Cult Cinema: Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS

Michelle continues her reign of exploitation terror with a review of Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS

"This may hurt a little!"
Having never seen any films in the infamous Nazisploitation genre, I decided to start with the infamous movie that popularized the concept: Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. Nazisploitation films employ the classic women-in-prison tropes while adding the backdrop of Nazi concentration camps. It’s a terrible topic to be sure, but that’s why these are underground exploitation films. It definitely appeals to a niche audience and it plays off of the titillation received from combining sex and a very taboo subject matter.

These films are not high-art by any means and they are not meant to be. Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS proved to be so popular that it inspired a slew of other movies to be made with the same themes, with most of them being low-budget Italian affairs.

The story centers around a Nazi prison camp overseen by a sex-hungry, blond bombshell named Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne). She perpetrates various tortures on the female inmates (in the name of “scientific advancements”) and every night she beds whatever male prisoner has taken her fancy. Ilsa happens to be the owner of two very large howitzer cannons in her chest area and is not shy about whipping them out during her duties. Thorne actually does a great job as Ilsa and has this interesting older woman, dominatrix vibe that she puts out. She is quite intimidating and it’s fun to watch the other Nazi officers cower in her formidable presence. Her German accent is absolutely terrible though and adds some unintentional comedy to what are supposed to be horrifying scenes. This movie is still quite gruesome, however, and those with weak constitutions would do well to skip it.

"Do you like my hat?" 
This movie was actually filmed on the set used for the TV show Hogan’s Heroes and they reused many of the props and buildings from it. It looks pretty realistic even though they try to up the Nazi factor by having random pictures of Hitler everywhere and Swastikas plastered on every surface. The gore effects and make-up are very well done and the Nazi uniforms look fairly accurate for a low-budget grindhouse movie. The film itself doesn’t look particularly well made and there are lots of editing anomalies and odd scene transitions. There is a lot of sex on display but it’s more in the soft-porn category and not very explicit. The producer of this film, David F. Friedman, was fond of saying “"Sell the sizzle not the steak!" and that sentiment describes Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS perfectly.

While I wouldn’t say this is a great film, it is interesting to see a film made with such a specific fetish in mind and executed with such panache. I can definitely see how this could be highly offensive to most people, especially because the Holocaust is such a sensitive subject (and rightly so), but at the same time I cannot abide by the notion that any subject can to be considered off the table for exploration. Just because something isn’t a certain person’s cup of tea doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be available for everyone to experience.

-Michelle Kisner