July 13, 2006

SIN AND SWASTIKA! ILSA SHE WOLF OF THE S.S – (1974) – REVIEW 26




It is with the greatest decadent pleasure I can take this opportunity to review one of the most controversial films in exploitational history.

I have illustrated screenshots to reflect certain moments; please be sensible you must be aware of the nature of this film so therefore discretion is most advisory.

I usually stick to a semi-brief synopsis and wrap this up with factual conclusivity, I am going to spend more on this movie as it deserves every word spent on it as its’ history is so fascinating.

This was the mother of all the trashy con-camp films that adorned 42nd Street and Italian fleapits from 1974-1980.

For once we have the premiere example of a film that actually delivers what we anticipate in bucket loads and makes no apologies for bad taste.

For once we have a movie that lives not only up to its’ ‘nasty’ status but the title is not ‘sensationally’ misleading. Its’ so difficult to praise something that is so ugly in plot and focuses on one of the darkest periods in European history but I can’t and will not do but anything less than praise it.

As mentioned before however, I can see no differentiation in spending an evening with a glass of chilled Liebfraumilch and Ilsa on DVD than slowing down at a motorway accident to see if we can spot a bit of grief or an odd limb. The film panders to one of our most basic human conditions – morbid curiosity. For one of the first times a movie a film truly reflected the publicity.

I applaud the anarchy and the sheer unapologeticness of Ilsa. Although some of the cast ‘hid’ under pseudonyms and the lead was ‘overlooked’ for other parts due to her portrayal the history is fascinating and seems, sociologically that we were much more ‘hardier’ than we are now (?). This is not a definite statement however as you will always find people who adore the film and those that nearly throw up. We will always have sections who believe Ilsa to be a ‘Trash’ classic and those that think the film should be shelved and left into obscurity.

I am part of the former observers than the latter. The old question asked is ‘can movies go too far?’ Ilsa almost gets’ there. Due to the skilful direction of Don Edmonds this his third movie) that makes all the horrors of Camp 9 – ‘comic strip’ an achievement that lessens the grimness but does not necessarily make the milieu less sicker.

There is no apologies made for what we see something that just not could happen in a pricked conscience society where anything indecent has to be justified or hides behind that wonderful statement ‘it is art’.

Ilsa – She Wolf of the S.S does neither it is simple and pure exploitation at its best (or worst) depending on viewpoints.

If you remember we looked at Love Camp 7 , this was one of the con-camp ‘firsts’ but is lame in comparison to Ilsa, well this soft core bit of sadism was dreamed up by David F.Friedman, Friedman is an exploitational icon, not only did he commit the first Nasty Nazis to celluloid but was the first to produce a non-loop Hardcore movie feature film called ‘Seven into Snowy’ just before the U.S.A began its ‘Belle Époque’ of decently themed hardcore pornography.

The likes of ‘Deep throat’ and ‘Devil in Miss Jones’ were only forming in the mind of Gerard Damiano and Linda Lovelace and John Holmes were not household names just yet when Snowy made its debut. Haven’t seen it but would love to.

He also set up the Adult Motion Picture Association in the states and way back in 1963 pioneered the first ‘splatter/gore’ movie ‘Blood Feast’ along with its director Herschell Gordon Lewis.

When Love Camp 7 was released in Canada it hit the roof, attracted great publicity and packed grind house cinemas and drive-ins up and down the country.

It out grossed its’ costs and always staid in the minds of the Canadian distribution company due to it being such a success.

In 1973 David Friedman were approached by the Canadian distributors asking for the same thing, the only difference was this time they wanted focus on experiments as well as the rough stuff.

Using a book entitled Les Medicines Modie (heard through the DVD commentary this was not clear and the asshole who annoyingly interjects Ms.Thorne, Mr.Edmonds and Mr.Friedman when they interestingly reminisce may have given a wrong English translation) which gave detailed accounts of Nazi experimental research and as much Holocaust research material he could find, Friedman went to work and an idea began to form.

