Ilsa The Wicked Warden (DVD)

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Ilsa The Wicked Warden (DVD)

Infamous Spanish director Jess Franco (VAMPYROS LESBOS) was the perfect choice to helm this third installment in the Ilsa series. It's a surprisingly ...

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Review of "Ilsa The Wicked Warden (DVD)"

published 14/11/2017 | 1st2thebar
Member since : 11/05/2005
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Pro Historical connections and director signatory
Cons Visual scenic exploration
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"Orchestrated Chaos"

Ilsa; the Wicked Warden (1977) - Also known as 'Wanda,' and the ILSA Series.
Made in W Germany, (not S. America) in collaboration with Erwin. C Dietrich
Director: Jess Franco
Genre: Horror / Sexploitation
Duration: 94 minutes
Starring: Dyanne Thorne (Ilsa) , Eric Falk (Pablo), Jess Franco (Dr. Arcos), Lina Romay (Juana), Tania Busselier (Abbie).

Music: Walter Baumgartner

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Synopsis: Abbie manages to get admitted to a secure psychiatric hospital via Dr. Arcos in a bid to find her sister. Ilsa is the wicked warden who uses the admitted to quench her sick mind, she also subjects the young girls to untold sadistic acts - to add salt to the wound, they're filmed. Abbie's circumstances increasingly worsens after refusing advances from Juanna -- albeit, Ilsa's tall stiletto heels are prone to get stuck in a stony floor crevasse, ye-p, ideal for Franco fangs.

Cult films fascinate me.. perhaps it's the idea that there's an element of validity waiting to emerge from actual historical content, observers alike play 'spot the truth element.' Myriad cult filmscripts are influenced by cultural phenomenas (bio-directional media threads, entertainment and global issues even in the 1970s), devised naturally to lure in an audience, the rules remain the same today. Yet, when voyeurs are viewing cult scripts nearing four decades on... the influence (s) and clever messages get somewhat blurred and this leads to commentators incorrectly usurping on misdiagnosis and misconceptions - hence, usually basing an opinion on misinterpretation / falsification (s); or worse still unfairly comparing cult movies to what's expected in the CGI epoch. In reality, no-one would make 'Ilsa, the Wicked Warden' (1977) and affiliate the script to aspects of vicious pornography today. ILSA Series observers may denote similarities to the earlier film release (April 1976) of 'Frauengefängnis;' -- evidence of the days when the 'sexploitative' movie world were chasing tails and film releases eagerly anticipated.

Major directors prize themselves on signatory accessories and storylines to foil the so-called critic's prose by leaving hints, i.e. putting a random typewriter on a wooden floor and focussing on paintings, and a half open door. Ah, something for the art history scholars, I think. Film director, Jess Franco almost precariously includes a splattering of red paint on a doll's head, flakey decrepit walls, porcelain flesh, and it's left for the voyeur's imagination to unravel the sounds and tribulations. Imaginations sadly aren't as vivid in adulthood, why Jess Franco isn't a household name - however, is it fair that so-called film critics can slander Franco's style and label the visual art-form irrelevant? Surely, its proof there's a plethora of writers inherently not qualified to compute 1977 cultural norms, let alone the analysis behind the 'framed' thought. I've yet to denote any credible authorship enabling Franco any wriggle room that he's likely to have been professionally indoctrinated into the 1970's co-directorship of 'commedia sexy all'italiana;' in other words... basically slapstick, under the loosely termed 'sexploitation.' The director D'Amato jumped in feet first, Franco saw the funny side, smidgen more than his douce, alas amiable counterpart.

Ilsa was played by Dyanne Thorne, her blonde, blue eyed, sculpted jawline appearance in her youth lured in showgirl audiences from afar. Although, Franco had other strawberry blonde ambitions for her namely: bringing to the silver screen the Nazi exploitative subplots. Thorne's exploiter of the 'naughty' yet innocent gave me the shivers; p'raps it was her natural demanding feminine frame, her showgirl posture training - somewhat military orientated, and fierce. I guess Thorne is captivating in feathers, just like a vintage Elton John posing as a flamboyant and camp Mozart - nevertheless, I rapidly deduced why Barry Manilow dedicated the song 'Copacabana' (1978) to the American showgirl faux pas ; 'her name was Ilsa, she was a showgirl, now she runs a women's psychiatric hospital.' All devised to embrace cruel and hairy lip masculinity, which again Franco dramatically focusses on; prior to a spontaneous bit of scratching as demanded by Ilsa, behind the heavy frame picture a camera is rolling. Anyone who appreciates Franco's orchestrated disorder will be able to slow down the clever gestures of vicious attacks whereby limbs fly about in tortured pain and angst, immitating mannequin arms and legs -- again, reminding me of: 'Barbed Wire Dolls;' (1976). Ilsa's glass, obtuse eyes, employed as if a conductor's baton to a barbaric symphony. What I am gravitating towards is a historical diagnosis of fascism, and it derives fresh off the hoof from Franco's period in West Germany.

