Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS  

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""The film you are about to see is based upon documented fact. The atrocities shown were conducted as 'medical experiments' in special concentration camps throughout Hitler's Third Reich. Although these crimes against humanity are historically accurate, the characters depicted are composites of notorious Nazi personalities; and the events portrayed, have been condensed into one localty for dramatic purposes. Because of its shocking subject matter, this film is restricted to adult audiences only. We dedicate this film with the hope that these heinous crimes will never occur again". --Herman Traeger [David Friedman], producer via the opening message of the film.

Compare the previous opening message to the one of the 1962 film Mondo Cane, they both lay claim to a certain 'reality' that needs to be told and shown. While Ilsa admits fictionalization, Mondo Cane purports to be actual footage." --Sholem Stein

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS is a 1974 motion picture produced in the USA. The film was directed by Don Edmonds, produced by David F. Friedman and written by Jonah Royston. It plays with the tropes of male anxiety of sexual inadequacy and the fear of castration.

It starred Dyanne Thorne as "Ilsa," commandante of a Nazi concentration camp; her character was very loosely based on that of Ilse Koch. Ilsa conducts sadistic scientific experiments designed to demonstrate that women are more capable of enduring pain than men are, and therefore should be allowed to fight in the army. Ilsa is also portrayed as having a voracious sexual appetite for men, whom she then castrates and kills.

The film spawned several sequels:

  • Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976)
  • Ilsa, the Tigress of Siberia (1977)
  • Ilsa, the Wicked Warden (1977) (this title is actually not an adventure of the Ilsa character. Thorne plays the female lead who is much like Ilsa but is called Greta, but renovations changed parts of the movie to make it look like another Ilsa movie. Original Title: Greta - Haus ohne Männer[Greta-House Without Men]. AKA: Wanda the Wicked Warden; Greta the Mad Butcher)

These latter films are standard women in prison films which use exotic settings to render the exaggerated sadism of the plots more plausible. She Wolf of the SS is dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Despite this stated attempt at cultural sensitivity, the film is banned in Germany.

Its over-the-top subject matter has turned the film into a cult movie. Perhaps the best explanation for its notoriety is that it is a cinematic version of the "men's adventure" subgenre of pulp magazine. Nazis tormenting damsels in distress were perennial favourite subjects for the lurid, sub-pornographic covers of sensationalistic "true adventure" magazines such as Argosy in the 1950s and 1960s; the film seeks to be a more explicit reversal of the same sort of sexual fantasy.

Recently, in the 2007 motion picture Grindhouse, a faux trailer for a film called Werewolf Women of the S.S. by Rob Zombie was shown, who was inspired by Ilsa. The lead female officer, Eva Krupp (played by Zombie's wife, Sheri Moon), can also be seen as an Ilsa-like character.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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