Many reviews claim the inspiration for Ilsa was the factual ‘Ilsa Koch’ who tortured inmates at Buchenwald concentration camp at a whim, made lampshades from their skin and even bound books in it. Although we should not rule out her influence completely it was only a minor ‘inspiration’ comparing it to Les Medicines Modie’.

The next was the casting, the buxom beauty Dyanne Thorne was approached and agreed to take the main lead. Friedman and Don Edmonds (the director) could not have selected a better choice.

Dyanne Thorne manages to be one of the cruellest dominatrix’ to evolve on screen but still maintains powerful sexiness and although it wasn’t her deliberate primary concern could arguably be the first emancipated, feminist baddie.

Dyanne Thorne really makes the role her own and just as Spiderman, Superman, Sherlock Holmes, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all deserves, in my opinion, just as much Kudos.

It is what she represents more than what she actually is that is the main issue.

She would be the perfect foil for any superhero to tell you the truth but it just so happens she is also a high ranking S.S officer and delights in cruel experimentation that partial acceptability turns into sheer abhorrence.

In the original ‘Wonder Women’ series that was set in WW2 (England never got to see these as it kicked off with ‘The New Adventures…..based in the current time) as well as featuring a whole host of Nazi characters,that seem to play as diluted ‘Sadiconazista’ movie characters anyway.


One episode was entitled ‘Fausta-The Nazi Wonder Women’. If I could imagine Lisa in any other vehicle at the time it would have to be this show. Although I am in no way saying that if you like Wonder Women you’ll adore death-camp films there are quite a few comparisons to the ‘feel’ of the show and the ‘feel’ of Ilsa and that’ feel’ is camp Machiavelli..


So with the cast assembled and contracts agreed, Cinepix (the distributors) loaned the disused/abandoned set of TV series Hogan’s Heroes to set the scene; it also known that this set was used for ‘Gone with the Wind’ too for our trivia hungry readers !

The rushes were sent to Montreal on completion. When Friedman was contacted he was not very happy with the cuts and alterations that they wanted made to it. Friedman was paid and went off to pursue other projects and left it in the hands of the distributors. Friedman’s rationale was that he produced what they wanted produced and then they indignantly demanded so many changes.

Filming is expensive and due to the limited budget there wasn’t really much time to make all these changes. Friedman’s’ interest had already began to wander by this time and by this stage gave the picture to the distributors and said ‘you do it then’ or words of that nature.

He then left and due to this and no doubt the notoriety factor hid under the pseudonym of Herman Traeger. When Ilsa received the crown of one of the sickest movies ever made, Friedman remained under the non-de-plume for almost 20 years.

When it was revealed he was responsible for the movie it wasn’t really such a surprise.

Things were a little more harsher for poor Dyanne Thorne, unfortunately due to the character this consequenced in Dyanne Thorne being ‘blanked’ by most other film producers in America .

All is not lost however.

So when this movie was released was their an uproar? Quite simply - No!

The Canadian cinemagoers lapped it up. Ilsa shot to pole position in notoriety and became as iconic as Dracula and Frankenstein to some and spawned a legion of fans including Quentin Tarantino and other genre appreciates.

The next target was America, Edmonds and Friedman realised that if the movie was submitted to the MPAA (Motion Picture of America Association) it would be cut so much that one would virtually have the opening and closing credits only. So in order to distribute it stateside they whipped up a frenzy marketing wise and ‘self imposed’ an X rating ( X ratings could crucify a film as X in the states is always associated with Dirty Mac Brigade hardcore).

However the X rating didn’t seem to deter the audiences who were already aware of such a controversial movie by word of mouth and other publicity as the film had already been sold to Europe (Bar Western Germany where its’ still banned) and had been obtained by 17 countries where it had been a phenomenal success, we in the U.K ……….Banned It.

It played at the Apollo Theatre on 42nd Street stateside with remarkably ‘low-key’ publicity, within week two, queues were around the block with high UCLA support.

For a film of this kind it grossed more profit than modern-day blockbusters in ratio/percentage; to the cost of production and box office revenue.

