THE MONSTER OF CAMP SUNSHINE
B&W, 1964, 74 mins. 21 secs.
Directed by Ferenc Leroget
Starring Harrison Pebbles, Deborah Spray, Sally Parfait, James Gatsby
AGFA / Something Weird (Blu-ray) (US R0HD),Image Entertainment / Something Weird (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)
HONEYMOON OF TERROR
B&W, 1961, 61 mins. 19 secs.
Directed by Peter Perry
Starring Doug Leith, Dwan Marlow, Anton von Stralen
AGFA / Something Weird (Blu-ray) (US R0HD) / WS (1.85:1)
Cruelly deprived from the viewing public upon its completion in 1964, The Monster of Camp Sunshine is one of the nuttiest entries in the cycle of nudist camp movies that started popping up all over the place when non-sexual nudity itself was deemed a-okay for American audiences. That meant that in addition to the spectacle of unclothed amateur actors played sports in the great outdoors, we could also get genre-crossing mutations that boggled the mind like the immortal Nude on the Moon and this baffling homage to classic monster movies... but with lots of bare butts. Complete with silent movie-style intertitles and Doris Wishman-worthy dubbing, this should have been a natural for the grindhouse scene but instead got locked away in a cannister until it was uncovered by Something Weird in the early '90s. The world still wasn't ready.
Superstitious aspiring model Claire Conway (Spray) lives in New York City with her roomie, hospital assistant Marta (Parfait), who got matched up with her via a computer service. Together they embark on an adventure in the sweltering days of mid-July when Claire, already rattled after breaking a mirror and getting scratched by her cat, heads out for a swimsuit shoot while Marta goes about her day at a hospital lab where animals are being subjected to "things that upset the delicate balance of nature." That includes some mice going berserk and causing her to dangle out of a window, which leads to a dangerous concoction getting chucked out into the river by her boss. Meanwhile Claire suffers an equally traumatic tragedy when it turns out the modeling shoot requires her to go topless, so Marta decides to make her feel better with a vacation to her favorite naturist resort, Camp Sunshine. One jazz-fueled road trip upstate later, they're hanging out au naturel in the sun and cheerfully chain-smoking away. Unfortunately that nasty chemical gets fished out of the river and spilled into a lake at the camp where it's consumed by the dim-witted handyman, Hugo (Pebbles), who soon turns into a raving, ax-wielding monstrosity stalking the clothes-free campgrounds. That in turn leads to sparklers, parachuting, and a frenzied climax involving combat stock footage and nudists running for their lives in the dark.
Truly an experience beyond words, The Monster of Camp Sunshine (or going by its full Kubrick-riffing screen title, The Monster of Camp Sunshine or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Nature) promises skin and cheap thrills but obviously has something much weirder on its mind right from the eccentric animated opener. Extensive coverage of early '60s Manhattan, and charming details like the roommates' tobacco routine make it clear this isn't your average nudie movie, something driven home by the hilarious two-minute recap stuck at the end of the film "for those who wish to relive its magic moments." The identities of the perpetrators behind this one haven't been determined, but the overall execution feels similar to the genre-smashing madness of Fredric Hobbs (Godmonster of Indian Flats, Alabama's Ghost). In keeping with the era, the nudists do their best to keep any frontal exposure away from the camera but still slip up on several occasions; for the most part though it's the usual goofiness including naked zithering in what still remains a cinematic one-off.
