Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1975)

Directed by:
Don Edmonds

Because of the subject matter and the fact it's all done in such an exploitative way, producer "Herman Traeger" / David F. Friedman felt compelled to justify this films existence in an opening disclaimer: "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 condenced into one locality for dramatic purposes. Because of its shocking subject matter, the film is restricted to adult audiences only. We dedicate this film with the hope that these heinous crimes will never occur again." Nice try. This sleazefest is simply in very bad taste and that's that. Its mix of graphic gore and violence, gratuitous full female nudity, sex and torture galore turned this film into a huge money-maker and several official sequels and numerous copies (mostly from Italy) followed. It also turned buxom star Dyanne Thorne into an icon of sadism and female dominance, which is supposedly about the polar opposite of the real-life Thorne, who now works as an ordained minister! Despite her newfound career, Mrs. Thorne was kind enough to provide good-natured commentary tracks for the DVD releases. Unlike many others who've done these kind of films, Thorne seems to have few regrets about her portrayal of Ilsa, so kudos to her.

Things begin with Ilsa showing off her fine form while in bed with a prisoner / lover. Not content with just using him for his stud service, Ilsa informs him that "Once a prisoner sleeps with me, he will never sleep with another woman again!" and proceeds to castrate him. The fraulein doktor runs Medical Camp 9, a concentration camp where medical experiments are conducted on the prisoners. The women are divided into two camps: the ones deemed best-looking are forced to service German troops as sex slaves and all of the others are used as test subjects in Ilsa's attempts to prove that women can withstand more pain than men. The male prisoners are forced to dig graves for the others and some are singled out to service Ilsa in bed, usually ending up emasculated in the process. Wolfe (Gregory Knopf), a blonde American POW of German descent, is actually able to satisfy the insatiable commandant so she decides to keep him around, manhood left intact. But little does she know, Wolfe really has eyes for the sweet Rosette (an unbilled Jacqueline Giroux) and is plotting, along with castrated prisoner Mario (Tony Mumolo) and others to revolt.

While some - namely those who actively seek out sick flicks - might not be too shocked by what goes down here, the vast majority of filmgoers will find this one nasty and repulsive (and possibly even offensive). The film has dated well, In fact, the grisly, almost-non-stop torture inflicted upon fully nude victims basically makes most of today's mainstream torture movies (Hostel, et al) look like episodes of 7th Heaven by comparison. Eyeballs are plucked out, toes are ripped off, maggots are put on wounds, bones are snapped and women are hung, boiled alive in a vat of bubbling water, gang raped, electrocuted with nipple clamps and electrodes placed on their privates, violated with burning hot vibrators and infected with syphylis, flesh-eating bacteria, typhoid and gangrene. Pleasant stuff this is not. Anna (Maria Marx), who unwisely talks back to Ilsa, spits in her face and refuses to show signs of fear or pain while being tortured, naturally gets it the worst. You should see what the poor girl looks like by the end of the movie!

The movie certainly isn't without its faults if one wants to get technical. There's very little plot, the acting is highly variable, the accents (at least from those who even both trying with one) are ridiculously bad, the attempts to make this feel like it's actually set in Germany are paltry (in fact, the sets from Hogan's Heroes were used) and there's so much nastiness to go around that the last ten or so minutes of breakout action (explosions, gunfights, etc.) seem almost like an afterthought. However, no one in their right mind will be watching this looking for depth and quality filmmaking, so none of that really matters. The movie is an efficiently-made smörgåsbord of sex and violence; precisely what it was intended to be and remains a must for those into this kind of stuff.

George 'Buck' Flower plays a skeezy doctor and Richard Kennedy (as "Wolfgang Roehm") plays a degenerate Nazi general who makes Ilsa piss on him. There are many uncredited sex film stars in the cast too, including Sharon Kelly (who'd later do hardcore under the name Colleen Brennan) getting whipped to death and strung up, and Uschi Digard, who surpasses even Thorne in the endowment category and dies a bloody death in a pressurized chamber. Both actresses would go to larger roles in the first Ilsa sequel: ILSA: HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL SHEIKS (which is much more camp than the original). Flower and Kennedy both have roles in it, as well. The other Ilsa movies were Jess Franco's ILSA: THE WICKED WARDEN (which featured Thorne in a similar evil / dominant / sadistic bitch role and was originally called "Greta the Mad Torturer" but was re-titled as an Ilsa movie for U.S. release) and ILSA, THE TIGRESS OF SIBERIA (1977). Joe Blasco provided the special make-up fx.