Due to its vileness, crassness, sheer poor taste and general obscenity, Ilsa was catapulted to infamous stardom, naturally for all the wrong reasons, but never the less the cash tills went ‘white hot’ on 42nd street. Something so notorious finally made is debut.

The Washington Post heralded Ilsa as ‘the 1st pure screen villainess’. Film reviews mentioned how distasteful and repugnant this exercise in sleaze was; therefore also fuelling box office takings.

The audience were astounded and genuinely shocked but in the most jaded way the majority lapped it up. Although the tone is misogynistic, women also could get satisfaction, the lead was female and powerful beyond belief and oozed feminist guile and dominance.

We also get to see blokes naked and in the sex scenes it is always ‘Ilsa’ on top, she also has a penchant for castrating men that cannot ‘fulfil’ her all night believing them to be only half a man.

Yes women are sickeningly violated and treated in the most atrocious manner but this is primarily dished out by Ilsa, she commands the rapes, she commands the experiments and ultimately commands whether someone lives or dies.

Thorne in the role is an absolute joy to watch and despite what is going on in the background and subject matter the movie is worth seeing for her performance alone. She, despite a noticeably un-German accent (she did try though) gives the part such nasty ebullience she makes you want to hiss and boo at her every appearance.

I suppose to compare Ilsa to any other villainesses I would ‘looser than loosely’ state she is similar to that of Servalan in the ‘Blake’s 7’ television series or a Fascist Frank-N-Furter but Ilsa is Ilsa and really there is no one as evil as she nor, achieves such applaudible alchemy fusing cold and cruel with hot and sexually charged.

Rightly or wrongly, depending on we as individuals, the sexual violence is also coupled with stark feministitic dominance notice ‘Ilsas’ always on top during the sex scenes and there too in the castration – 3 females against one male etc, etc.


The character of Ilsa herself is mainly brought to life by Dyanne Thornes’ expert acting capability and decisive persona change skill blowing ‘the males’ interpretation of a feminist argument’ right out of the water.

Well I hope that sets the scene and if this has whetted your appetite we will look at the plot and end with more comment. I also really need to round the Sadiconazista Summer off too.

I feel some prime examples have been fathomed and I would like to move on to something different.

On the grapevine I hear that ‘Gestapo’s Last Orgy’ will be having the bells and whistle treatment (about time!) Then I can see it fully uncut and pristine. ‘Deported Women of the SS Special Section’ makes its DVD debut along with ‘Red Nights of the Gestapo’ too.

Those who have enjoyed this ‘section’ of the teapot will have plenty to look forward to in the coming months ahead - that is a promise.

The Plot

*This is an in-depth synopsis and although does not reveal Ilsas’ destiny and every ‘experiment’ for first time audiences; it is quite meaty. If you want to be really bowled over by your first viewing experience I suggest you skip this bit*

We open on a soft-core coupling between a man and a buxom blonde haired woman. The man reaches climax and the women gets off him, rather disappointingly, and leaves him to sleep while he showers.

When he arouses the female is clad in tight fitting Gestapo uniform accommodated by two other female Gestapo officers. She is ‘Frau Doctor Commandant Ilsa – She Wolf of the S.S ‘and she is deeply pissed at the mans poor performance. He is grabbed by the two female heavies and taken to a block in Camp 9 where he is treated how half a man should be treated – with castration!

Army vehicles arrive carrying the new inmates of Camp 9 lambs to the slaughter.

Male P.O.W’s arrive too.

One of these Ilsa takes a shine to, a chap called Wolfe and admires his Aryan ‘Nordic’ aesthetic.

As the women ‘bed-down’ for the night at Camp 9 they bond with the other inmates where to their horror they learn their fellow inmates are infected with a host of deadly diseases. Karla (an underrated character played superbly melancholy by ) reveals the results of syphilis to the aghast of the newly incarcerated (Edmonds’ ‘switch face-side’ technique works exceedingly well as good as the special effects on display by Joe Blasco).

The next day the experiments begin on the various female inmates. A women is strapped to a chair whilst her toe-nails are pulled out with pliers (echoes of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ ‘Blood Feast’), others are seemingly being whipped into unconsciousness.

