAMP 119 (A.K.A KZ9 - LAGER DE STERMINIO) (1977) – REVIEW 20
"Lesbians! Communists ! Pig-Whores! we'll show you! You'll wipe the asses of everyone of us till you turn purple with fatigue!"
In my humblest opinion and from what I’ve seen so far of this genre, Woman’s' Camp 119 is possibly the harshest and grimmest example of its breed.
Bruno Mattei, the director, uses differing techniques in his production that makes this wholly believable than what has been reviewed on the teapot. Campness, crap dialogue and hysterical acting is thrown out completely for a more ‘visual’ document than perverted s/m fantasy.
Woman’s’ Camp 119, at times if not the majority of the time makes for uncomfortable viewing even rivalling Ilsa for medic-horror, but the reduction in morbid ‘burlesque’ makes it seems a hell of a lot worse.
The trademark ‘out of time’ Muzak stock has been sacrificed for an actual score. Alessandro Alesandroni creates a melancholic ‘doom’ beated theme that notches up the atrophied milieu and it is exquisitely orchestrated. I wish this theme was available to buy it really is haunting and lurks in the mind for several days after.
We also see actors using their native dialogue Nazis’ speak German; Dutch is spoken and French another piece of forethought that works remarkably well showing Matteis' skill as a director and his intellectuality in doing so.
The whole thing appears as if it has been filmed in a real death camp and whether lab, laundry, washroom or surgery we cannot escape the sinister, apocalyptic situation like the incarcerated.
There are also some truly disturbing sequences such as when Maria (played expertly by Lorraine de Salle) is suffering sleep depravation caused by the perpetual screaming pain of the slow deaths of the guinea pigs for which she can do nothing about.
This truly is nightmare stuff. Despair reigns supreme as seemingly endless whipping and degradation is inter-cut with suffering from the moment the women arrive at
Twisted and unsavoury pleasures on display are botched up uterus transplants (this time explicitly demonstrated as well as the aftermath) reflecting upon there 100% unsuccess rate the camp commander coldly rationales that it is due to using an inferior species nothing to do with the medical and operational precision nor the craftsmanship of the Nazi doctors.
Women are exposed to dangerously high levels of x-rays and gratuitous gassings (where in one instance Mattei inter-cuts with the Nazis having a gluttonous wild feast to superlative disgusting juxtaposing effect).
A Polish priest is also frozen almost to death in an altitude experiment to be revived by the warm bodies of prostitutes; this priest is used as his faith to god would be similar to the faith of Nazi pilots to the Fuhrer.
Whereas the other movies were made for the Lira and jaded thrill seeker it seems as though Mattei is doing this but not doing this exclusively. It’s as though Mattei is also trying to get to the nearest representation of actual event with liberal doses of exploitation chucked in for good measure.
Even at the premise of the film we open at Ravensbruck concentration camp (a real factual death camp) before their transfer to Rosenhausen (the fictional) so we witness a first attempt of blending factuality with ‘sadiconazista’ fable.
Mattei zooms in on icons of factory mass-death such as the crematorium chimneys silhouetted against a grey sky and in one of the most repugnant sequences Camp Commandant Weiker enjoys real atrocity footage projected in a viewing room while he smugly grins at the successes of genocide.
Even hairstyles are spot on - with two blonde Kappo officers wearing the traditional plats associated with Aryan idealism.
Mattei steers clear of short, sharp, shock tortures to long, protracted sequences of unbridled sadism. One episode features the commandant visiting his ‘experiments’ we hear a weary weeping as the Commander looks approvingly down at the victim. As the camera pans back with see a severe ‘open’ gangrenous wound that has rotted to the point that the bone is showing.
One prisoner is shot with a ‘poison’ bullet by the Commander she writhes and screams in agony, the film progresses, we return quite a time later and witness the girl in her final death throws. It is revealed it has taken her two hours to die- her body lies motionless as she apparently seems to have bled from every orifice.
All the actors, supporting cast or not are so credible too and never let the side down long enough for it to venture into ‘ham’category.
Two other commendations are the endings handled with disturbing finesse. As Maria (Lorraine de Selle) and her male counterpart David are lead to their fate the women are already on their knees about to be executed. They all begin to sing ‘
Fucking hell is this ever so harrowing but so well done, it could have completely made a mockery of the whole affair but in fact does exactly the opposite – so powerful.
