At HorrorCultFilms, we love to interview a range of people involved in the film industry, from classic film directors (John Carpenter) to independent ones as well as the new generation of filmmakers. We’ve never had the fortune to interview any actors or actresses involved in films…that is until today. When asked who is the one person I’d love to speak to regarding film, there is only one answer. Since witnessing her cruelly cutting off men’s testicles as the power hungry yet sexy SS officer ‘Ilsa’, Dyanne Thorne has me glued to the screen in awe at her conviction and charisma in her work. She’s an incredible actress who has also shared some of her screen time with musician husband, Howard Maurer. So imagine my glee when I had the opportunity to speak to both the wonderful Dyanne Thorne and the charming, Howard Maurer, who are poles apart from their characters in the cult ILSA series.
HCF Interview with Dyanne Thorne
I read that you have worked on stage for a large part of your life, performing mostly in comedy. Do you still perform and what type of things are/were included in your shows?
I performed up until two years ago. Now Howard and I appear at the film shows. If anyone reading this interview has a show in their area, they’re welcome to tell the producer that we’re available. We had not wanted to do film shows before but we started doing them two or three years ago and we’re really enjoying it. We’ve appeared in and out of the country – North, South, East, West – and it’s been wonderful to meet fans such as yourself. It really is heartwarming. As for going back on the stage, I’ve not had a big interest to do that. You’re absolutely right, the largest part of my performing life was in comedy. We produced many of our own shows. I’ve worked on a lot shows on stage as well as on Broadway in New York and Las Vegas. I came to Las Vegas for one week to replace someone else and they kept me for 11 months. They then hired me for three more shows. After that, I did a show that lasted 7 years followed by a show produced by my husband Howard and I. Following our own show, we were in another that lasted several years. It’s so amazing and humbling that people are enamored by low budget films that I did, that lasted for a minute and 100 years later they still have an interest. It’s just really amazing to me. Most of my life was spent working in comedy so I guess you could say working in films has been a fun contrast.
The films you starred in are timeless, particularly the Ilsa series
Now there’s a big interest in the occult, so Blood Sabbath is becoming more popular. Star Trek’s coming back. My husband did one of the Rocky films too. There’s all these issues about moral justification. It’s interesting times we live in.
You were the highlight for me in Blood Sabbath. You brought charisma to a film which I felt lacked in a lot of ways. I believe I caught a glimpse of Ilsa in your character, with Alotta also having a manipulative streak. What was your experience working on that film and do you think the part of Alotta helped prepare you for the role of Ilsa?
I was classically trained and when you turn around and do the job, all you can do is work on instinct. You throw away all the things you were taught and you deal with the moment. At least for me, I can’t speak for anyone else. When we did Alotta, it was given to me last minute. The most amazing thing happened on that film. There were strange things that took place. Brianne Murphy was the director, finally. There had been three directors before her and the supernatural theme led to supernatural experiences. The first director met with a real challenge and he never got to direct. With the second one, all the equipment blew up. We had a voodoo princess on set, someone who they had brought in from another country, who was very astute in knowing these chants. I don’t think any of us really appreciated the power of it. There was one strange thing after another. As for preparation for Ilsa, I can only tell you with Alotta I tried to serve the character. That’s all we ever do so if both of these characters had a similar trait in some way, then yes, it probably was a practice ground for me but I was not consciously aware of it.
It’s very difficult to obtain the ILSA films in the UK, with the only stockists being online. Is it the same in the US?
The internet is the only way to get any of the films anymore, other than purchasing them directly from ourselves. Stores never carry them and when I’ve requested they say they just don’t. They don’t acknowledge them, so I’m delighted that they’re available on the net. The Ilsa films and titles such as Point of Terror, Star Trek and Blood Sabbath have been interpreted into 11 different languages and are said to play in 21 different countries. It’s quite amazing.
Ilsa was based upon Ilse Koch, a real life Nazi guard who was involved in many murders at concentration camps during WW2. My impression of Ilsa, your character in She Wolf of the SS, is that while she was a cruel, ruthless woman who was looking after her own interests, she had a vulnerability about her. A sensitive side and a loneliness, which the main men of the films used to their advantage. Is this the way you intended to play Ilsa?
