The Nazi exploitation or Naziploitation film genre can be traced back to the early film "The Night Porter" and in typical 70's European film fashion was pushed to limits with films like "Love Camp 7", "Gestapo's Last Orgy", "Beast in Heat" and the epic "Salon Kitty" and various Ilsa clone films like "Desert Foxes" and "Elsa-Fraulien of the SS". These charming films surely offended some people and many of them were banned in some countries.
"Ilsa-She Wolf of the SS" proved that American film makers could come up with an equally political incorrect product. Interestingly "She Wolf" was shot on the set used for tv show "Hogan's Heroes" after the show was cancelled and instead of Col Klink, we have Ilsa as camp commandant. The story is basic: women prisoners are brought in (and stripped for inspection), Ilsa performs experients on them (while they are mostly naked) with her two assistants (hot women who also get naked) later Ilsa helps herself to the male prisoners who are castrated afterwards. Hilariously campy German accents, corny lines (particularly by the male prisoner hero), slightly gorey scenes and of course gratuidous nudity ensure.
"She Wolf" became a classic and three sequels followed, despite the fact Ilsa dies. The second disc is "Ilsa-Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks". Replace the two arian assistants from "She Wolf" with sexy black sisters and the women prisoners with new captives for the Harem and theres not much difference between "She Wolf" and "Harem". Even Sharon Kelly who played a prisoner in the first film returns as a harem recruit, she's the cute woman with red hair and not just on her head ;)
"Ilsa-the Wicked Warden" is the odd film out as it is actually Jess Franco's knock off which was originally called "Greta, the Mad Butcher" and in this one Dyanne Thorne plays the warden of a south American girl's prison?! Of course Franco's wife Lina Romay is featured and it has all the classic women in prison type happenings, shower scenes, torture ect.
The quality of this set is amazing, it is AnchorBay of course, with the superior Audio/Visual quality we've come to expect from the company and even DVD commentaries featuring Dyanne Thorne herself (she is surprisingly witty and charming). The only fault one could possibly fiind with the set is the fact that it doesn't contain "Ilsa-Tigeress of Siberia". Why is that commrade?
Overall a great purchase, Thank You AnchorBay!!!
From what I've heard and read, these movies are textbook examples of 70's grindhouse cinema the likes of which would play in the crime-infested movie houses of NYC's 42nd Street. Watching these films, you can almost feel yourself in the front row of the theatre smelling the marijuana smoke, hoping you don't get mugged, and wondering what exactly those weird sounds are emanating from the rows behind you. In other words, these movies are gutter sleaze that go directly for the shocks and titillation.
Ilsa is played by Dyanne Thorne. For anyone unfamiliar with this actress (as I was), let me just say I was mighty impressed with her talents, both talents to be exact. This was before breast implants were the norm, which adds on extra points for her being a "natural."
The first in the series, Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS is the best of the three. Talk about sick! Basically I would describe all three films as softcore 70's sex with gore and torture scenes, with She Wolf being the most extreme. The films do have plots, but the storylines are almost incidental to the shocking scenes featured within. She Wolf had the most blood and gore, so as a horror fan I appreciated it the most.
Next up is Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks. It's pretty amusing how the Ilsa character was updated from WW2 times to the oil-starved 1970's without blinking an eye (or aging). There is really no explanation given for this, which adds to the campy fun. Sheik El Sharif is played by Victor Alexander, who is actually Spalding "Swimming to Cambodia" Gray! I was surprised to see that this favorite of the 1980's-90's college spoken word circuit used to play in sleazy softcore films. There's a little more story here than in the first film, weak though it may be. I thought the Kissinger-parody character "Kaiser" was pretty funny myself. Not as much gore and sadism as the first film, but still worth checking out.
Finally, there's Ilsa: The Wicked Warden directed by the legendary Jess Franco. From the little I heard of the audio commentary, it seems that Dyanne Thorne and co-star Howard Maurer were told beforehand that this was definitely NOT an Ilsa movie, but during shooting it became painfully apparent the filmmakers were intending for it to be an (unofficial) part of the series. Maurer theorizes that this may have been for financial reasons, specifically to avoid paying for the use of the name and the character. It ran under many titles, including Greta: The Mad Butcher and Wanda: The Wicked Warden. Conveniently, Thorne's character remains nameless as the head of a "therapeutic" prison-clinic for female sex offenders where the inmates all wear shirts but no pants or underwear (!!!!). Out of the three, this one was the most erotic due to the constant nudity, including two shower scenes and one with a great catfight featuring the luscious Lina Romay. Again, a throwaway storyline but lots of amusing dubbed acting and terrible dialogue. The final scene was similar to the ending of Blood Sucking Freaks; in fact if you liked that movie you will probably dig this box set as well.
Unfortunately there's no Ilsa: Tigress of Siberia included here to round out the series. From what I've heard that film is by far the weakest of the four. Like the Wicked Warden, Thorne's character was never referred to as Ilsa, so it was another attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the first two films. Maybe Anchor Bay could release a DVD edition of Tigress with a bonus disc of a Dyanne Thorne biography/scrapbook, for all us collector nerds out there? Wishful thinking, I know.
To sum it up, if you're considering buying any of the Ilsa films you might as well go for the box set. All three are worth seeing, and if you compare the price of buying the movies separately versus the set price, it's a no-brainer.