Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS: Cinepix/ American Video/ Image Entertainment
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Rating: USA: Unrated/ Germany: Banned/ Denmark: 16
In the annals of exploitation cinema, few films are more infamous than Don Edmonds’ Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS. It’s one of those movies that fans of gore and sleaze use as a barometer—if you like it, we’ll point out a hundred other flicks even more perverse. If you don’t like it, well, we know you’re a civilized human being with at least a modicum of taste. Still, for as much as the film’s been vilified over the years, it’s a surprisingly tame affair—more like "exploitation lite" when compared to some of the field’s more heavy fare (such as Pasolini’s Salo or the disturbing Men Behind the Sun—a film that dealt with the Japanese experiments during WWII).
Truthfully, Ilsa has very little to do with the Nazi’s or WWII. While watching the film, one gets the distinct feeling that producers Friedman and Traeger only chose the Nazi angle in order to try and give the film an air of legitimacy—while still allowing them to get away with showing copious amounts of nudity and violence. The serious prologue card leads the uninformed viewer to believe that he’s about to view a film dealing seriously (and graphically) with Nazi atrocity—then the film opens with Ilsa having sex, finding herself dissatisfied with her lover, then castrating him—thereby shattering that illusion.
What little plot there is centers around Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne: Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, Ilsa: Wicked Warden) the commandant of Camp 9 (which was actually the old Hogan’s Heroes set), a Nazi center where medical experiments are performed on various female prisoners. Ilsa’s got a theory that women can endure more pain than men—one that she’s working on proving with a series of gruesome experiments at the camp. When not hard at work, Ilsa likes to kick back and get a little freaky—choosing her partners from the pool of male workers in the camp. If you fail to satisfy her, well, let’s say you won’t be quite the man you were before. Anyway, she soon meets her perfect partner in Wolf (Gregory Knoph), a self-proclaimed "genetic freak" who can stave off orgasm for hours—thereby driving Ilsa to the brink of sexual madness and ensuring that he continues to keep his manhood. Meanwhile, the prisoners are planning to break out of Camp 9 and escape into the countryside. All of this leads to a climactic shootout that’s pretty laughable.
Ok, let’s admit it, the story is terrible. Ilsa’s little more than a series of shocking setpieces strung together with just enough plot to get from point A to point B. Of course, no one watches a film like Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS for the story anyway. Fans of these kinds of films are looking for gore and nudity, the cornerstones of any good exploitation flick. So, does Ilsa deliver the goods? For the most part, yes.
Director Don Edmonds has filled almost every frame of this film with either nudity, torture, or gore. Ilsa and her "black widows" spend a lot of time in various states of undress, and the female prisoner are almost always completely naked. The film features a lot of nudity, including the dreaded "full frontal" variety—if you have any sexual hang-ups, you might want to skip this one.
Joe Blasco provided the films special FX. They’re pretty decent, considering that this film was made in 1974. While I’m almost 100% certain that the unrated laserdisc I viewed was cut, there’s still enough blood and guts here to satisfy the discerning gore fan.
The film’s performances are pretty laughable—sort of what you’d expect in this kind of film. Thorne’s actually entertaining as the wicked Ilsa, a monster who inspires both fear and lust—often at the same time. Perhaps the most interesting dichotomy to her character is that while in SS uniform, she’s a harsh woman—dominant, evil, and terrifying, yet when she’s in the throes of sexual passion, she almost becomes submissive. Knoph is terrible, leaving little doubt as to why this is the only film on his actor’s resume. His dialogue sounds like it’s being read off a cue card, his performance in the climactic action sequence is absurd (watch him shoot the Nazi guards) and he never really convinces anyone in the bedroom scenes either. The rest of the cast apparently realized they were in an exploitation film and acted accordingly—which makes commenting on the performances pretty pointless.
Despite the fact that the Nazi’s ultimately murder Ilsa at the film’s climax, she returned for several more outings including Ilsa: The Wicked Warden, Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, and Ilsa: The Tigress of Siberia. The film also inspired a whole subgenre of Nazi sexploitation flicks, as well
Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS is an interesting little exercise in exploitation. While not as "out there" as most of the field’s offerings today, it’s still an entertaining piece of schlock cinema that opened the doors for far more brutal fare. It’s a film guaranteed to offend the politically correct, the feminists, and just about everyone else—pop it in at your next party and watch the room clear—yet it’s so tacky and cheap that it’s actually entertaining. Check this one out, but don’t take it too seriously.
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