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Friday, May 12, 2017

The Monster of Camp Sunshine



Monster of Camp Sunshine (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Nature)
1964
Ferenc Leroget

A couple of roommates; one works in a laboratory, the other a model, like to spend their time at the clothing optional Camp Sunshine. Some lab work follows these women home in the most roundabout way imaginable, and the camp’s groundskeeper Hugo (Harrison Pebbles (almost certainly not his real name)) becomes a murderous would-be killer on the rampage. The operative word being 'would-be.'

Thanks to independent movie producers and relaxing attitudes towards nudity on the screen, the end of the 1950s into the 1960s saw the rise of ‘nudie’ films. Filmmakers outside the studio system could show more explicit material than their studio-bound counterparts. The only real obstacle was usually in the form of a theater's local obscenity laws. Therefore, setting a film in a nudist camp, and making it ostensibly about the benefits of naturalism, seems like the perfect solution to show naked humans and not suffer arrest in the process. Heck, throw in a monster too. Why not? What could go wrong?

Plenty could go wrong, apparently.

The monster plot line is the wrench in the works of this film. Without it, this would be just another thinly veiled exploitation movie about nudism. Introduce a character who is resistant to taking off her clothes, she goes to the camp, loves it, roll credits. Monster of Camp Sunshine mixes in some mad science, an angry lab rat, and eventually a mutant groundskeeper. The story adopts a convoluted way to get Hugo transformed into a feral beast, and then downright refuses to allow him to do anything monstrous. This in and of itself could actually be funny, but more often it is just aggravating.

The titular monster.
By the end of the film, Hugo is under siege from a tremendous amount of stock footage, most of it consisting of armies from various eras. This whole sequence aims for over-the-top and silly, but it feels more like a desperate attempt to salvage some kind of narrative and comedic finale to the movie. This final fifteen minutes of the movie is staggering in its own peculiar way, you just have to slog through the first hour to get there.

What about the nudity? The movie talks about the freedom of naturalism, but it is obviously more interested in luridly staring at women removing their clothes. I have doubts about people professing a natural and healthy lifestyle while they chain-smoke and stand around in the sun without a drop of sunscreen. If you watch Monster of Camp Sunshine you will learn a dozen ways to hide your genitals on screen, ranging from the techniques of the beginner (a strategically placed towel) to the advanced (a strategically placed piano).

"Heh, you said, titular."
The best thing about Monster of Camp Sunshine are the opening credits. They are animated with cutout images much like the opening credits of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. They are inventive and funny, but set an unfortunate high bar for which the movie does not even attempt to reach.

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