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Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS

Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS

Screening Times

“One of the leanest, meanest and most salaciously explosive exploitation movies of all time” — COOL ASS CINEMA


Director: Don Edmonds
Screenplay: Jonah Royston, John C.W. Saxton
Cast: Dyanne Thorne, Gregory Knoph, Tony Mumolo, Maria Marx, Nicolle Riddell
Producers: David F. Friedman, John Dunning, André Link
Print Source: Maple Pictures



Few realize that the swastika-clad sadist Ilsa — one of the most notorious exploitation film characters ever — is a predominantly Canadian creation. Unleashed on the world by the demented minds at Cinépix, who co-produced ILSA, SHE-WOLF OF THE SS with infamous U.S. exploitation producer David F. Friedman (BLOOD FEAST), Ilsa has since whipped and tortured her way into B-film lore as the dominatrix bitch audiences love to loathe.

A Nazi medical camp provides the initial installment’s backdrop for brutality as Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne) and her minions perform bizarre experiments. A fresh truckload of co-ed prisoners are subjected to immoral torture as Ilsa tries to prove that women have a higher threshold for pain and suffering than men. At night, Ilsa indulges in a liaison with one of the new inmates, an American named Wolfe (Gregory Knoph) with abnormal sexual powers. But while Ilsa prepares to show off her nasty handiwork to the General (Richard Kennedy), the inmates plan a revolt to get their revenge.

Shot on concentration camp sets left over from the World War II TV sitcom HOGAN’S HEROES, ILSA, SHE-WOLF OF THE SS largely hinges on the titular performance by former Vegas showgirl Dyanne Thorne, a statuesque blonde beauty who could convincingly play both stern and steamy. Towering over her male prisoners, Thorne turned the larger-than-life character into an undisputed grindhouse cinema icon that ruled rundown drive-ins and flea-ridden 42nd Street movie palaces. The screenplay, by slumming University of Toronto English professor Jonah Royston, doesn’t have much use for subtext. ILSA is wall-to-wall sex and violence designed to appall, arouse and offend — often at the same time. But even with a clearly sardonic sensibility, the film can make for an unsettling viewing experience. The action begins almost immediately with a vicious castration, and the sickening torture proceeds straight downhill from there, trying to top its own sadism with more than its fair share of gratuitous whipping, electrified sex toys and flesh-eating maggots.

Based on the film’s success, Dunning and Link funded a U.S.-shot sequel, ILSA, HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL SHEIKS, before bringing Ilsa back to Montreal for 1977’s ILSA, THE TIGRESS OF SIBERIA. Although these installments dropped the objectionable Third Reich angle, they continued to explore the fine line between appalling and amusing, with Thorne still standing tall and proud at the helm, tongue planted firmly in Nazi cheek.

—Paul Corupe

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