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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 2/22/01

The Ilsa Trilogy

reviews by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS
1974 (2000) - Anchor Bay

Film Rating: C- (on the gory exploitation scale)

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/C+

Specs and Features:

96 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with star Dyanne Thorne, director Don Edmonds, and producer David F. Friedman, moderated by humorist Martin Lewis), theatrical trailer, talent bios, film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (27 chapters), languages: English (DD mono), subtitles: none

Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks

Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks
1975 (2000) - Anchor Bay

Film Rating: F (on any scale)

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/C

Specs and Features:

93 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with director Don Edmonds, star Dyanne Thorne and co-star Howard Maurer, moderated by humorist Martin Lewis), theatrical trailer, talent bios, film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (32 chapters), languages: English and French (DD mono), subtitles: none

Ilsa, the Wicked Warden

Ilsa, the Wicked Warden
1977 (2000) - Anchor Bay

Film Rating: B- (on the gory exploitation scale)

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/C+

Specs and Features:

94 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.66:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, audio commentary (with star Dyanne Thorne and co-star Howard Maurer, moderated by humorist Martin Lewis), theatrical trailer, talent bios, film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD mono), subtitles: none

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS

In the legions of films devoted to bad taste, gore, nudity and all forms of extremeness, there are a few standouts. Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (along with the entire Ilsa series) is certainly one of the more conspicuous exploitation films. It was one of the first to capitalize on the emerging trend and, in many ways, laid the groundwork for many exploitation films that followed.

There's not a whole lot to the movie, but here are the basics in a nutshell. Ilsa is a high-ranking Nazi in charge of an area that performs sexual experiments on men and women. These aren't your average, every day, homegrown-type sexual experiments. We're talking electrified sex toys, castration (ouch!), acid baths and a bounty of other things too gooey to mention here. As you would expect, none of them are very pleasant to watch.

If bloody carnage isn't your cup of tea, then perhaps nudity is. There's lots and lots of nudity to behold here. There's so much nudity, in fact, that the clothed people start to look strange and out of place amidst all the bare bodies. But as fate would have it, this is some of the most unerotic nudity I've seen on film. Chances are, when someone's naked, they're either going to be tortured or killed. The actual torture (castration aside) is reserved for the women. The men have something more fun in store for them.

It seems it takes a whole lot of work to satiate Ilsa's sexual appetite. But the old gal's a trooper and tries her hardest to suppress her craving by having sex with any "willing" POW. If they can't satisfy her, off with their... well, you know. She goes through a lot of men before she finds "The One" - she finds a blonde-haired German who can do the job. At first he's unsure of his ability to please her (Ilsa is apparently an advocate for the "size of the wave" theory of male satisfaction). He's a special kind of guy and can hold out for as long as necessary. This keeps him from the chopping block, but will also come into play in Ilsa's inevitable demise.

Is this film offensive? Hell yes, it's offensive! I don't know that I'd want to stand too close to you if you didn't find this offensive. Extremeness of any kind is the point of these types of films. What Ilsa is lacking is a sense of fun. For me, the benchmark in exploitation films is John Waters' Pink Flamingoes. That movie is equally as disturbing, tacky and extreme as Ilsa, but it's a lot more fun. The jokes in this film are few and far between, which makes it just unpleasant to watch at times. Explicitness I can handle, as long as there is something to distract me in between castrations.

Come on, are you really going to worry about picture quality when watching this movie? If so, you'll be happy to know that Anchor Bay has released Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio and has given it anamorphic treatment to boot. The result is a picture that is surprisingly detailed. Of course, the film is a bit on the old side and isn't high on the preservation scale, so there are some natural limitations to how good the movie can look. That aside, the most prevalent drawback to the picture is a small amount of artifacting in the picture. It isn't anything that's going to distract you from the goings-on at Ilsa's Stalag of Torture, but it's there. Otherwise, the blacks are deep and solid, and skin tone and color reproduction is accurate. For sound, we get the original mono track, which gets the job done.