One never means to be glamourous. That’s not my business. My business is to play the role. As for the vulnerability, I can’t focus on that. I just have to be what I feel intuitively. You sometimes have to put the craft aside and say ‘okay, I’m prepared for this’ but you can’t sit down and say ‘okay, now this is what the exercise is’. That’s over.
In the films, Ilsa has a varied range of torture methods that would put the film series SAW to shame. Which torture method did you find the most shocking? I thought the ‘explosive orgasms’ from Ilsa Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks were rather inventive.
One was just as horrible as the other. When you opened She Wolf of the SS, the initial torture scene was not in the original script. Not until we showed up on set that day. So I didn’t know they were going to do that scene and the little bit that was in the opening of the scene would not be so graphic. When I did it, they poured the red into the water for the blood and they had me walk around. This was the sweetest actor in the world that they castrated. I must tell you that was probably the most shocking scene in my entire life. And from there it just got one shocking torture right after the other. I was disgusted with the scene with the dildo. I said ‘No, I’m not doing the scene’. I refused to do the it. It took a day or two and they said “okay, what if somebody else does it with you, you can sit there and boss them”. So I said okay. You had to see this dildo in person, it was like barbed wire.
There seems to have been an influx of Nazi themed horror films recently. Do you think the entertainment industry is more sensitive about Nazi imagery today than the 1970’s?
We’re aware that this is a sensitive time. I think it would be very misplaced to try to encourage any of that at this moment. In the Seventies, we had a feeling of safeness. We really thought the horrors that Ilse Koch was part of were behind us. So making a film of that was like an action documentary. When you mentioned to me about the horrors of some of the things that took place put SAW to shame, you’re right, but the sadness is that these things really did take place. As you saw in Ilsa: Harem Keeper Oil Sheiks, these films, as horrible and stupid as they may be, were based on a fact. They really were abducting beautiful college girls. We personally knew one of these gals. As a young girl she was abducted and she only managed to escape when they took her on a shopping spree to London, where she alerted the embassy. The Greta picture, which was not an Ilsa film, was based on something that took place in Portugal where people who were having mental problems were being abducted in the sanitarium and tortured. I’m not trying to rationalise any of this but what I mean is nobody sat down and invented these horrors. They were all connected with real events. For instance in Ilsa: Tigress of Siberia, which was the most fun to make quite honestly, people were really being thrown to the lions in Russia. Just like the Christians many years ago. People will be made aware about some of these things. Some people who would never have an interest in history would develop one through silly films like these. I think people are made aware of them, like ‘My God, I didn’t know that went on’.
What was the plot of the ill-fated “Ilsa meets Bruce Lee in the Devil’s Triangle?” film and what was your view on it?
There’s a fake review circulating on the internet of Ilsa Meets Bruce Lee in the Bermuda Triangle. It’s all lies. There was never a script. It was never written, it was only discussed. I was told to study martial arts, which I did. I worked on the martial arts and got myself into good physical strength beyond what I already was. They were going to put it together, raise the money for it and then go from there. Shortly after, the real Bruce Lee passed away and they were going to use an actor going by the name of Bruce Li. However there was a conflict of time and the script wasn’t ready. To cut a long story short, it didn’t exist. The Washington Post published a full page article with pictures publicising the possibility of the film. It looked pretty legitimate. It would have been fun but it didn’t happen.
Which is your favourite film that you’ve worked on?
Point of Terror was my favourite regular film and I think the other one that I enjoyed was the Tigress of Siberia because she (Ilsa) was meant to be a soldier of fortune. She was not a Nazi in every film. Everyone seems to treat her like she was a Nazi which she wasn’t. She was only a Nazi in She Wolf of the SS. The rest she represented what was going on in Russia, which was what took place in Tigress of Siberia with the Stalin situation. Each place was supposedly a different background.
If a credited director were to give you a lead role in a film, would you return to acting? And if Rob Zombie ever did direct a feature length version of Werewolf Women of the SS, would you be interested in taking the role? Or would you prefer to leave your Ilsa type character in the past?
