Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1975)

I don’t know what it is about women dressed in Nazi uniforms that make it such a compelling visual image. The Ilsa series has been an interest to me for years now but I have never gotten around watching them for one reason or another, though opportunities have been plenty. Diving in, the first movie in the Ilsa series proved to be a bit of disappointing affair. And not because my expectations were too high. Much of the first half of the movie is just a meandering conveyor belt of tediously mind dulling female torture executed in the most unimaginative ways possible. They do feature a man having his penis castrated after he proves to be a disappoint sex partner to Ilsa in the very beginning, but unfortunately the entire ordeal, right from the start where he’s dragged out of Ilsa’s boudoir down to the scene of him laying on the operating table, conscious as the deed is about to be done, is executed in such a sterile and disappointingly bland manner that it fails to excite you in anyway. You would think male castration might even get me to raise an eyebrow or a chuckle out of me, but apparently not. And for the longest time, it doesn’t really get much better.

It’s a bit odd how they don’t manage to get the torture bits right at all in the first half of the movie. Everything is just so generic and monotone, it fails to even horrify you on a conceptual level, and usually that’s one of the things that’s incredibly hard to screw up in a Nazi death camp movie. Yet even when they were doing something as silly as the female guards (who for no reason are entirely topless in the scene) use lashes to whip people to death, it just felt lame instead of delightfully campy. There’s almost no accidental tongue in cheekiness and (bizarre) originality in these initial torture scenes, which at least to me, is the primary source of entertainment to me with this type of prison exploitation movies.

They do eventually start to get the hang of it after we start to see more of the weird and grotesque experiments conducted in the camp, such as keeping a woman in boiling water bath and bit by bit increasing the heat or torturing the girls through abusing their lady parts with what looks like a giant, electric shocks administrating dildo. Now that’s campy villainy for you. The execution was a bit lacking with the genital shock therapy but I suppose it’s hard to make it cinematic without going full frontal, which wouldn’t really work either. It is only when we start to see more of the debauchery and lunacy of the Nazi regime that the movie finally starts to truly come together and becomes somewhat entertaining to keep your fleeting attention occupied for a little while. For example the party for the general’s visit where they set up an elaborate time delayed hanging as part of the dinner party and Ilsa’s late night sexcapades with Wolf, the male “hero” of the movie, whose secret weapon to survive Ilsa is his superhuman capability to control his orgasm, liven up the movie considerably. But it’s too little too late. These few moments of genuine amusement do not manage to salvage a ship that is already halfway sunken, nor does Dyanne Thorne’s voluptuous bust work that well floatation device to keep the movie afloat most of the duration of the movie, so in the end you’re left with a very disappointing exploitation flick with just couple of good scenes in it.

The trailers for the next two Ilsa movies do look slightly more promising, so maybe there’s still hope for the series but it’s going to be awhile before I can be bothered to give them a try after this.

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