The features on this disc are pretty good, especially when you consider that this is in no way a grand, well-respected release. Anchor Bay realized that we, the people, want to know what went on on-set and so rounded up Ilsa herself, Dyanne Thorne, along with the director and producer (Don Edmonds and David F. Friedman) and humorist Martin Lewis to discuss the film. Lewis injects a lot of humor into the discussion and prods producer, director and star to discuss some of the film's more explicit scenes. All of them are willing to talk about the film and its effect on their careers. The result is a very listenable, entertaining commentary track. Also on the disc are the theatrical trailer and a small set of talent bios. My one major problem with Anchor Bay is their lack of support for any sort of foreign language track or subtitling. I do wish they would make this a priority in their releases. Damn it, I wanna know how to say, "Castrate him!" in Spanish!

I don't know that I'd recommend this film to anyone. No matter how far you stretch your imagination, it's not a fun viewing. But if you're familiar with the film and enjoyed it, there's no better way to make it a permanent part of your collection than this DVD. It's better looking here than it ever has been (including its original drive-in release, I'm sure) and it has an amusing commentary track if you need a little something extra. But it's definitely not for the squeamish.

Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks

Even death can't keep a good woman down. As the title suggests, Ilsa is back and this time she's in charge of harem upkeep for a rich oil sheik. Like the previous Ilsa film, this one also has nudity throughout the 93-minute running time, as Ilsa preps all the girls for their time with the sheiks. Readying the harem women for the persnickety sheik includes feeding, shaving, bathing and threatening them with torture if they don't do exactly what they're told. If they refuse, they're treated to the nastiest of tortures, including some real quality personal time with red ants and moisture seeking rats. Mmm.

The actual plot of the story (as minuscule and unintelligible as it may be) revolves around two agents investigating a ransom case involving a huge oil field. They have an insider among the harem girls, who sends them information via a bug that she's strategically placed within the compound. She's got a gadget even James Bond would be envious of - a navel jewel that's equipped with a transmitter and microphone. Naturally, once Ilsa finds out there's a traitor within the walls of the castle, the pain and humiliation start anew.

Nudity and torture are pretty much what all the Ilsa films are all about, so this one has nothing really to add to the series. The problem is, I don't think any amount of nudity or gore can save this stinker. It's just plain bad, from beginning to end. There's a sub-plot about two guys coming to infiltrate the sheik's residence, and some sort of bribery, but the whole film is so incomprehensible and unwatchable that I didn't even want to keep up with the story. In the end, the entire thing comes off as horribly boring. It's a very sad thing when a film that has so much happening on screen, can ultimately end up being so utterly tedious.

The only things I liked about this film were Satin and Velvet, Ilsa's ass-whippin' sidekicks. When the time and need arrives, they strip down, lube up, pile on the lip gloss and do some major damage, finishing off their prey by yanking out the unlucky victim's teeth... a row at a time. I don't know that I can recommend a whole movie just for one scene, but if I could, that scene would be the qualifier. Trying to finishing the hour and a half that the movie runs starts to feel like a real chore about twenty minutes in. You'll truly be better off if you avoid this one completely.

The quality of the DVD is on par with the other Ilsa discs. The anamorphic picture overall is pretty nice, with no picture distortion and only a small amount of compression artifacting. Colors are faithful to the intended look of the film and flesh tones (believe me, there are lots of them) are accurate, without looking oversaturated. There is a noticeable amount of grain to the picture, but it isn't overbearing or distracting. The English language track is a well-defined presentation of the original mono recording. All parts of the sound mix are appropriately integrated and dialogue is clear. It lacks the dynamic range of a surround track... but this IS a drive-in movie we're talking about here. Anchor Bay also included a French-dubbed track for those who wish to hear Ilsa speak French with a German accent.

Again, the highlight of this disc has to be the commentary track. Though not terribly informative, it's more interesting than the film itself. If I weren't listening to the commentary, I wouldn't have stuck around through the end credits to find out that award-winning cinematographer and former John Carpenter lens man Dean Cundey (Halloween, The Thing, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Jurassic Park) filmed this movie. Don't let anyone tell you nothing good came of anyone associated with the Ilsa films. The features on the DVD are rounded out with a mildly entertaining theatrical trailer (also anamorphically enhanced) and brief talent bios.

