Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1975)

Director: Don Edmonds
USA/Germany 1975
96 min

What to expect? What to expect.

Me and my boyfriend popped this into the DVD player yesterday evening, and of course had no expectations what-so-ever (besides hopefully some entertainment). You will probably, like us, need 2 litres of Coca-Cola and a chocolate bar each to get through this.
It's quite easy to explain the plot, so I'll begin with that:

Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne) is the female head of the SS at an experimantation camp in Germany. She gets a kick out of experimenting (i.e. cutting limbs off, boiling people alive, sterilizing them with gruesome methods I will not describe for you, etc.) with both male and female prisoners. Sometimes she sleeps with the male prisoners, but most often that ends with them on an operating table and getting their family treasures cut off. We will also see prisoners infected with diseases, like syphilis, and a lesbian warden raping a female prisoner, accompanied by hairy and drunken SS-men. And a lot of naked bodies.

The surprising thing about this film, which you expect to be really bad and tasteless (and it is, mostly), is that after about half through the picture it actually gets really good. That's when the prisoners gather and figure out a way to escape. With the help of a well-hung German/American man (who thanks to his technique in the sack hasn't had to cut his male limb off, in order to please the sexually frustrated Ilsa), they go berserk and kill guards, in an action scene worthy a normal action movie. This part is actually really good. Especially when Ilsa gets her punishment - that's pretty lovely.

With the present day audience's eyes, this film does not contain as much gore and erotica as one might expect - but it certainly helped pushing the gore trend in movies, not to mention the exploitation genre.

(Note: The cut version of this film is R-rated in the USA, the uncut X-rated. Here in Sweden, everyone from the age of 15 is allowed to watch it.)

A little history lesson?

The interesting thing about Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS is that it states to be based on real life events - we even get a little text screen, informing us of the realism of this film, before the movie begins.
And it's true to some extent - the Ilsa character is obviously based on the real Buchenwald and Majdanek concentration camps commendant Ilse Koch (1906-1967).

Hard to tell them apart, huh?

Ilse Koch, AKA The Beast of Buchenwald, worked at the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1937 (a camp for Jews, Poles, Roma, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, prisoners of war etc.). She didn't waste any time, and as soon as she was installed there properly, she started torturing the prisoners - a favorite method of hers being to force the prisoners to rape each other in front of an audience. She got half-hearted orders to be a little more human to them.

In 1943, Ilse and her husband Karl Koch were arrested for embezzlement and for murdering prisoners. She was imprisoned until 1945, when her husband got the death penalty and she was set free by the German authorities. Soon, however, the USA stepped in and arrested her again.
At the trial evidence like cut-off tattooes of prisoners and a shrunken human head was revealed. She was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment. September 1, 1967, she was found in her cell, having committed suicide by hanging herself.

Below: First a picture of the evidence - tattooes cut off from prisoners. Film clip: a silent film clip from Ilse Koch's trial, where the evidence is shown.

Our heroine Dyanne Thorne went on making sequels to this film (even though Ilsa got her brain blown in bits by the end of it) - Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976), Ilsa, the Tigress of Siberia (1977) and Greta, the Mad Butcher (1977).
And don't you forget Dyanne's earlier successes with characters like The Fairy Godmother in The Erotic Adventures of Pinocchio (1971) and "Hooker" in Wham Bam Thank You Spaceman (1975).
Some people are just born to make history.

Wow, look at how they marketed this movie back in the 1970's! Different posters for each day - "Teaser No. 1 - 4 days prior to opening". Brilliant.


Robby Cress said...

What a crazy, absurd, yet oddly interesting film. I almost feel I have to watch - like some guilty pleasure. It sounds like The Doom Generation meets The Great Escape.

Matthew Coniam said...

Goodness me! What makes you suddenly decide to go for a bit of sleaze in your diet of classics???I first saw Ilsa when I was about 15. Just imagine the effect it had on me! I have moved away from exploitation and towards the (vintage) mainstream since, but you take me back to the days when all I cared about was Herschell Gordon Lewis and Chesty Morgan and Ted V Mikels.
Damn you!
I enjoyed this (you can probably tell...)

Juliette. said...

Hahaha, I'm with Matthew-- I like the randomness of this one. Cool choice. And...I've actually seen it (don't I feel proud). Didn't know it was based on true events though-- interesting!

Juliette. said...

Hahaha, I'm with Matthew-- I like the randomness of this one. Cool choice. And...I've actually seen it (don't I feel proud). Didn't know it was based on true events though-- interesting!

Lolita of the Classics said...

Robby Cress:
That's the beauty of these kind of films - you feel like you shouldn't want to see it, but yet you're so damn curious that you have to! I'd say it's "Marquis de Sade Light".

Matthew Coniam:
Surprised? He he. Well, I actually have quite a broad taste when it comes to films, but most of these kind of films I see aren't worth writing anything about - But I did do a review on Double Agent 73 back in March!
Damn me, Satan!

Ha ha, good! I don't want to be too predictable. Good that I could add something to your cinematic experience then ;)

Christopher said...

howe'd Ilsa get in here?..
I saw this years ago..right after I got my first VCR player in the 80s..I get it mixed up with Wertmuller's Seven Beauties..

Mykal said...

Lolita: Oh. My. God. I loved this so much. Great Post! Have you seen the follow up to
this? Illsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks? It's less intense, but more fun.
If interested, I did a guest post on another web
site: Mykal's Review!

Again, I praise this post. Like you, I was suprised how much I like this film, and I liked the follow up even more, which finds Illsa running around in the desert sands. Well done! -- Mykal

Samuel Wilson said...

Lolita, you make up for a great omission in the American DVD with your documentary Ilse Koch material. I also appreciate any attempt to shake up the segregation of classic and cult in the blogosphere. I'll second Radiation's recommendation of Harem Keeper, and I'll note from my own research that Dyanne Thorne can be seen as a queen of witches in the 1972 U.S. indy Blood Sabbath.

Lolita of the Classics said...

Radiation Cinema:
Jeez, thanks! I'm reading your post right now! I must say that I adore the ranking "overall-blood-breasts-beasts", ha ha.
I have to see the sequel, I feel that already!

Samuel Wilson:
Great that you feel that way! I really try to include classics from all eras (and genres), but subjects like Ilsa often makes one thinks twice (but I went for it this time anyway!), since it's not always appreciated among classics. (After all, my post on Double Agent 73 seemed to get only 1/10 of the comments I usually get, he he.)
But Ilsa seemed successful, I definitively got the encouragement to stir up the classic film choices now!

Thanks to all of you, lovely readers!

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