Friday, March 12, 2010

Ilsa Trilogy

R2 The Netherlands

One of the most infamous examples of the 1970s glut of sexy-Nazi movies is this gory, sleazy wallow in nauseating excess from director Don Edmonds. Busty Las Vegas showgirl Dyanne Thorne made her cult reputation in the title role as Ilsa, the sadistically depraved directress of Medical Camp 9. It is a memorable performance and was so popular that Thorne was resurrected in similar roles on three subsequent occasions. Despite its controversial themes, Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S. is much less of a death-camp movie than a mixture of women's prison thriller and escape film. No mention is ever made of gas chambers or crematoria and most of the portrayals of Nazi men seem to come straight from Hogan's Heroes (this film was made on the sets of that series). In this light, Edmonds' hybrid of gore, sex, and action is far less offensive than it might have been, and Thorne's over-the-top villainess actually makes it somewhat endearing. Although this film isn't the best in the series, and is not for the faint of heart, it has much to recommend it for genre devotees. The makeup effects by Joe Blasco are quite realistic for the time, Thorne's performance is impressively evil, and Richard Kennedy is a hoot as the jovial, piggish General. Jonah Royston's screenplay certainly doesn't skimp on exploitation elements, but it also has enough clever plot touches to satisfy those looking for a real story in between the carnality and carnage. Cult starlets Sharon Kelly and Uschi Digart also appear.

Although Spalding Gray would probably like to forget this first of three sequels to Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S., he does indeed appear as the mad oil baron El Sharif. The sadistic Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne) is in charge of his elite harem guard and struts about with two topless Amazon guards, Satin (Tanya Boyd) and Velvet (Marilyn Joi), who do things like ripping off men's testicles with their bare hands. Don Edmonds' film is a real freakshow, as Ilsa fattens up a huge fertility goddess and trades in white slavery while devising her usual clever tortures. Highlights include an exploding dildo and a head-cage in which a hungry rat is trapped against the victim's face. Subplots deal with the Sheik's son (Bobby Woods), who is kept feral in a dark pit to keep him from claiming the throne, and the usual blond American stud (Michael Thayer) whom Ilsa cannot resist. Despite its smarmy sleaze and gory special effects by Joe Blasco, this is a gorgeous-looking film, with the sort of expansive photography and flamboyant action one might expect from a desert epic costing ten times as much. Although its predecessor and Jesus Franco's follow-up Greta, Haus Ohne Maenner (1977) are more notorious, this is the best and most entertaining film of the series. Cult actors Ivan Rassimov, Sharon Kelly, and Uschi Digart also appear.
In Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, the titular dominatrix (Dyanne Thorne) held court over a Nazi medical camp. After 45 minutes' worth of X-rated shenanigans, Ilsa was killed-or was she? In Ilsa, Tigress of Siberia, we discover that the old gal has escaped to Russia. When the authorities learn of her tortuous activities, she is forced to flee to Canada, whips, restraints and all. Nudity and violence abounds in Ilsa, Tigress of Siberia--and there was more to come in future Ilsa films.

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