Whilst the theatrics are underway Wolfe meets another inmate ‘Mario’ and laments how he had a night of passion with the she-wolf and now he’s half man. Mario also is in love with Karla and due to his de-bollocked state and his beloveds’ disease ridden decay vows that revenge is keeping him going.

Wolfe also risks his life talking to a female prisoner Rosemary and develops a soft spot for her.


Things that night take a turn for the worse a male and female prisoner weren’t as lucky as Wolfe and were caught talking to each other. They are taken to the dungeon where Ilsa and her female officers de-blouse and in the sleaziest iconic comic-strip moment sweatily flagellate both parties to death. Ilsa stays bloused but struts up and down approvingly personifying the Gestapo Dominatrix image with grim sophisticate.

This is tactlessly intercut when a selected P.O.W is abducted by one of the lesbian camp guards and thrown into a lions den of sex hungry males; yes what comes next is intercut, as you feared, with the flagellation sequences. The ultimate taboo unashamed sexual marriage with violence, it intercuts like a crimson tableaux of extremity; that pushes the boundary to its’ limitations of taste and decency.

Once this iconic moment is over we lead into another, with the couple well and truly flagellated to death they are hung- poled upside down roped by their feet in the concentration camp yard. This imagery was chaste again in Garrones’ ‘SS Experiment Camp’ two years after.

Wolfe is summoned to Ilsas’ boudoir, unbeknownst to the she-wolf he has a medical condition meaning he can keep erect all night if he wants without the seed being sown. Ilsa has the time of her life with her insatiable thirst finally satisfied.

The following morning the women are inspected by the creepy ‘Dr.Binz’ and after their callous examination are then taken to a room where Ilsa waits with a 12” dildo , fortunately off screen we fill in the gaps as we watch many grimaced faces and a ‘squelch-pop’ sound that stops you thinking on anymore.

After being insolent with Ilsa and defiant in another Anna enters the dildo room. As the amps increase Anna glares at Ilsa throughout the ordeal defiantly and venomously glaring at her persecutor.

Ilsa not only performs this bizarre experiments on women for the third Reich she also has a few ‘sidelines’ as she wants to find the ultimate strong female that proves her ideal that women are superiorly more pain resistant than men. Other attempts fail miserably but Anna turns out to be the newest possible candidate for this role.

After witnessing her experimental unit in progress the next day she invites Wolfe over again this time to take on her ‘Wolfettes’ together whilst yeah salaciously drools at the spectacle of big boobs and hairy arse cheeks.

Ilsa receives notification that a top ranking German General is on his way to visit Camp 9 under the Fuhrers orders. He is lead through another array of infected limbs, pitiful wails and b-movie gruel (apparently the meal-worms made the actor feel so queasy it made him puke).

The General unfortunately believes the experiments to be a waste of time and value but still remains to be impressed as the report to the Fuhrer has to be equally justified and there is yet more to see.

Ilsa lays a banquet on for the General where she is presented with the Heinrich Himmler cross; one of the most prestigious rewards for an S.S officer. After the guests have finished the repulsive dinner, featuring another startling image of a woman stood on a block of ice with a noose round her neck, Ilsa asks if the General wants to have sex with her.

He refuses but desires something else and hints at Ilsa what he wants by calling her The Golden Goddess she eventually twigs and ‘uncomfortably’ obliges the Genrals’ whim by pissing on him.


As the General journeys back with his entourage to make the report, the prisoners have finally hatched an escape plot.

Ilsa calls for Wolfe the next day for her service but finds Wolfe fancies a bit of rough and she ideally lets him tie her ankles and wrists, he then promptly gags her and flees.

Outside the revolt begins causing carnage galore as the prisoners upraise against their oppressors. Karla is reunited with her love Mario and oversee the onslaught taking on the roles as the avenging angels.

The main culprits are gathered up by the prisoners and shot individually despite Wolfes’ insistencies that they are left at the mercy of allied law.

Suddenly a Nazi Tank squad thunders into Camp 9 blowing up everything. Ilsa still in bondage stares in horror as Anna now a deformed, experimental mess advances towards her clutching a knife; dripping clotted, viscous goo everywhere.

