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Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

"STOP THIS DEBASING FILM"


Nothing gets my hackles up or piques my interest like censorship. And so i was pretty excited to see this screaming headline on the front of the Sunday Times:



MP's SHOCK AT VIOLENT NAZI FILM



To summarise the lengthy article AND editorial they dedicate to said violent Nazi film:


Films with graphic everything are being sold freely on high streets. The BBFC have just unbanned a clutch of violent films banned 20 years ago, including SS Experiment Camp, and "quietly put them on sale in high street shops". The BBFC claims sensibilites have changed since first banned. However, MPs want more power to appeal against the boards decisions. the prime minister is set to meet a committee to discuss tightening up rules against "video nasties" (incedentally, if this campaign goes anywhere, I'll be really upset, but at least there'll be some interesting news coverage). The MPs are concerned these films desensitise us - and they are particulary worried about extremely low budget 70s exploitation flick SS Experiment Camp, which they add are "being sold alongside family films at high street shops". If that comment isn't trying to stir us up, I don't know what is. Jewish groups are also worried that these films trivialise the suffering of Holocaust victims. They then give a few details about the film's content, cue wincing in middle class households all over the country. "Because it has an 18 certificate, it can be sold on the same shelves as U and PG certificate films"



Stop the press. This article has an agenda. Can't they just tell us the news as it is, instead of overdramatising. I'm not sure whether the author has ever seen this film - I've seen the DVD box in my local store, and I can guarentee you it was a long way away from the PGs.



It continues: thus film was approved by the director, present and two vice-presidents of the BBFC. A spokeswoman added this very level soundbite:

"there is nothing in this film which anyone should have concerns about. It does not include harmful sexual violence. If there was any concern about it, we wouldn'y classify it. It is tasteless, but then I find most Mel Gibson films tasteless. if you are upset by something, that is your personal take on this. We do not believe that anyone watching this title is going to become anti-semetic as a result. We accept that people are going to be offended by it, but it is not going to create an attitude towards Jewish women that is harmful".



Meanwhile, a private members bill (whatever that is...) supported by senior MPs from all parties is being introduced to challenge the release of these extreme films. Brazier claims the release of said film is "a clear case of the BBFC failing to protect the public". It is not clear whether or not he has seen the film. He does add that "half of all males think that forced sex is justified under some circumstances", which I can't believe. Dunno where he's getting his facts from. They then go on to talk about the various MPs who are trying to get this garbage bill through parliament, but it's convincing enough to worry me, and they end up by adding that it's the 63rd anniversary of Holocaust Memorial Day.



First reaction - shock. The idea of all these stiffs in suits proclaiming lofty death on a film they haven't seen annoys me.




The funny thing is, I'm not sure where I stand on this. I'd be the first to defend a Real Film against such charges (say, A Clockwork Orange...), but this is SS Experiment Camp we're talking about. Even the title feels tackily exploitative (be thankful it isn't well known under it's other name, Captive Women II: Orgies of the Damned, which is even more amusingly dire)

It isn't even pretending to be art - and while the BBFC can claim it won't actively harm people who watch it, you can't deny that wanting to watch it proves you are one of a very nasty element of young men. Or women, there's no accounting for taste.

This film gets right to the heart of the argument - how nasty should our TV be allowed to be? Lots of other, better films have side-factors which muddy the issue - "it's funny", or "ironic", or "artistic" or "making a point", and thus defensible because it is (on some level) art. SS Experiment Camp is indefensible on those grounds; this is a purely moral argument.


So, morality then. BBFC policy is that adults should be able to watch what they like, if it isn't likely to cause actual harm. I'm not sure anyone can disagree with that too strongly. I like having the right to see this film, but don't particularly want to - and I don't mind others seeing it, particularly if it's from the desire to watch some kitch trash. I myself am a fan of really bad music, found on one of my favourite sites, the Museum of Bad Album Covers.


There has never been a conclusive study as to the relationship between violent films and real life crime, and until there is, neither side can use statistics to conclusively back up how much harm these things are doing. (I recently heard a radio interview with a batty theory that violent films decrease the crime rate, because they attract the Young Male demographic, get them off the streets and away from the alchohol. The sceptical interviewer shot it down almost instantly by asking if crime rates go up during Finding Nemo...)