Another stand out sequence is when de Salle is raped by Nazi nutcase Ohlendorffs' pet ‘imbecile’ Kurt. As Ohlendorf holds David down by boot and the violation takes place the Nazis and Alsatians form a circle of ‘approval’ around the ugly scene.
This is sickeningly iconic and really sums up what the Nasty Nazi cycle of films represented in one harrowing sequence of event.
There is also a twist offered at the end of the movie, however highly implausible, is another flawed piece of ingenuity.
This is not a movie to be approached likely and runs like an Italian ‘Man Behind the Sun’, a hidden masterpiece of its’ kind that really is one of the most finest examples of how far you can go in exploitation but still the results work remarkably well.
The version I was privileged to view is the VHS to DVD semi-legal bootleg from Network DVD. I think they also are behind two other similar titles ‘Holocaust 2’ and ‘Achtung! Desert War Tigers’..
It is very bare bones with a menu chapter and movie. I feel it would be justified for a bells and whistles release, for once extreme cinema could be released worthy of the hyperbole if this is movie.
I feel that it would be good to see the film as audiences viewed it first time around- no matter how gruelling it would be. The extras would also be an absolute bonus as much obscurity surrounds this movie and I feel it has more to offer than is currently available.
One of Matteis finest works………………………
Maria Black is transferred with other prisoners of war from Ravensbruck to Rosehausen a notorious extermination camp run by Nazi sadist, Commander Wieker.
They meet Weiker who is clearly the quintessentially brainwashed Nazi beyond redemption who equates Mein-Kamp to the bible, but of course believing the latter to be infinitely inferior.
In one tense moment it is revealed that Maria has never read Mein-Kampf but is spared any anticipated barbarism - for the time being anyway.
The other women witness the flagellation to death of two misbehaved inmates as their welcoming package to demonstrate what would happen if they misbehave.
They live in fear too of the obligatory Nazi lesbian, Kappo Officer Marta; she is sometimes accompanied by Captain Ohlendorf where he subjects the inmates to sexual assaults courtesy of his pet retard Kurt - a lunatic, who seems the unfortunate victim of some lobotomy atrocity.
After witnessing cod-science and failing eugenics that is costing the lives of so many Maria seeks solitude in David and they form a strong bond.
As the experiments continue and become even more sadistic, Meisel meets an old friend from the forced labour camp.
They clandestinely meet and agree to bust out leaving the nightmare behind them. The Russian allies are also closing in and edging further towards Rosenhausen. David, Maria, a young girlfriend of Maria’s’ from Ravensbruck and a few of the labour camp men choose their moment and make a break for it into the surrounding woodland and lakes.
Enraged Weiker instructs Ohlendorf and a Nazi posse to pursue the escapees with Alsatians and gurning Kurt.
Unfortunately the escape plan fails and costs the lives of many. Maria and David after being severely ruffed up are lead to their destiny.
It appears all evidence is to be destroyed as the Russians are rapidly closing in. Maria and David are to be hung whilst all the inmates are to be gunned down; even this though is the not the end of the nightmare.
As the film ends real life photographs of perpetrators and architects of the holocaust are displayed with their ultimate outcome revealed in text - some are as shocking as the contents of this movie and for all the wrong reasons. Some of the bastards did get away with it after all…..
I would praise Matteis' direction overall and the way he captures fascistic decay so well.
Most of the highlights have been previously discussed before but I also, rightly or wrong, must also comment on the successful way fact and fiction has been blended.
Definitely not a general masterpiece by any means but a definite masterpiece in its’ own sub genre and a definitive example of it’s' trashy kind. Very strong stuff indeed.
The Film ; Women's Camp 119 (a.k.a KZ9 - Lager di Stermino/ S.S. Extermination Love Camp / SS campo de sexo y violencia / SS campo extermination /S.S Extermination Camp)
The year; 1977
The Country; Italy
The Music; Alessandro Alessandroni
Maria Black (Lorraine de Selle)
Commander Weiker (Ivano Staccioli)
Marta ( Ria de Simone)
with: Nello Riviè / Gabriele Carrara/ Giovanni Attanasio/ Sonia Viviani/ Marina D'Aunia