ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE SS — CLASSIC FILM PICK
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Don Edmonds’s 1975 classic “Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS” is one of the most outrageous additions to the sexploitation genre ever envisioned. Even by modern cinema’s jaded standards, “She Wolf of the SS” remains a powerfully sexy, campy, blood-soaked, and fetishistic tour de force. Hairy bushes and buxom breasts come with the territory. Get tied up in Dyanne Thorne's sexy brutality; she takes no prisoners, but she does leave marks.
Producer Herman Traeger tears a page from Kroger Babb’s exploitation publicity playbook that marketed Babb's 1957 “Mom and Dad” (1957) as a touring “sex-hygiene” road film. Traeger feigns social responsibility by inserting an intro paragraph dedicating “She Wolf of the SS” with “the hope that these heinous [war] crimes will never occur again.” There is more than a little irony in the systemic actions of the American military industrial complex that continue to commit far more disgusting acts of brutality against human beings than what we witness onscreen, however terrible they are.
The naturally gifted and buxom Dyanne Thorne plays Ilsa, a surrogate composite of Ilse Koch (a.k.a. the Witch of Buchenwald), the sadistic Nazi concentration camp murderess, and the notorious Irma Grese (a.k.a. the Beast of Belsen), who at 22 became “the youngest woman to die judicially under English law in the 20th century.”
The film’s wacky tone of bloodthirsty eroticism relies heavily on Dyanne Thorne’s inspired performance. Dressed in a tight low-buttoned white shirt — complete with Nazi insignia armband — Thorne administers and oversees the unspeakably brutal torture of nude victims with a sadistic glee that dominates the twisted World War II drama. Having worked as a stripper and in porn, Thorne commits completely to her cruel and sexually omnivorous role. She never winks.
Thorne’s frequently nude Ilsa is the sexually insatiable commandant of Nazi Medical Camp 9 where she conducts private “scientific” torture experiments on female, and male, prisoners alike. Ilsa has a penchant for castrating male captives after they’ve tried, and failed, to quench her lust. She might promise freedom in exchange for their stud duties, but Ilsa doesn’t keep promises.
Ilsa’s professional agenda, that she anticipates will advance her up the male-dominated Nazi ranks, is to prove that women can withstand more pain than men, and are thus better suited to serve the Third Reich as soldiers. She discovers an ideal female prison subject who is indeed able to endure all variety of gruesome tortures, such as being boiled alive, without so much as a squeak. The film’s gruesome make-up designs (courtesy of the incomparable Joe Blasco) are convincing enough to leave you with nightmares.
Only the ever-randy American prisoner Wolfe (Gregory Knoph) can sate Ilsa in the sack. Knoph’s amateur performance is so laughable that it provides reliable comic relief for the graphic horrors on display.
A too-good-to-be-true production design element resides in the film’s familiar- looking Nazi prison camp. The popular ‘70s era television show “Hogan’s Heroes” had recently been cancelled, allowing “She Wolf’s” filmmakers to repurpose the Los Angeles-located set for their production.
Knowing that they were creating a pornographic work that would garner an X-rating, the filmmakers push sex acts and gory nude torture scenes beyond the pale of audience expectations. Increasingly shocking torture scenes unnerve the viewer as the story shifts focus to the arrival of Nazi general to inspect the camp. Ilsa’s attempt to impress the general with the results of her insane experiments fall as flat as his failed seduction of her, which involves requesting a golden shower that leaves Ilsa wanting the attention of real man.
Naturally, the inmates are hatching an escape plan that includes taking revenge on Ilsa and her Nazi cohorts.
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