The Film (4/5)
Jess Franco died a little over one year ago now in April of 2013, as one of the last remaining auteurs of early EuroCult cinema it was a tragic loss, but being in his mid-80's, and having been in declining health for sometime it was hardly unexpected. If one is to find a silver lining in the dark cloud of Franco's tragic passing it would be that over his very long and prolific career the Spanish director left us with over 200 films (more if you qualify the varying cuts of some of his films) to explore and to enjoy for decades to come. Prior to his passing his films began to trickle on to the Blu-ray format with Redemption Films releasing his classics Female Vampire and Exorcism on to the format in October of 2012. However, it would be Ascot-Elite Films with their line of Franco Blu-ray's that have been keeping the maestro's work visible, and in very beautiful Blu-ray editions since late 2013. The series is working it's way down, and we have decided to go back, and review as many of these titles as time allows as these are some of the most gorgeous cult titles on the market, and they offer a great tribute to the late Jess Franco.
Franco was a great director of films in the women in prison (WiP) subgenre of exploitation cinema, and considering that he likely directed as many films in that genre as some filmmakers do in an entire career it is certainly understandable. The genre as it is, tends to be one that is very cookie cutter, but also very fun, and there are a number of ways filmmakers tend to approach WiP films. Most of them fall into 2 categories a woman is wrongfully accused of a crime, and finds herself in prison, or a woman or group of women are rounded up and brought to a jungle prison. The warden of said prison in either case is always a tyrant, and if a woman is usually a lesbian.
The film being reviewed presently, Jess Franco's Love Camp falls into the jungle prison genre of WiP films. The premise of this one is simple, at the beginning of the film a group of guerilla combatants invades a small village and kidnaps it's young sexy women. They are taken to a prison camp overseen by Isla, a domineering warden who informs them that they are to be sex slaves for the revolution. The film then follows the women through various showers and sex scenes, torture, and escape attempts.
Love Camp is not the best of Franco's WiP films (I will personally give that honor currently to his 1969 film 99 Women). However, Love Camp as a by the numbers Women in Prison venture is an absolute fun ride from director Franco. The film in a way combines the plots of an Ilsa film (which Franco directed an unofficial sequel to, Ilsa: The Wicked Warden), and Salo: 120 Days of Sodom, although this is just for the scenario with the kidnapping by government soldiers, and not the darker elements of that film.
The film like many films in the Dietrich series has some interesting concepts running through it. Such as one of the primary prisoners Angela realizing her love for one of the captors that had previously raped her in a version of the Stockholm Syndrome at play. The film still is distinctly low budget as other Franco films from the period, but the cinematography especially that in the jungle environment is especially lovely, and helps elevate the film beyond it's low budget roots.
Love Camp is presented by Ascot Elite Films in it's OAR in a 1080p transfer that like the other films in the series looks quite splendid. The natural look and color of the jungle cinematography comes through nicely, and there is strong detail present. There are some soft spots throughout, but overall a very pleasing transfer.
There are 3 audio options 2 are DTS-HD 5.1 English and German the French track is 2.0 and subtitles are available in a variety of languages including English. For my viewing I stuck to the German track, and was quite pleased with the results. The dialogue was quite audible throughout as was the music and effects.
Ascot Elite have put together a nice extra package for Love Camp. There is a trailer for the film, a trailer show, photo galleries, and an audio interview with Franco.
Not Franco's best WiP film, however, there is a lot of fun to be had with Love Camp. The Blu-ray restoration from Ascot Elite is a thing of beauty, and the disc comes RECOMMENDED.