Private Eyes, The (1980)

Directed by:
Lang Elliott

This PG-rated spoof of haunted house flicks and murder-mysteries is very hit-or-miss, but many who saw it as children back in the day have a strong, nostalgic love for it nonetheless. A rich, elderly lord (Fred Stuthman) and his wife (Mary Nell Santacroce) are murdered and then have their car sunk into a lake. It's up to a pair of bumbling idiot Sherlock Holmes / Watson clones to get to the bottom of things. Inspector Winship (Don Knotts) and his sidekick Dr. Tart (co-writer Tim Conway), who've received a letter asking for their help, arrive on the scene from Scotland Yard with a car full of pigeons. Hey, some messages may need to be sent back to home office. After somehow managing to blow up a gas station with a cigar, they arrive at the huge Morley Manor to begin their investigation. They're greeted at the door by butler Justin (Bernard Fox), who starts convulsing any time the word "murder" is said and the uptight maid Nanny (Grace Zabriskie), who keeps Justin in check by kneeing him in the groin. Winship and Tart are instructed to meet with Phylis (Trisha Noble), adopted daughter of the victims and sole heir to their fortune. She points out that it's stipulated in the will that if anything happens to her, then everything is to be split evenly between all of the members of the staff.

Because the letter they'd received was signed by Lord Morley himself and was sent after his death, the duo wonder if they've been lured there by the man's ghost. They accidentally find a secret room housing the skeletal remains of Santa Claus (!) before someone tries to blow them up with a bomb. They fall down the fireplace instead and are then face-to-face with the entire staff of freaks who populate the mansion. One of them is responsible for the Morley's murders. First up is an Asian samurai chef named Mr. Uwatsum (John Fujioka), whom Morley won in a card game (?) Then there's bossomy blonde bimbo maid Hilda (Suzy Mandel), whom the Lord kept around because she's full of, uh, bounce. Filthy gypsy Tebit (Stan Ross) is the caretaker and has lived there ever since Lord Morley saved him from an animal trap (which is still clamped to his foot). Jock (Irwin Keyes), an unintelligible one-eyed hunchback who had his tongue cut out was a war buddy of the Lord's. Justin confesses that he killed his wife and all of her thirteen lovers and was found innocent by reason of "justifiable insanity." Nanny is your usual stern, humorless housekeeper.

Basically every single person at the manor has a motive. Maybe even Lord Morley himself, who's supposed to be dead but had a fear of being buried alive so he was emtombed in a vault that doesn't lock from the inside. Just in case. A black-gloved hand pops in from off screen to do things like light a handle and drop acid into tea. People start getting killed off one-by-one and the murderer leaves behind a note each time with a poem. All of the haunted house cliches are here and accounted for, including lots of secret panels and passageways, dark corridors, thunder and lightning, eyes peering through cut-outs on paintings and bodies turning up missing. There's even a torture chamber full of contraptions like a guillotine, a machine that straps someone to a chair and sends them toward a bunch of swinging axes and even a giant trash compactor our heroes almost get squashed in. There's a recurring gag where every single pigeon Tart tries to send off is injured or killed. He even throws one through a shut window at one point and another is struck by lightning.

The non-stop noisy slapstick gags (sometimes accompanied by sound effects) include people getting slapped, kicked, spin on, hit over the head and otherwise laid out, home furnishings being knocked over and frequently destroyed and lots of slack-jawed mugging and cross-eyed looks from Mr. Conway. Knotts (who had already been in a haunted house comedy; THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN, back in 1966) gets to the play the straighter of the two roles here and I'm sure he was grateful for that. The resolution is right out of a Scooby Doo cartoon but there's a surprise appearance by a hog-man called a Wookalar at the very end. I'd say this was primarily targetted toward children, though I'm sure some parents may disprove of some of the content. You know, like frequent death, a couple of boob jokes, doped-up pigeons and someone drinking "buzzard puss."

Despite a Brit-heavy supporting cast, it was actually filmed at The Biltmore House and Gardens in Asheville, North Carolina and became a modest hit in theaters. Interestingly, actress Mandel - a veteran of British soft-core flicks - appeared in this family film and the hardcore porno BLONDE AMBITION the same year. The director was the President and CEO of Sunn Classic Pictures and was one of the co-founders of TriStar Pictures.