Ilsa screams in gagged terror at her vulnerability at the hands of her abominate creation.

Outside the Captain informs the General that Camp 9 is no more, the allies will never know of the atrocities that were carried out there.

Wolfe keeps his initial promise to Rosemary as they look from the hillside at the camp in ruins – living testament to Ilsa and her horrific reign of ruthless torture.

I SAY FURTHER MORE…….

So there we have the plot (almost) to one of the most infamous Nasty Nazi movies ever made.

But the story doesn’t end there. Due to the tremendous success of this movie the distributors Cinepix signed Dyanne Thorne and Don Edmonds up again and dropping the Nazi motif but remaining the theory brought out ‘Ilsa – Harem Keeper to the Oil Sheiks’, the last entry in the official trilogy was ‘Ilsa-Tigress of Siberia’ which was a bit of a bore in my opinion as it tried to be more ‘adult mainstream’, Ilsas momentum had by now seemingly weakened.

Another director Jess Franco was suitably impressed with the Ilsa entry and with his Women in Prison films made ‘Greta-The Mad Butcher’, changing the locality from concentration camp WW2 to concentration camp Southa America as Dyanne Thorne plays Greta/Ilsa del Pino.

In some countries the title, as Dyanne Thorne was the lead actress, was changed to ‘Ilsa-The Wicked Warden’. This also, despite being ‘unofficial’ sequels also raked in a fair amount of cash at the movie theatres in Europe and further a field.

When the video generation introduced Ilsa to the black market she reached worldwide. Some released legitimately in full versions and some hacked mercilessly but ensuring Ilsa has survived for such a long time and seems with every new medium will re-invent herself keeping the notorious movie alive.

Although in such times we would find some of the scenes strong but not obscene there still maintains the odd moment that you really feel quite sick realising the motif behind the imagery.

What makes it also uncomfortable and conscience pricking is that it is based on real documented fact no matter how sensationalised it has become. The evil Nazi stereotype is merely made grimmer and all the more x-rated with Ilsa.

At times vaudeville, at times masochistic and at others downright cruel Ilsa-She Wolf of the S.S is a well crafted circus of horrors that owe more to theatre and Grand Guignol than one of Europe’s darkest periods in history.

At times a TV movie ‘feel’ can be sensed in Don Edmonds style whilst other pieces are examples of accomplished twisted direction influenced by a 20th Century nightmare.

If what is represented is always represented as evil and evidence supports this to be the truth; then all mediums should be free to show the horrors of it, whatever the style, as long as good stays good and evil stays evil and justice prevails overall.

Available on an awesome Region 1 DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment this is not for all tastes but any one who appreciates extreme cinema and drive-in thrills it is simply a must have, a pioneer in many respects however it is labelled..


The Film ; Ilsa – She Wolf of the S.S

( A.k.a Elza - wilczyca z SS / Ilsa la belva delle SS / Ilsa la louve / Ilsa, la perra de la SS / Ilse hun-ulven fra SS /La loba de las SS / Le Nazi était là, les 'Gretchen' aussi


The Year; 1974

The Director; Don Edmonds

The Producer; David F.Friedman

The Country; Canada / USA /West Germany

Music Song: Horst Wessel [Die Fahne hoch]

Make Up/ SFX : Joe Blasco

The Players;

Dyanne Thorne [Ilsa]

Gregory Knoph [Wolfe]

Tony Mumolo [Mario]

Maria Marx [Anna]

Nicolle Riddell [Kata

Jo Jo Deville [Ingrid]

Sandy Richman [Maigret]

C.D. Lafleuer (real name: George 'Buck' Flower) [Binz]

Rodina Keeler [Gretchen]

Wolfgang Roehm (real name: Richard Kennedy) [General]

Lance Marshall [Richter]

Follow ups’ ; Ilsa-Harem Keeper to the Oil Sheiks (1975) / Ilsa –Tigresse of Siberia (1977) / Ilsa - The Wicked Warden (Jess Franco’ homage – bit of a bore as well) (1977)



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