Thanks to its irresistible concept and some ingenious copy writing by the folks at Something Weird, this one was a very popular title when it hit VHS back in the early '90s as part of "Frank Henenlotter's Sexy Shockers from the Vaults." In 2001, it was early choice to hit DVD as part of of SWV's deal with Image Entertainment, logically chosen as a co-feature with Barry Mahon's colorful monster nudist colony romp, The Beast That Killed Women and featuring that great "Let's Go to the Drive-In" viewing option with vintage bumpers and other goodies. Among them are a big batch of nudist shorts -- "Bring 'Em Back Nude" (14m13s), "The Expose of the Nudist Racket" (9m37s), "Nude Ranch" (6m2s), "Beauty and the Beast" (7m8s), "Back to Nature" (9m3s), and "Nudist Fashion Show" (2m42), plus three intermission shorts and an exploitation art gallery. In 2022, AGFA and Something Weird unleashed this one on Blu-ray featuring a simply staggering 2K scan from the original negative that improves on the already impressive DVD presentation. The clarity and black levels are beyond reproach here, and it truly looks like it could've been shot yesterday if the hairstyles didn't give the game away. The DTS-HD MA 1.0 English mono track (with optional English SDH subs) is also in immaculate condition.
Of course, that Blu-ray is actually a double feature -- and here you get another familiar title from the "Sexy Shockers" days, 1961's Honeymoon of Terror. Also transfered from the mint condition negative and looking stupendous here (bearing the onscreen title Ecstasy on Lover's Island), this threadbare shocker was the sophomore effort for director Peter Perry (following 1959's Revenge of the Virgins, another SW staple), before he went on to nudie immortality with titles like Kiss Me Quick!, My Tale Is Hot, The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill, and The Joys of Jezebel (using bizarre pseudonyms like "A.P. Stootsberry" and "Seymour Tokus"). Here we get the saga of newlyweds Marion (Marlow) and Frank (Leith), who head into "fabulous" Las Vegas so they can consummate their marriage at a cheap motel. She'd rather get away to someplace more secluded where they can be "completely alone," so they head off to the very isolated Thunder Island in a little speedboat. Unfortunately they forget their stove fuel after setting up their tent, so he heads back to the mainland for the day to leave Marion skinnydipping and sunbathing to her heart's content. However, she isn't alone; there's a hulking brute (von Stralen) lurking nearby, and during his errand Frank is horrified to learn about the deadly peril his new bride is about to endure. More straightforward than its companion feature, this one is actually quite nicely shot and makes good use of its desolate island location even if the actors obviously aren't the greatest in exploitation history. Mostly this is a grungy thriller, but the swimming interlude feels like Perry hedging his bets so this could be sold as a nudie movie as well (with a bit of roughie nastiness tossed in late in the game for good measure). Either way, it's a lot of fun if you love this kind of resourceful DIY programmer fare that couldn't afford more than three actors (with Perry himself popping up to provide some exposition).
Also tucked away on the same disc is another film, All Men Are Apes! (65m53s), which is basically a bonus feature here as it's pulled from the archival Something Weird VHS master (complete with the SWV bug in the corner and the original company promo reel at the beginning). Quality is very VHS-y, but it's still a fun one to revisit as director Joseph P. Mawra (notorious for the Olga S&M films) delivers a semi-comedic look at the seedier side of life in the big city. As a narrator informs us right off the bat, "You will see no monsters from outer space. You will see only people of this world, flesh and blood." The primary one of these average folks, Diane (Stephanie DePasse), is first seen in a jail cell looking back at her wild life under the influence of her competitive nightclub performer mom, Marge (Grace Lynn). Diane gets roped into the life as well by performing as a stripper, with musical interludes provided by "Joe Boatner's Ink Spots." Of course, she's soon learning the hard lesson of the film's title when she starts tangling with a seedy crime boss and club promoters, at least when she isn't doing a stage show with a guy in a gorilla suit billed as Harry the Ape. There's no actual nudity here; mostly shot around Greenwich Village, it's a goofy and sometimes sleazy curio with that unmistakable Something Weird vibe in spades. Finally you get a batch of "nudie-horror trailers" including The Curious Dr. Humpp, House on Bare Mountain, Professor Lust, Wanda the Sadistic Hypnotist, and The Wacky World of Doctor Morgus.
HONEYMOON OF TERROR:
ALL MEN ARE APES:
THE MONSTER OF CAMP SUNSHINE:
AGFA / Something Weird (Blu-ray)
Image Entertainment (DVD)
Reviewed on January 24, 2021