Ginger Nuts of Horror
Come on in, the water's twisted...
ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE SS (1975)
Dir. Don Edmonds, Canada/USA, 96 mins
Time for another delve and dive into the strange world that is Film Gutter, and this week we're travelling back in time just over forty years for one of the best-known entries in the short-lived but popular Nazispolitation subgenre. Sure, we still have the likes of Dead Snow and Nazis at the Centre of the Earth coming out these days, but there's not quite the sinister undertone and gruesome stylings that we 'enjoyed' in the 1970s.
My only previous dip into these waters previously was the very disappointing video nasty, The Beast in Heat, so it's fair to say I wasn't going into this with huge expectations. However it's a movie I had been aware of for a while, and bearing in mind that this spawned three sequels – which I expect we'll get to at some stage of things – there was obviously something here that audiences liked enough to demand more of it.
So our lead is Ilsa, ably played by Dyanne Thorne, the commandant of a Nazi medical experimentation camp. The difference here is that llsa is determined to prove that women can endure every bit as much pain as men, and as such can provide every bit as much value to the war effort. Being the sadistic individual she is, her and her henchwomen and henchmen are determined to visit new and brutal tortures on the inmates of Medical Camp 9. Ilsa – as we find out in our opening scenes – is also fond of sleeping with the male inmates and then proceeding to castrate them when they fail to satisfy her exacting standards in the bedroom.
However, there are two prisoners about to arrive at the camp that will shake her to the core – Wolf, an American living in Germany who has the curious physical quirk of being able to control and hold back his orgasm for as long as he likes. At the same time comes Anna, a young girl who can sustain seemingly any amount of pain without giving any outward indication – never screaming or shouting out, let alone exhibiting any of the normal physiological symptoms of such deep agony. Both of them are – in a way – godsends to the demented Ilsa, but it is this pair that will ultimately prove her downfall, bringing to the fore her own dark desires and determinations and leaving her vulnerable to the machinations of her captives.
Now I have to say it's hard for me to think I'll ever award top marks to something in this quirky subset of extreme horror. As a curious niche of cinema it's always going to be limited in terms of storyline and what can be achieved. With that said, there's enough to like here and I was kept interested throughout. Dyanne Thorne's Ilsa is a sadist's dream, depicted with complete conviction and a great anti-hero for the movie – probably why she travelled so much of the world throughout four movies bearing her name (although it gets a little complicated in the case of Ilsa: The Wicked Warden). The scenes of torture and depravity are sort of smattered throughout, evenly spread if you will, and rarely presented in absolute gratuity – there's a fair bit happens off screen or just out of camera shot. The acting on the whole is little more than OK, but there was a certain joy when the camp's oppressed prisoners finally get their revenge in the finale. Overall, it's the best entry in the Nazisploitation subgenre that I've seen, so if it is a patch of cinema that does pique your interest then this is a good point to start.
RATING: 7/10. Unlikely to ever be anything revelatory, but basically Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS does what it sets out to do pretty well. It's exploitative, it's sexy in places whilst being equally unpleasant, grim and grimy in others. If you want to see Nazi women taking out their twisted torturous desires on men and woman alike, this could be the movie for you but for me, it's not a favourite milieu. Still, there was enough plot and style to keep me hooked in, so it's a good solid 7/10 all told.