Sex Ritual of the Occult (1970)

... aka: Rituals of the Occult
... aka: Sex Rituals of the Occult

Directed by:
Robert Caramico

Macabre orgies! Weird exotic rites! Sex ceremonies! See it all in this "daringly authenticated film" from the smut peddlers at Something Weird Video. This one's available in several different forms. The first is the full-length 80 minute version, and the other is a truncated 30 minute version released as an extra on the SATANIS: THE DEVIL'S MASS / SINTHIA: THE DEVIL DOLL double feature DVD. Our on-screen narrator / "technical advisor" (Vincent Stevens) shows us a mask used in Haitian voodoo rituals. He tells us that Haiti is "The place perhaps where it all comes together." He then tells us about the tens of thousands of people who have died over the course of five centuries as a direct result of witchcraft. Tens of thousands? That's a lot! It's no wonder good Christians frown upon the practice of witchcraft. After all, if another religion is responsible for tens of thousands of needless deaths and your own religion is responsible for hundreds of millions of needless deaths, you certainly have the right to stick your nose up at them in protest! After some more senseless chatter from our host comparing the bizarre sex acts of the occult to modern sex clubs, we're promptly swept off to a black mass ceremony.

A nude woman lies in a coffin. Chanting is heard. Hooded candle-holding cultists appear. Hooded candle-holding male cultist's robe drops. Nude large-breasted blonde comes in and fakes giving cultist a blow job. Male cultist returns the favor. Extremely awkward simu-sex in the standing up position follows. Man makes a go for girl in coffin. Other cultists lose robes and everyone goes to town next to, inside and on top of the coffin. Random two-second insert shot of a vibrator sitting on a pillow that nobody even uses. There's some nice variety in the participants, with blonde and brunette women, a black woman (with an afro) and an Asian woman, but unfortunately most of this is shot at a long distance with very few close-ups, which completely defeats the purpose. There's no dialogue aside from faked dubbed-in moaning and it also includes one of the least convincing whipping scenes in history.

Don't try this at home, kiddies!

Confused about how homosexuality works? Well, then you're in luck. Our narrator is kind enough to explain it to us: "Although some would disagree that homosexuality is a cult, I submit that homosexuals tend to love - which is another word for 'worship,' by the way - their own bodies, and are driven to members of the same sex by that worship." Adding: "Today with gay bars as citadels, park benches for shrines, the ritual is still performed." And by ritual, he means sex. The idea of a soft-core male-male sex scene may scare some people off (pussies!), but it's actually the only scene in this entire "documentary" that's the least bit memorable. It's also strangely the only sequence to have what appears to be foreplay and kissing. Having it in an occult-themed film while spooky music plays the whole time may be faintly offensive, but hey, at least they had the balls to wedge this into an otherwise routine softie. All of these segments were shot on the same redecorated set by the way. This one is decked out with a tree and a park bench (because, you know, gays love their public sex) and has some weird / creepy giant surreal painting in the background.

Next on the agenda is some voodoo nookie. The narrator tells us that witch doctors have more power in some countries than the dictactors and monarchs and talks a little about poking voodoo dolls before any other poking can commence. Our next tale is about a young warrior unable to perform a sex act with his wife so he's given a virility potion. The set has changed to a jungle background. There's a lit fire and some potted plants lying around. The stupid red coffin from the first sex scene is there for no good reason. Naked people in the background do a silly dance flailing their arms and dipping down to their knees. The sexy black actress from the first story thankfully gets to "star" in this one as the wife. She and her man go at it for a bit and are eventually joined by the rest of the "tribe" (i.e. the same people from the black mass segment). This one has some kaleidoscopic shots that multiply (and usually distort) what's going on. The color palette of this entire film is odd. Most of the scenes are drenched in red, pink or purple lighting. The narrator pops back in to defend what we've just seen by telling us to go to the library and look this stuff up if we don't believe him. I guess I'll get on that.

So basically all this really is is sex, sex and more sex. There's nuttin wrong with that but there is something wrong with so much of it being long, unbroken shots from across the room, so a few points get deducted. No cast is credited, but Neola Graef (from the Ed Wood-scripted LOVE FEAST), Kathy Hilton (SEX AND THE SINGLE VAMPIRE) and Marland Proctor (GARDEN OF THE DEAD) are a few of the performers.

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