Weddings and convention work is our focus these days – as an actress, work assignments always are of interest, but perpetuating Ilsa seems passe. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Rob Zombie – talented man – yet who can exceed the direction of the late Don Edmonds or the production team of John Dunning and Andre Link. Movies of the 70’s had a different mind set than this century – the world is in a sensitive atmosphere at this time – promoting current SS material does not feel wise – it’s not for me. There was only one Nazi portrayal; Ilsa was a ‘soldier of fortune’, and each film presented her with the appropriate background. A Nazi once, Nasty always!
HCF Interview with Howard Maurer
You have worked with your wife, Dyanne, on 5 films including Wham Bam Thank You Spaceman where your comic chemistry is superb. Had you any previous comedy experience?
I had written for television comedy shows quite some years before and I’d written acts for people. When Wham Bam came up, a friend of ours was doing it. We did not get paid for it. We wrote it but they didn’t have anybody to play the parts so we said okay. Quite honestly, the whole thing was falling apart at the time and we just wrote it, did it and that was it. We never heard from anybody ever again, including our friend. It was Wham Bam Goodbye! [laughs] We had a good time doing it. To be perfectly honest, I had to control myself. We had a lot of laughs on that film.
Clearly the working partnership is a success, as you also work alongside each other as ordained ministers in your wedding service, A Scenic Wedding. What is it like working with your partner and does it boost your confidence and performance when working on film and stage?
I think we’re very lucky. We’ve worked together from almost day one and we’ve never had a problem. As far as jealousy is concerned with couples, it’s rampant, a lot of couples are jealous of one another. I never quite understood why. As far as we’re concerned, if she gets an offer for a film or job, I’m delighted and when I get called to do things that she’s not a part of, she’s real happy about it. I’ve never understood why people don’t get along. Well, maybe the reason is they shouldn’t be together.
I think it’s good that you encourage one another
We’re in the wedding business and we see a lot of people get married. It’s lovely and most want to be together. However we also see couples that not only should they not be married but they shouldn’t be in the same country at the same time. We don’t understand it. It’s a disaster in the making. We’ve actually married people in the morning and by the evening they were separated. It doesn’t happen often but it has happened. I’m just glad it’s never happened to us. We’re in good shape [laughs]
You’ve worked on Ilsa Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, Tigress of Siberia and Greta: The Wicked Warden. Each of these films had a different director. Which did you prefer working on and why?
As a friend and as a talented man, I very much liked working with Don Edmonds. He was actually terrific. I don’t know many people that could have done what he did in the amount of time that he had. These things were shot very quickly. I’ve mentioned this to other people, there was a time when Dyanne was on set and I got a call. Somebody said “you better come down here, Dyanne’s got a problem”. She had fainted. She’d been on set for 26 hours. I don’t mean just standing around waiting. She was working for the whole time. She hadn’t had much sleep for a week prior to that. So of course I ran down and she was ok, she was just tired like everybody else. Don Edmonds walked around like a zombie. Other people get around it somehow. Some people have a drink or two, or twenty. Some people have a drug that will keep them awake. Dyanne and I don’t do that. If I have anything I go to sleep and I’ll see you later Charlie, it’s all over. So I can’t do those things. Some people function well. With regards to my favourite, I would say working with Jess Franco. The reason Jess Franco impressed me so was that he directed the picture in seven languages simultaneously. Nobody spoke the same language. You had to know your script cold and the inflection for your line. Dyanne was the only one who spoke English. The others spoke their own different languages. This man actually directed without taking a beat. I was highly impressed. Infact I was flabbergasted by it. It was wonderful. Today half the time you don’t understand what the director is saying if he’s in a hurry, you really don’t. It’s just gobbledegook. Jess was patient and he did something I thought was marvellous. Nobody else did. The producer didn’t think so but he took 2 or 3 hour lunches. [laughs]
Greta was filmed in Portugal, wasn’t it?