It is my opinion that violent media unlocks something already within us - if you are a normal, well adjusted citizen, then these things may give you bad dreams, but it won't turn you into a psycho. And if it does, it's not the film alone that did that - and it's just triggering something which was inside already, whether from childhood abuse, genetics, mental disorder, frustration at the world or whatever scientists feel violence stems from. And that could be set off by anything. I have no proof, but it seems to make a sort of sense. Certainly films influence our behavior - I myself am very guilty of this. I fall into a fictional world, and it takes me a long time to claw my way back out. I have to make a conscious effort not to swear too much after seeing a film where language is in the rhythm of the script, I feel my opinions on war or suchlike change in response, I try to dress like my heroes. But I've never felt, even for an instant, more angry or vicious - sometimes more alive, maybe - but never more likely to rob old ladies after than before. I'm not denying that media and fiction influence us - I'm saying they don't turn us into something new. To ban A Particular Film for the protection of the public is to suggest a significant proportion of those who view it will go nuts as a direct result.


My dad's seen Natural Born Killers. He's still sane.


The BBFC are perhaps being a little optimistic when they say that "there is nothing in this film that anybody should have any concerns about". There's a lot to be concerned about any film this exploitative. But then again, they've seen it - I haven't, and neither have half those MPs, if I know anything about these debates. Mary Whitehouse never saw the films she chased; our local authorities hadn't seen Natural Born Killers when they kept it out of local cinemas. Lets see what the BBFC, who have watched it, have to say:


"The content of the film is in fact very mild and poorly executed. If anything, it was the title of the film and its original packaging that led to difficulties, rather than the content. The idea of the film may, of course, be offensive to some but that is not a good enough reason to cut or reject it. We would only cut or reject a film for adults if the content was illegal or harmful. "SS Experiment Camp" is neither illegal or harmful, just tasteless."


Amend "offensive to some" to "offensive to almost everyone", and they've got a good point there. Lets have a look at a review from IMDB:


"SS Experiment Camp" is a very, very badly made film - those of us with a taste for extremely sick kitsch watch it for its ludicrous, campy sleaziness - for which we should be thankful. If it was a well-made film, it would be pretty impossible to watch without puking your guts up."


Of course, this argument is getting close to territory I don't want to go into - if they can pass SS Experiment Camp because it's so bad it doesn't matter, what about films which are well made and nasty? A few more gems from IMDB:


"Please, do avoid this garbage at all costs."


"This film was, like The Driller Killer, banned in the UK because of the cover art; and that's hardly surprising, as aside from the aforementioned transplant and a few sex scenes; there really isn't anything here to warrant banning, or seeking the film out for."


"I really didn't expect anything this depressingly awful." (this from a guy who's set himself the challenge of seeing every one of the DPP Video Nasty list)


"a total failure on every possible level.This film was banned in Britain as a video nasty,but it surely isn't as outrageous as many people claim.In fact it's pretty tame even by today's standards. "


"Well, it is sleazy and in highly dubious taste but the execution of the film is so amateurish and unrealistic that it really sounds a lot worse than it actually is."


"If you like the worst of the worst (Or is it the best of the best?) you simply have to check out the Nazisploitation genre. They will NEVER make movies like this again. Thank God."


I'm not just plucking quotes to support my point, this is the unanimous verdict of everyone on the board. Which makes me wonder, what has this film done to deserve front-page treatment. Or, have any of those MPs seen this film - no where in the article does it mention it being rubbish. Banning this would be like New Line sueing me and my buddies for our 45 min Lord of the Rings, technically a good and lawful move, but actually a thorough waste of time.


In light of the fact this film is, supposedly, so lousy, it strikes me that they are giving it more notoriety than it strictly deserves. I mean honestly, Jewish groups are worried. I'm sorry about the Holocaust, I really genuinely am, but do you think a piece of turd like this will politicise anyone against the Jews? Of course not - hopefully, anyone watching it will take it as the exploitative trash it is. I've no doubt that anti-semetic films get made which deserve their concern; I've also no doubt that they get banned just as promptly by the BBFC as something "likely to cause harm". This is in no way a "Nazi video", as claimed by the Sunday Times - IMDB reviewers note that the Nazi element is purely background setting for an otherwise irrelevent series of events which would be much unchanged set in a normal prison, or a mad scientist's lair.


