This is strange to admit, coming from a Hebrew background, I love Nazis.
Yeah, just sit there and chew on that for a minute. I love Nazi. Ok, I’ll clarify that statement some. I love Nazi movies. No, not Leni Riefenstahl. Although, her movies are impressive. I love movies where Nazis are the bad guys. I know it’s played out and everybody uses them as a symbol of one-dimensionally unrelenting evil-in-craniate oppression but I just never get tired of seeing Nazis die. It never gets old. Ever.
This brings us to the subject of today’s discussion. Ilsa the She-Wolf of the SS. Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS is one of the delightful little bits of pop cultural cult-ephemera that you hear little whispers about every so often on convention floors or in the back rooms of dusty old hobby shops. It usually involves the phrase ‘I really wanted to like it but I didn’t.’ And that for me is the beauty of the film.
Ilsa is a grimy Canadian exploitation flick from 1974. It involves a Nazi prisoner of war camp, the titular Nazi warden, and lots of boobs. Tons of boobs. And yet, strangely, very few erotic sequences. The film is slow and underwhelming. It drags on for 96 minutes of Ilsa talking to prisoners, half-heartedly torturing them, and then the camp burns down and the movie is over. I know. Underwhelming.
But, I think that’s what I love so much about it. How utterly middle of the road it is. So many exploitation films from this time period tried so hard that they don’t feel as fun to watch. Oh, I mean I still enjoy things like The Black Samurai or Surf Nazis Must Die, I’m just stating that there’s something unconventionally refreshing about an exploitation movie that isn’t really trying too hard to exploit the subject matter. Which is a weird dichotomy, I’m aware.
Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS feels like a sorta awkward date with a few really good conversations. At the end of the date you don’t really remember the awkward. You just recall the few times that you successfully interfaced with another human successfully. And you kinda want to ask this person out again. Even though the date wasn’t great those few sequences that you kinda were normal around each other felt so right that you feel compelled to attempt it again.
For me, that’s the costumes in Ilsa. In a film that is expressly created with the purpose of taking women’s clothing off the entire run time if find myself cheering when they actually have their Nazi garb on. There’s something so novel about witnessing attractive blond women in storm trooper gear. The jackboots feel as though they’re in some way attempting to make up for all the horrific crimes that their previous occupants committed. ‘See, if you put a 36’ 24’ 36’ blond in me I’m not that bad,’ the signature Nazi storm trooper helmets seem to squeal.
The other shining jewel in Ilsa’s crown is the movie’s poster. I know that’s not really fair of me to give shitty soft-core porno movie kudos for its poster but, man, is it awesome. And who among us doesn’t think of the Back to the Future poster when debating the coolness of Marty McFly? No one, that’s who. The poster showcases a proudly statuesque Ilsa, played by Dyanne Thorne, with her shirt unbuttoned in full Nazi-mode. It’s a striking image. And not of the cleavage. That kind of stuff doesn’t really interest me. It’s the fact that Ilsa is in control. That’s an element of cinematic female sexuality that is rarely seen. It frustrates me to no end that women in films are all the victims. They are the ones always being the object of sexual attraction, constantly being bombarded by a male idea of sexuality. It’s interesting to me that a film that is all about female sexuality, granted with the end purpose of being consumed by men, the woman in control is a Nazi. Literally. It demonizes female-in-control aspect of sexual interaction so much that she’s a Nazi. I personally think this is slightly charming. It’s not surprising that the film was directed by a man, Don Edmonds, produced by a man, David F. Friedman, and written by a man, Jonah Royston.
I wonder what Jonah Royston’s script actually looked like? Large sections of this film are just women strapped to chairs being gently whipped by women in Nazi costumes. Do you think he wrote just that? Does it say in the script “And now Guard #1 whips the topless prisoner for 17 minutes”.
I hope so.