Yes it was and I must say they have some wonderful wines and seafood there. I never would have known if we hadn’t gone to lunch with Jess Franco. That was great fun. I had another experience on that particular shoot. One day Jess Franco said “I understand you’re a musician and a vocalist”. I said “yeah, I do earn a living that way”. He said, “I have some friends I’d like you to see. They’re a marvellous jazz group at this great restaurant.” So we ended up going later that night and he insisted I got up and did something with the band. The band were marvellous. They were from Brazil. Music is international, especially if you’re into the jazz scene. I got up and did a few tunes and I must tell you, those few tunes lasted about half an hour. It was something I hadn’t done for a couple of weeks since I was doing the film. Long story short, I played and sang a couple of numbers and had an incredible time and eventually that trio went with Sergio Mendes. However at the end of the evening when Jess said, “Did you have a good time?”, I said [adopts husky strained voice] “Oh boy, did I!”. I didn’t have a note left in me. I had no voice and that doesn’t happen to me very often. I had a radio show in Las Vegas for five years. I was on at 9 o’clock in the morning and we had all the stars, that were working the hotels, in as guests and nobody could sing at 9 o’clock in the morning. I had no problem with it but when I was in Europe I had a big problem. [laughs] Jess was a good guy and I got to do a little playing and singing which was great.
As a musician, do you prefer to write music for others or perform yourself?
That’s a good question. I’ve done a lot of it. I even had a song that was number one in Australia and the same song which was top ten in England too. It was a long time ago. The song was called ‘Two Little Boys’ and was sung by Rolf Harris. I prefer the music though. There’s no restrictions as there are when you do film when there’s a lot of people. I never got into writing films much. Just a few things here and there. I prefer performing in variety things such as music comedy. I still do some of it, but not too much. However on occasion, if the opportunity presents itself and I like the project, then I’ll get involved. The last thing I did was actually a children’s show. I wrote a couple of songs for it, the theme song, the opening and the closing. The guy’s name was Pepper so they called the show ‘Pepper’s Little People’ and we wrote one of the songs with the same name. It went very well and I enjoyed doing it.
Do you prefer the thrill of a live audience when performing musically, rather than performing for the crew and camera when working on film? Do nerves ever get to you?
I prefer the live audience because you get feedback immediately. I’m never nervous, I’ve done it too many times. I may have had some butterflies from the time they announce your name until the time I’m up to the microphone singing the first note or two. At that point I settle right in. I just love it. I’ve been doing it a very long time. I didn’t even know I was a musician when I was in college. I had no idea until I realised I was going to school at 8 in the morning and working 4 til 9 in the evening and I said, “somethings wrong here. I need to take a break”. I was falling asleep. I didn’t know I was earning my living as a musician until somebody called it to my attention. It’s pretty funny.
I believe you perform at the wedding services too?
Dyanne was the one who started doing the weddings and she always loved it. A friend of ours wanted to get married and asked me to play at their wedding which I did. It then snowballed and we started getting calls to do, what we call, a ‘musical ceremony’. How we work is very much like scoring a movie. I put the music underneath everything that’s being said. I take into consideration all the reflections, the stops and starts. It works and is really a nice thing. This is the only state in the USA where you have to be licensed as well as ordained. Several years ago, I’d been ordained and Dyanne wanted me to get a license just incase there was a wedding that she couldn’t do. She finally talked me into it and the day my license arrived, which was about seven months after I’d applied, we got a call for a wedding and she was already booked so I said, “okay, I’ll do it” and the strangest thing happened. I loved it! I was back in show-business. In a sense you are. Our feeling is with weddings are that if you go to a wedding you shouldn’t be bored to tears. It’s absurd. It should be interesting and done with a smile unless somebody doesn’t want it with a smile. We love it and have a really nice time. 99% of the times it’s a great event and every now and again you get what we call in Las Vegas, ‘The Wedding From Hell’.
Is there anyone you’d like to duet with or a band you’d like to perform with?
No. For a long time I worked with my brother and then my brother and sister and that was fun. But no, I prefer being on my own or just the two of us. I get calls every other week to do something with somebody but I’m real content to do it by myself at this point. That way if I make a mistake then nobody can yell at me. 🙂
I’d like to thank Dyanne Thorne and Howard M. Maurer for taking time out of their busy schedule to talk to me. It has been a pleasure and an honour and on behalf of HorrorCultFilms we wish them the best of luck with A Scenic Wedding.
You can visit their website A Scene Wedding at www.ascenicwedding.com
Dyanne’s official website can be found at www.dyannethorne.com
For all those Dyanne Thorne and Star Trek fans out there, here’s some news you’ll want to hear. Each year Star Trek produce trading cards and the 2011 set includes a prize photo card of Dyanne Thorne holding a gun from the episode ‘Piece of the Action’. So keep your eyes peeled!