I talked about this at my Cambridge interview. Perhaps that's why I didn't get in? I was given a passage from Ovid, a Roman poet who wrote rather racy love poetry for which he was eventually exiled. The section I was given had him complaining that it is not his fault if people read his stuff then misbehave:



"If I’m allowed to present it in order, I’ll show, below,
the mind can be harmed by every sort of poem.
Yet every book’s not guilty because of it:
nothing’s useful, that can’t also wound.
What’s more useful than fire? Yet whoever sets out
to commit arson, arms his bold hands with fire.
Medicine sometimes grants health, sometimes destroy it,
showing which plants are helpful, which do harm.
The robber and cautious traveller both wear a sword:
one for ambush, the other for defence.
Eloquence is learnt to plead just causes:
it protects the guilty, crushes the innocent.
So with verse, read with a virtuous mind
it’ll be established nothing of mine will harm.
But I ‘corrupt some’? Whoever thinks so, errs,
and claims too much for my writings."

That's a translation from latin, but despite the gap of years, the video nasty debate instantly sprung to mind. Here's a little more:

"Anything can corrupt a perverted mind:
everything’s harmless in its proper place."

I love Ovid for his timeless modernity - that he can say something so true about poetry in his own time that it is still relevant today. Incidentally, I heartily recommend Ovid's Amores 1:14 to all teen girls, in which he complains his mistress is destroying her beautiful hair by dieing and straightening it - "tortured by fire and steel", as he puts it. One brilliant line complains that her hair is now " it was not black, and nor yet was it golden, but, though of neither colour, it was mixed with both". I'm sure you know what that disaster looks like...

Or, as Oscar Wilde puts it, "Books are neither moral nor immoral. They are either well written, or badly written - that is all."

SS Experiment Camp plainly doesn't deserve the fuss - if anything, it deserves to be forgotten as "badly written", not condemned as "immoral". It's a storm in a teacup over cheap, cold tea.



Final word: the point of the BBFC is to censor films. They are doing an awesome job. Leave them alone. Banning this (again...) is unecessary, and it sets up a dangerous precedent - SS Experiment Camp is indefensible on its own merits, but if the BBFC give in to public pressure this time, how long will it be until the same calls are being made about a film which IS art? The idea of rules being tightened up instinctively leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

2 comments:

Rob said...

I think the main problem with banning a tasteless film because it has no redeeming features is that the matter is too subjective.

Sure, the title SS Experiment Camp hardly inspires confidence in its quality, but still, who's to say what is a quality film or not. At this point, it stops being a judgment on its content and it attacks the film itself. Sure, it might be a piece of crap but if it's not doing anything illegal, than it should be allowed to be seen by those who want to.

And that's what it all comes down to; the complete right of freedom of speech. No matter how tacky, trashy, plain crappy or immoral the content of a film is, those who want to see it, should be able to see it. Until you start getting into the illegal, which is an entirely different matter.

As we know, there are many people who find things, that we don't batter an eyelid at, completely offensive and disgusting. Sometimes you can see why (A Clockwork Orange does sort of glorify rape), other times not so much.

Slightly off-topic: The current biggest film critic in Australia worked in the Australian film industry during the '70s and discovered that the classification board had been censoring films without telling anyone. So, for years, the public, and often the artists and production companies, were oblivious to the fact that the films being played weren't how they were originally meant to be seen. This was mainly happening with many of the art films coming out of Europe at the time. He was so angry at this that he used his position to change the laws, so that whenever a cut was made, the section of footage that had been cut had to be replaced by black film.

Pretty soon after this, people started figuring out what was going and got so pissed off that the board had to announce, and detail, any cuts that were being made to films.

That man also peed on Fellini once.

But yes, that story about Australian censorship is really only topped by when, in the early 1990s, the PM found out that Crocodile Dundee and Cape Fear were the same rating (M - No restriction, recommended for 15+) and said "We need a new rating!" and they created the MA15+ (Restricted to 15+, unless with a guardian).

Cape Fear and Crocodile Dundee both kept their rating of M.

Your post was a good read, and personally, I think they were much better off leaving the title as Captive Women II: Orgies of the Damned

Ninquelosse said...

Hehehe. I've never seen Cape Fear, but it sounds nasty - is there something about Crocodile Dundee I've forgotten?

Surely the opposite of banning a tasteless film because it has no redeeming features is allowing decent tasteless films through - i.e. Clockwork O - which, by virtue of being better movies, are far more likely to influence bad behavior? Just a thought, I'm still not entirely sure where I stand on this.

Oh, and the thing about Captive Women II is it implies its a sequel...

Just another thought:

When they finally classified Reservoir Dogs over here, it was after the Pulp Fiction boom and after QT had got big - they justified their decision to release it as an 18 by saying the film was notorious enough that people buying it would know what they were letting themselves in for. Surely the same thing can apply to any flick called SS Evperiment Camp?

 
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