If you're going to watch any of the Ilsa movies on DVD, try to miss this one if you can. I really disliked it. And if I were forced to choose between some of the tortures Ilsa performs on her victims and watching this drab excuse for a film again, you better believe I'd choose the torture. Okay... so that's a little drastic, but DAMN this film's bad. Thankfully, Ilsa, the Wicked Warden, the next in the series on DVD, is a more entertaining watch.

Ilsa, the Wicked Warden

Ilsa is back again for more lighthearted sexual torture and fun in Ilsa, the Wicked Warden, the third chapter in the series. Although not an intentional sequel (I'll get to that later), it's definitely better than than the other two films. I never thought I'd be saying this, but on a really base level, I enjoyed this go-around of Ilsa. What can I say? For the few hours that I sat in front of the television watching this disc, I was entertained.

This time around, Ilsa's the head of a sleazy women's sanitarium in South America. Think of this one as a sort of Girl, Interrupted for wayward lesbians. Once again, the women are being used for sexual experiments and are consistently exposed to some cruel and most unusual punishments. Poor, tortured Abbie (Tania Busselier) fakes mental illness so she can be admitted to Ilsa's casa de amor to find her beloved sister Rosa. Once on the inside, Abbie doesn't make many friends, and is identified only by the number on her hospital uniform. To find her sister, she has to stay on Ilsa's good side and perform an occasional favor or two (including a really disgusting bathroom scene) to get the information she needs to bring her sister to safety.

All the nudity you'd expect of an Ilsa movie is here in truckloads (along with a few completely unnecessary sex scenes thrown in just to take up time), but there's not nearly as much violence and gore. There is some extreme stuff toward the end of the film, but that's the worst of it. What this film has that the others don't, is a better sense of humor. There are some real chuckles (intentional and otherwise) in this film that make the whole experience worthwhile. What made me laugh most during this film, is the ever present "Spanglish" peppered throughout the movie. If you need some brushing up on your Spanish, keep a dictionary with you, and have the anatomy section bookmarked. It will come in plenty handy.

Though the production values of Ilsa, the Wicked Warden rival those of Greg Brady's backyard production of the settling of Plymouth Rock, the director deserves a fair amount of credit for managing to make a cohesive flick. As many as seven different languages were spoken on set by the actors. Each memorized their lines in their native language and recited them as is, to be overdubbed in English (and however many other languages) for later release.

The video and audio presentation on this disc is pretty much on par with the other two Ilsa DVDs. The anamorphic transfer is generally pretty good, and provides a nice representation of the intended look of the film. There is a little grain, but that's mostly inherent to the film stock used. A few shots are exceedingly soft looking and are distracting for the few seconds they last, but otherwise it's a nice picture. Colors are well balanced and faithful, and black level is consistently accurate. Sound is also good, and the original mono track is a respectable one. Dialogue is always audible and clear, with music and effects nicely balanced throughout.

The commentary track on this disc is just as entertaining as the others. Dyanne Thorne and Martin Lewis are on board again for the ride, this time with co-star Howard Maurer. Lewis adds humor to a lot of the conversation, with Thorne doing most of the talking on this track. She gives details on how the people with the bucks made the decision that this should ultimately be an Ilsa film, even though (listen closely to the film) her name is spoken only once. Apparently, the producers weren't so sure the film would bank in the United States without a recognizable title (the film was released elsewhere under the names Greta, the Wicker Warden and Wanda, the Wicked Warden). Bios, filmographies and the film's theatrical trailer are the remaining features. Not a bad set of extras for a small cult film.

Far be it from me to deny anyone the opportunity to see gratuitous nudity, sex and violence. Admirers of Z-grade trash will no doubt be amused by Ilsa's antics and are advised to give this disc a once-around. Ilsa's not really the main attraction in this one, but there's plenty of other things here to hold your attention. And the final scene of Ilsa, the Wicked Warden is particularly nasty and outrageous... and is almost worth the price of the disc all by itself. Enjoy if you dare.

Dan Kelly

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS

Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks

Ilsa, the Wicked Warden

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