In Love Camp (Die Todesgöttin des Liebescamps, 1981), the compound of the title is a white-walled fortress beside the ocean where the so-called Children of Light, a doomsday love cult, cavort semi-naked, practicing free love, singing pop songs, and worshiping a woman they call “The Divine One” (Indonesian-born Laura Gemser, Black Emanuelle), waiting for the Endtimes to come. Some who join the sect vanish into thin air, so a police officer named Gabriel (Gabriele Tinti, Gemser’s real-life husband and frequent co-star) goes undercover as a cultist to uncover any dark secrets. But the Divine One is guarded by a hulking enforcer named Tanga (Sascha Borysenko), whom she uses to dispatch her enemies – dropping them down a bottomless pit hidden in a cave – and to deflower young virgins publicly to welcome them into womanhood, leaving spots of blood before her throne. Everyone is welcome to the love cult, provided they don’t leave, and pay strict adherence to the rules. Your body should always be given freely to others, not selfishly reserved for just the one you love. When a young couple confesses to the Divine One that they’ve fallen in love, she tells them: “Your actions mean you haven’t understood anything… None less than Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘He who only loves one person cannot love them all.'” The two are stripped naked and sentenced to twenty lashes. Kindly, she stops at fifteen and commands, “Go now and sin no more!”
Some are permitted to leave the “Camp of Love,” provided they bring back donations and new disciples. Of these missionaries, The Divine One’s most faithful is the blond, blue-eyed Dorian (Christian Anders), who uses the teachings of “the Goddess” – and an endless pop song called “Love, Love, Love” – to recruit Patricia Benneman (Simone Brahmann), the daughter of a wealthy American senator (Bob Burrows). Dorian fends off one of the senator’s henchmen with his karate moves, making some Bruce Lee noises and faces. Dorian adores The Divine One, even though she nearly drowns him while having sex in the ocean, holding his head submerged while she straddles him. He forgives her. But when he tells her that he’s fallen in love with the senator’s daughter, she sends Tanga to throw him down that bottomless pit (Dorian busts out some karate). The days of the Camp of Love are numbered. After Gabriel is discovered to be a police lieutenant, and killed, The Divine One orders the destruction of the camp. Tanga opens up the back of her ivory throne, revealing dozens of sticks of dynamite and a timer. While one of their cultists sings another musical number called “This is the End,” the naked throng poses around him on the steps of the temple, and writhes in an orgy on the grass as The Divine One gazes on. “This is the end/there’s nothing left for me/only eternity/or is it obscurity?” the singer wails.
Love Camp is not your average West German softcore-porn rock musical. It’s a film from the “Chranders” production company, meaning Christian Anders, the German singer who wrote, produced, and directed the film, along with playing the role of black-belt/Christ-figure Dorian. Anders was a major celebrity in Germany in the late 60’s and 70’s, a womanizing pop star with plenty of hit records in his native country. He was eager to branch into film, starring in his own martial arts epic, Roots of Evil (1979), before sinking a million of his own dollars into this film. He told Vice in 2010, “Back then I used to get $3,000 a night, so I could have easily paid it off, but I said they should just take my royalties instead.” The film flopped, and his quest to conquer cinema came to an abrupt end. Broke, he traveled to the U.S., converted to Buddhism, and adopted the name “Lanoo.” “I was too divine,” he told Vice. “Students began washing my feet and really wanted to establish me as a guru…They promised me a castle on a beach in Mexico with luxury mobile homes. I was supposed to live there with all my pupils. It was a huge deal. They washed my feet and I sat as their guru on a golden throne…Well, gold-coated plastic, but you get my point.” As Christian Anders, he was a pop star. As Lanoo, he was The Divine One.
Anders still performs, writes, and occasionally pops up in German headlines with wild stunts and conspiracy rants. But Love Camp must remain his crowning achievement of hubris. He introduces his character as a Tommy-like Messiah figure, leading his fellow sect members along the beach while they gaze at him longingly. Although he’s absent for much of the film – only to return with the senator’s daughter in tow, professing the importance of love over partner-swapping orgies – Anders’ presence is still felt behind the camera in every shot, underlining his clear preference for orgies over love. The music is energetic but mediocre (for quality, the songs are just below the level of 1980’s musical flop The Apple), yet it takes a film this terrible for me to wish there were more musical numbers. Most of the film is taken up with sex scenes, and the majority of those sex scenes feature Gemser. The cult-fave actress, who had starred in far more extreme grindhouse films (Emanuelle in America, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals), is nude for most of the film and sports a Tia Carrere pout; for more on her career, see Lianne Spiderbaby’s “Emmanuelle et Emanuelle” article in the May/June Video Watchdog (No. 174), which tackles that successful series from a female point-of-view. It’s Gemser’s presence, not Anders’ craft, that’s the sole reason this film can still be tracked down. Her sex scenes are so frequent that they quickly become dull. Occasionally, though, we’re blessed with some of Anders’ dialogue during these exercises, and it often goes like this: “Let’s find your infinity…there! It’s growing now! Now penetrate into all the secrets of the universe. And do it standing!”
Enjoy these musical selections from the film, courtesy The Crazy World of Laura Gemser: