Some who find this blog might recognize me from my past FemDom life. I was a phone Mistress for five years and I dabbled a bit in the world of professional Domination. I was also active in a FemDom group for the better part of three years. And I wrote a column for a FemDom e-zine.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS
Directed by: Don Edmonds
Starring: Dyanne Thorne,
Jo Jo Deville,
Length: 96 minutes
the movie (and later the play) “The Producers”, Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom
have the crazy idea of producing the worse Broadway show in history so they can
get rich by overselling interests in a show that closes after one night. They
scour through scores of plays in search for the worse play ever written. They
finally settle on a play that they’re convinced will be so offensive and so
tasteless that the audience and critics will be repulsed, insuring the shows
closure. The play they choose is titled “Springtime for Hitler”.
Those that saw “The
Producers”, be it the Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder 1968 film or the Nathan Lane
and Matthew Broderick musical, know that the plan failed when the performance
by the actor playing Hitler is so campy and outrageous, the audience mistakes
it for satire and the show becomes a hit.
I mention “The
Producers” because if movie producers were searching for the most offensive and
disturbing movie script ever written, they might choose “Ilsa: She Wolf of the
SS”. The fact that this movie got made is amazing in itself. The fact that it
was financially successful and became a cult-classic is even more astounding.
I once saw an interview
where the interviewer asked a high-profile movie critic how he was able to sit
through “bad” movies. By using the word “bad”, the interviewer was referring to
films with little or no artistic value. When most people would walk out on a
film or hit the stop button on their DVD player or change the channel on their
television; the film critic must endure the “bad” movie, the “tasteless” film
and the “offensive” motion picture.
When asked this
question, the movie critic explained that he did his job by looking for some
artistic value, even when none was apparent. He reminded himself that someone,
be it the writer, the producer or the director, found enough merit in the story
to pursue making the film. That doesn’t mean the critic will recommend the
movie but it allows him or her to remain objective enough to give the movie a
chance, no matter how offensive or tasteless the film may seem to the masses.
I’ve watched my share of
horror films and gory movies, and while I’m not a fan of “slasher” films or
“splatter” films (a horror film that deliberately focuses on graphic portrayals
of excessive blood and guts), I can’t recall ever being more “turned-off” by a
film as much as I was by “Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS”. Yet, like the movie critic
I mentioned above, I suffered through the gruesome and gory scenes in the movie
in order to try to understand why this film became a so-called cult classic.
In 1974, Cinepix of
Canada wanted a prison camp film and they hired two men to write “Ilsa: She
Wolf of the SS”. Next, soft porn and exploitation film king Dave Friedman was
hired to produce it and Don Edmonds was hired to direct (Don was part of the
production team that helped Quentin Tarantino get his early professional
filmmaking career off and running). Friedman and Edmonds searched for the lead
female character, Ilsa, and hired Las Vegas showgirl and small time actress
Dyanne Thorne. They did the film in 9 days and the rest, as they say, is cinema
The audience's were
truly shocked when they saw the film, not only in the USA but all over the
world. Ilsa radically changed Dyanne Thorne’s life, first negatively but then
positively. Ilsa gave her an image that she's had for over 30 years and still
has to this day. Dyanne Thorne remains a favorite at many cult-film
We throw around the term
“cult classic” more than we probably should. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”
(ironically released the same year as “Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS”) had and still
has a true cult-like following. “Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS” is more infamous
than a cult classic, in my opinion. It is infamous for two reasons. One, the
shocking content of the film and two, the female character Ilsa has become a
kind of fictional FemDom icon over the years, especially when it comes to
representing female sadism. I wonder how many professional Mistresses, who
role-play some form of the Ilsa fantasy with their male clients, have ever seen
the film? I dare say not many.
In 1975, “Ilsa: She Wolf
of the SS” actually made it into the top 50 grossing movies of the year, thanks
to 42nd street and a plethora of drive-in movie theaters that specialized in
low-budget films. “Sexploitation” and “Gore” films found a niche in the
drive-in theater market of the 1970’s.
As I watched this movie,
I kept reminding myself that I was reviewing “Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS” for an
e-zine dedicated to Female Domination. I tried to take the advice of the
high-profile movie critic and search for some artistic value or at least the
motivation behind making this film.
The movie begins with a
scene of the mature (Dyanne Thorne was 42 when this movie came out) and busty
Ilsa having sex with a good looking man. Ilsa is on top and she is encouraging
her “lover” to withhold from orgasm so she can achieve one herself. He fails
and climaxes. Disappointed and frustrated, Ilsa retires to her shower where she
masturbates. Next, we see Ilsa dressing for work. She puts on her Nazi SS
Her lover/boy-toy is dragged
from Ilsa’s bed by her two blonde female guards, known as her “black widows”.
He is taken to some sort
of medical room and bound to a table. There he will meet the same fate as all
of Ilsa’s male sex slaves. He will be castrated. The two blonde guards begin
the procedure, and we see blood running into a drain that surrounds the table,
but Ilsa herself will do the honors of actually removing his genitals, mocking
the screaming prisoner, telling him how his privates will be preserved in a jar
and given as a gift to one of her superior officers as further proof of the
inferiority of both the prisoner’s race and gender.
Not a bad opening scene
for submissive men that harbor fantasies of cruel, sadistic women who like to
use and abuse men. Based on this opening scene, I thought the FemDom appeal of
Ilsa was rather straightforward. She believes in the superiority of women, she
is a Sadist and she uses men for her pleasure and then discards them.
There is a scene where
two male prisoners discuss why Ilsa castrates her male lovers. Mario (Tony
Mumolo), who has been castrated by Ilsa, replies, "Perhaps it is her way
of punishing a man who makes her feel like a woman, yet fails to satisfy her
cravings for more." Sounds like a good enough reason to me.
Later in the movie, we
see another scene that I would classify as “FemDom worthy”. Ilsa’s commanding
officer, a Nazi General who is also a sadist, a butcher and a murder, pays Ilsa
a visit to evaluate her controversial medical experiments. After witnessing her
gruesome and atrocious methods, the two find themselves alone. The General is
obviously attracted to the blonde female Commandant, and she has already
accepted the fact that she will have to sleep with the General in order to
secure his favor. As she begins to undress, the General requests that she only
undresses from the waist down, leaving on her white shirt, black tie and her
Nazi SS uniform jacket. Once Ilsa is naked from the waist down, the General
begs her to put her boots back on. The General obviously has a boot fetish
and/or an SS uniform fetish.
The General, Ilsa’s
superior officer, then lies on his back in a submissive position, and he tells
Ilsa that she is superior to him. The General calls Ilsa “a blonde Goddess”.
The General grovels before Ilsa and begs her to urinate on him. Ilsa
reluctantly obliges (we hear the sound of her pissing on the General as the
camera shows a close-up of Ilsa’s cruel face).
scene might make sense. The General is in-charge of lots of soldiers, he has
committed many crimes against humanity, and one can almost understand how the
General might seek to relinquish power and relieve some of his guilt by being
degraded and humiliated by Commandant Ilsa. However, by the time I got to this
scene, I was way past the point of trying to psychoanalyze the characters and
their motives. All the Nazis in the movie, male and female, were pure evil, and
I could not muster any sympathy for Ilsa, even if she were motivated to prove
to her male army superiors the natural supremacy of women.
Had the film struck a
lighter note, had it been less gruesome, if all the prisoners who were abused
were men at the hands of sadistic females, had it emphasized the sex and deemphasized
the gore, I might have been able to understand the appeal of Ilsa. Perhaps
submissive men who watch this film grasp onto the castration scene and the
golden shower scene. Perhaps when Ilsa’s female guards simultaneously whip a
man and a woman (the busty “black widow” guards being topless as they literally
whip the prisoners to death) the male audience focuses only on the male being
whipped by the attractive women. Perhaps the submissive nature in man allows
him to block out the horrors that are done to women in this movie and focus
only on the horrors done to the men. Perhaps the imagery of a sadistic woman
like Ilsa permeates the male submissive nature to the point that stirs him to
sexual arousal. I don’t know and I am incapable of writing this review from the
From my perspective, I
could not stomach the intense and grotesque torture of women depicted in the
film, and unfortunately that is the main plot of “Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS”.
Ilsa runs Nazi medical camp #9 and in addition to her normal medical
experiments she performs on prisoners at the direction of the Third Reich, Ilsa
also conducts her own private experiments in order to prove that women are
physically superior to men. She subjects the unfortunate female prisoners to
sadistic and painful tortures so she can prove her theory that women would make
better soldiers than men. Somehow this is supposed to help the Nazi war effort.
Although the women
prisoners are naked and while Ilsa and her black widow guards are attractive
females, there is nothing sexual or erotic about these scenes. The medical
experiments are not for the squeamish. We witness tortures by an electrified
dildo, boiling women in hot water, acid being poured on bodies, biological
tests where women are injected with diseases, operations with no anaesthesia
and no sterilization, both public and private hangings, and various other forms
I am no prude and I am
fully aware of the subgenre of the exploitation film known as “Women in prison”
films that began in the late 1960s and continues to the present day. These
stories feature imprisoned women who are subjected to sexual and physical
abuse, typically by sadistic female prison wardens and guards. The genre also
features many films in which imprisoned women engage in lesbian sex. These
films are pure male fantasy intended only to titillate the audience with a
lurid mix of sex and violence. The flexible format, and the loosening of
censorship laws, allowed filmmakers to choose from an extensive menu of
misogynistic taboos. From voyeurism (strip searches, group shower scenes,
cat-fights) to sexual fantasies (lesbianism, rape, sexual slavery), to
fetishism (bondage, whipping, degradation), and outright sadism (beatings,
Be that as it may, did
Friedman really believe there was some way a soft-core exploitation picture set
in a Nazi slave labor camp could ever have been either erotic or tasteful? I
think what disturbed me so much about “Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS” is that such atrocities
really occurred in Nazi Germany. In the beginning, the director puts forth a
dedication to the victims of the Holocaust with the moral message that the
purpose of the film is to shine a light on them that they never occur again.
And if you buy that one, I have some magic beans I’d like to sell you. This was
not “Schindler’s List”.
Ilsa and her female
guards are the creations of male fantasy. Some said the character Ilsa was
loosely based on convicted Nazi war criminal Ilse Koch. ‘Loosely’ would be the
key word because Ilse Koch did not look like Dyanne Thorne. Thorne is the
embodiment of the male fantasy of a sadistic female. Dyanne Thorne and the two
women who play her black widow guards are attractive, busty blondes. When she
is not topless, Thorne is showing off her impressive cleavage by making sure
her top buttons on her white shirt are undone.
It is obvious that
Friedman and the makers of this movie exploited the real horrors of what men
and women had to endure in the Nazi Stalag camps. To try to sugarcoat it with a
lukewarm dedication to Holocaust victims is more offensive than the movie itself.
misunderstand what I’m saying. I have no problems with men who have the Ilsa
fantasy. Heck, I myself enjoy interrogation role-playing scenes (see my SS
style hat in picture in the heading of my blog). The wonderful thing about
role-play is that men and women can explore taboo fantasies within a safe and
sane environment. You might recall one of the first films I reviewed back in
2005 was Nick Broomfield's documentary “Fetishes”. One of the clients that
frequented Pandora’s Box was a Jewish man who wanted his Dominatrix to dress up
as a Nazi SS officer and interrogate him. The documentary surmised that such
role-play can take something horrifying and change into something pleasurable.
I make no judgements on
why certain men have these fantasies and feel a need to act them out. However,
I do have a problem with a film that exploits the torture of women in order to
give some men a cheap sexual thrill. One could make the argument that the heroines
of the film “Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS” were the women who fought back. One
woman was literally tortured to death yet she refused to submit to Ilsa. She
almost got revenge in the end but died just short of being able to extract her
retribution. Yet, even that plot line was overshadowed by a male domination theme.
The hero of “Ilsa: She
Wolf of the SS” is a man. Wolfe (George Knoph) is a German born American
prisoner who becomes one of Ilsa’s boy-toys. He has a ‘special ability’. Wolfe
can hold back climaxing as long as he wants, thus he becomes the first man who
is able to truly satisfy Ilsa sexually. Naturally, he is not castrated and
because of his manhood he is spared and he becomes a nightly visitor to Ilsa's
private quarters. By the end of the film, Ilsa submits to him because she has
been sexually conquered by a “real man”. Wolfe uses his sexual power over Ilsa
to instigate a prisoner uprising. The female prisoners get revenge on Ilsa’s
black widow guards but Nazi reinforcements arrive to put down the revolt,
although Wolfe and one of the female prisoners do manage to escape.
The Nazi reinforcements,
under the order of the same General who called Ilsa a “blonde Goddess” and
begged her for a golden shower, kill Ilsa and shut down the camp. Apparently
Ilsa’s medical experiments were too gruesome even for the Nazis, or maybe they
were offended by her theory on the natural superiority of women.
One interesting side
note I learned when researching the film was that the movie sets came from the
television show "Hogan's Heroes". Given Bob Crane’s own kinky
personal life, the filming location seems strangely appropriate. But you won't
see Hogan, Sergeant Schultz, or Colonel Klink in this movie. The movie was shot
on the leftover set before it was torn down.
"Ilsa: She Wolf of
the SS" is a disturbing film that should repulse more than it titillates,
even if you are a hardcore masochist. I realize those who enjoyed this movie
will argue that its critics take it far too serious and that the blood and gore
is notably fake (the blood looks like red paint). But no matter how you dissect
it, even if you ignore the cruel treatment of the women prisoners and if you
judge the film purely from a FemDom perspective, the fact that it took a “real
man” to bring about Ilsa’s downfall is another mark against it in my book. Not
only is the male character Wolfe able to sexually satisfy Ilsa, he is able to
sexually satisfy both of her black widow guards, at the same time of course.
Talk about male fantasy.
Which brings me back to
the question, why did this film have a popular following? I dare say it wasn’t
the male character Wolfe and his sexual ability. No there is another reason.
Perhaps the answer to this question is written on the back of the DVD case.
“Never in the history of cinema has there been a female villain like Ilsa.”
There you have it. Ilsa was and is a popular character because some men are
captivated by the mere thought of an attractive sadistic woman.
How popular is Ilsa? In
doing research for this review, I uncovered all kinds of Ilsa memorabilia. There
are Ilsa dolls and Ilsa statues and Ilsa models.
There are Ilsa conventions where people dress up like the
characters in the film. There are Ilsa parties where women wear SS uniforms.
Thus on closer
examination, perhaps "Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS" does qualify as a
cult classic. That still doesn’t change the fact that this was one of the most
offensive and tasteless films ever made.
If the character of Ilsa
turns you on because she is attractive and sadistic and you have a thing for
women in uniform, more power to you. The character of Ilsa will remain a
fictitious FemDom icon that is the inspiration for many role-playing scenarios
between submissive men and Dominant women. Be that as it may, in my opinion,
the movie "Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS" is one sick flick. Now if you’ll
excuse me, I have to go interrogate my husband.