Ilsa She Wolf of the SS (1975)
Directed by Don Edmonds
Torture meets sexploitation in this cult independent movie set during World War II.
Ilsa She Wolf of the SS is the first in the trilogy of Ilsa films, and starts off with our favourite bad chick, Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne), as the warden of a Nazi prison camp under rule of Hitler’s Germany. Kitted out in her SS uniform with her two blonde, leggy sidekicks, Ilsa conducts experiments on the female prisoners to prove that women can withstand and overcome physical pain and should be given a more prominent role in the SS, such as on the frontline. Cue lots of naked, female prisoners of war being tortured in various, harrowing yet inventive means, including an electric shock dildo, and by some methods that were more than likely used in the real concentration camps. Whilst conducting her experiments, Ilsa has her own personal pleasures that need fulfilling and descends upon the men’s prison camp to find a man that can satisfy her every need before his own. And if the man can’t… well…in Ilsa’s eyes, he’s not a man and should lose his right to his God-given genitalia.
Hearing of her success running the camps with an iron fist, the General comes to visit to inspect her handiwork. Ever eager to please and promote her studies on female resilience, Ilsa shows the General her experiments and the top girls in the camp who have managed to withstand much abuse and torture. But how long can Ilsa’s experiments last…..?
Shot on the set of Hogan’s Heroes in a short amount of time, director Don Edmonds weaved a story of menace and shock laced with sexually-infused black humour – not knowing that it would be adored by exploitation fans across the globe years and even decades later and would spawn a series of movies starring its titular character. Uninformed viewers discovering Ilsa She Wolf of the SS for the first time might not know what to expect and I’m sure having the SS or Nazi connotation may put some people off. Whilst this may be uncomfortable viewing for some, horror film fans will be in their element with the tongue-in-cheek exploits of the wicked yet passionate Ilsa – the sadistic side of which was no doubt based on the real-life “Bitch of Buchenwold”, Ilse Koch, who reportedly skinned prisoners and made lampshades out of them.
Actress Dyanne Thorne stars as the titular character and convincingly plays the driven warden of the camp, fully committed to her experiments and theories on the power of the female species. She is brutal, sadistic and sexy at the same time; a curvaceous, promiscuous lady who enjoys a bit of fun with the male prisoners of the camp, in particular an American named Wolfe who is able to stave off orgasm before her. Her love affair with Wolfe shows a different side to her though he finds himself back in the camp with the rest of the men and is used as her plaything between causing pain, and even death, to the prisoners she watches over.
Although Ilsa does despicable, cruel things which no-one can condone, there’s an aspect of pro-feminism about her. She brutally tortures the female prisoners but unlike the torture of the men as a punishment, she uses the women to prove her point to her male superiors that women can withstand pain just as much as, if not more than, men. She’s a fighter for female dominance, albeit an extreme one, which plays well into the idea of larger-than-life exploitation characters. As a character herself, Ilsa is quite the personality and is more than just her title in the SS even though you’d not want to be in her company yourself! She’s sassy, bold, a very strong woman who also has a vulnerable side which Thorne shows within her character and which Wolfe is keen to take advantage of.
Whilst extreme at times, there’s a subtle, black humour running throughout Ilsa She Wolf of the SS which lifts the tone during its more intense scenes of suffering. If death and brutality had been depicted throughout the movie without any glimmer of tongue-in-cheek, this film would be a very difficult, grim film to watch. However, She Wolf, and the rest of the trilogy, is laced with dark humour backed by B-movie style scripts which capture the true essence of Nazisploitation and Sexploitation cinema with a finale that superbly compliments the movie
Over the years, Ilsa She Wolf of the SS has gained a cult film status with many nods to the Ilsa character as portrayed in this film, from similarly titled, inferior ripoffs to Rob Zombie’s Grindhouse, Werewolf Women of the SS trailer. Who would have known at the time of the shoot that this wicked character would become the soldier of fortune of her own trilogy and even develop a fanbase! This is truly down to Thorne’s performance who’s brilliant on-screen efforts don’t go unnoticed.
The best film in its genre, Ilsa She Wolf of the SS is an underappreciated movie of its time with scenes that could put modern films like SAW to shame!