Saturday, April 9, 2011

30 Day Horror Challenge Day 09 - Your favorite exploitation / grind house type film

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS is pure indefensible filth. It shamelessly uses the atrocities of the Nazis as a flimsy excuse to show nude women and graphic violence. It is nothing but sleazy, tasteless trash that appeals only to the most base and prurient of interests. Needless to say, I LOVE IT. Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS is the very definition of, and the perfect example of, the exploitation film. This is a movie so good, so controversial, and so vile in fact that EVERY SINGLE actor and crew member besides the director and the lead actress used a pseudonym to hide their involvement.

Nazi-sploitation is, for those who aren’t inclined towards subversive cinema, one of the more distasteful subgenres of horror. It exploits one of the most truly horrific events in world history. Love Camp 7 kicked things off in 1969, and for the next 10 or so years these films were very popular. Some focused on the torture and bloody horror of the concentration camps, while others dialed up the sleeze quotient and focused on the sexual exploitation of the prisoners. Either way it was just a good excuse for blood and boobs. The makers of Ilsa apparently said “why not do both,” effectively making it the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup of 70’s Nazi sex and gore flicks. Don’t think about that too hard.

As one of my literary heroes would say, this movie is free from “too much plot getting in the way of the story.” We start with a disclaimer trying to mask this whole sordid escapade as a culturally important look at the horror of the Nazis. Suuuuuure guys. To prove the validity of the film’s artistic direction, we start with a sex scene, then a shower scene, followed by a castration. Classy!

Ilsa, commandant of the camp, is performing brutal experiments on the female prisoners to prove her theory that women can withstand more pain than men. As for the male prisoners, she gives some of them the chance to “please” her and, when they inevitably fail, they, well, lets just say become half the men they used to be. A new prisoner, Wolfe, shows up and makes Ilsa feel like a natural woman, womaaaaaaaaan. Sorry, couldn’t resist. General Wolfgang, high ranking Reich official, visits and talks Ilsa into peeing on him. Yes, I’m serious. The look on her face in that scene is priceless. Meanwhile, super stud Wolfe and the other prisoners plan an escape. General Wolfgang hears about an American force approaching and orders his troops to destroy Ilsa’s camp to keep its secrets safe. Wolfe and his girl survive. Everyone else dies. Pretty basic, huh?

The plot is absolutely not the point here. It’s all an excuse to show Ilsa’s experiments, which involve torturing naked women in bizarre ways including but not limited to; lethal flogging, electrified dildo, lethal pressure chamber, boiling alive, gang rape, a cool ice block/hanging combo, and inserting typhus infected maggots in open wounds. It seems that they just wanted to see how much sleaze they could fit into the flick. It was actually hard to find pictures for this entry where someone wasn’t naked. This is a semi-family show after all. There’s a 5 minute forced crotch shaving scene for crying out loud! Here’s a great example of this movie going above and beyond. There is a scene where Ilsa’s two female Lieutenants whip one man and one woman to death. In most movies, that would be enough. Not for the She-Wolf! They both have to get topless before administering the lashes. Why? Just because! That kind of dedication to bad taste is to be commended.

The movie would not have attained the heights of infamy it has without the performance of Dyanne Thorne. Yes she’s over the top and overacts it a bit, but she’s supposed to. Ilsa may be cold and calculating, but she’s, pardon my French, bat-shit crazy too. She handles everything from overseeing murders with a commanding, authoritative presence to weeping as she begs her prisoners to “finish her” with a skill that far surpasses everyone else in the film. Her sheer malevolence when dealing with her “test subjects” is chilling. She’s stated in interviews that this role destroyed her legitimate acting career and made her a genre icon in one fell swoop. Conversely, I think someone forgot to tell Richard Kennedy, who played the General/recipient of das natursekt dusche, that this wasn’t supposed to be a comedy. Whatever your feelings about the subject matter of the film, one thing you do have to say is that it looks great for being shot in 9 days on $150,000. The set was left over from the TV show Hogan’s Heroes. They were allowed to use it cheap because the set was scheduled to be demolished, and the fact that the makers if Ilsa wanted to blow it up and burn it down actually saved the studio money. I personally think it’s hilarious that Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS was filmed on the same lot as the exteriors from Gone with the Wind. The gore is done by makeup artist and entrepreneur Joe Blasko. The makeup effects, especially for a film with that kind of budget, are definitely solid and pretty gross. Some of those wounds are truly nasty.

I was amusing myself looking at the outraged comments on imdb, and came across this quote; “A warning to others who might consider renting this because they hear it's "campy and fun"- don't rent it for that reason unless you have a really sick sense of humor or a real &*%$ed up idea of fun.” I, apparently, am guilty on both counts. Ilsa was followed by 2 official and 1 unofficial sequels, but She Wolf of the SS is definitely the dirty jewel of the Ilsa series, and the crowning achievement of 70’s exploitation cinema. Two severed thumbs way up. Check it out, but be careful who you admit loving this movie to.


Guts and Grog Reviews said...

Really enjoy your style man. This is one of the best essays on Ilsa I have ever read. Keep em coming.

fromhell13 said...

I appreciate the kind words. As long as people keep reading 'em, I'll keep writing 'em.

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