'Ilsa, the Wicked Warden' addresses the sickness, greed and lust for unmentionable plights, the worse kind of schadenfreude trait from Ilsa / mankind. Ultimately, Franco's layering garners extra intellectual intrigue, of the premise an infamous Ilse ran Buchenwald, Ilsa Koch was the epitome of sadism, synomynous for being The Bitch of Buchenwald. Ilsa Koch was hunted down after the death of her husband by the Secret Services and she subsequently perished in 1967, by her own hand. Franco's raconteur spirit, allegedly due to his 'commedia sexy all'italiana;' ascendancy ... he introduced animalistic video-edits, in visually expressing the heinous crimes of Ilsa; the result was, the fleshy, corporeal tone sexualised the staged 'hunt.' Invariably the hunter also blurs into the hunted... the ILSA Series is immensely exploitative of non-human acts by wicked humans such as Ilsa Koch. Hardly material in the public domain; granted, this is why Franco is simply having an archive wisecrack; basically slap-sticking 'commedia' historical content in his works which historians to their professionalism detriment purely state being... 'inaccurate' - for example: workers in psychiatric hospitals presumably don't wear military style uniforms. Whimsically, there's a relative small image of a German officer, in black and white, in reception; yes, it's incredibly subtle to the point of non-detection. Could it be Ilsa Koch's husband, Karl-Otto?

Too many Kochs spoil the broth

Whitlock's exposing of the Kochs in the book; 'The Beasts of Buchenwald' (2011); I'm sure has factual credibility, and was read by Franco in his frail years. However, I bet Whitlock hasn't admitted watching the ILSA Series, if the scholar did he wouldn't publically relay the guilty pleasure; and those who do, generally mistreat the scholarly debt and historical variables by overlaying it with fictional seedy filth, correspondents cannot see beyond the dominatrix exterior; again part of Franco's 'commedia sexy all'italiana;' foundation. Merely concentrating on the cardinal sin scenes is a sin itself, of the notion Franco's artform is mutilated if film cognoscente incessantly announce an intollerable repulsion for Franco's ingenuity; henceforth, can't refrain from scorning from the abstract focus and off-beat camera angles - something which comeths with the genre of horror / sexploitation. Furthermore, Franco's approach is practically impossible to emulate.

Nevertheless it's quite a task to think about Franco's choice of fan or lampshade source when the camera flicks haplessly from scene to scene, you find the camera behaves like a character in a Franco production. Shifting from differing positions, possibly hiding from law enforcers. To appreciate the creativity, a handful of views is necessary to spot mundane objects and be altogether investigative; tough to decipher when you've Baumgartner's music flirting with your curiosity; I'm conscious enough to recognise the latin compositions tweaks sojourn nostalgia. One of the steadfast glorifications of Franco, regardless of film location, subject, genre and script brief and influence, Latin connotations remain. Notably, Jess is graciously comfortable in front of the camera as Dr. Arcos, his non-plus acting implies he himself is on holiday, facially not concerned about anything whatsoever. I concur this is 'commedia sexy all'italiana;' in play, or shall we say in shot. Is his acting wooden? Yes. Done on purpose? Yes. Putting a finer point on the ILSA Series, the Nazi Ilsa Koch had the appearance of private school dinner lady -- indeed, not physically luring. Why ILSA / Wanda was portrayed as being a dominatrix, rather than a washed up dinner lady. Cue 'Olga's House of Shame' (1964). The sexploitative movie was directed by Joseph. P Maura, in real terms the 1960's Olga got refurnished.

Ilsa didn't become a feminist icon. Unsurprisingly so for the majority of women who gander at villainous females on screen; in retrospect they lose their identity / inherited charm when the evil is subjected to their own gender; for women it's never sex it's power which creates a feminist icon. Ilsa's art of seduction toys with the concept of paralysis, via uber-trepidation. I engage with Ilsa by being in a mode of human detachment, this isn't personal, I have clarity that every framed recipient and so-called servitude featured had granted permission prior to filming, their personal judicial reward an undisclosed fee, likely from Erwin. C Dietrich, the Ilsa screenplay writer; renown for bankrolling Franco's Ilsa Series productions. If I allowed myself a snippet of disharmony I found the skin coloured eye patch on one of the young damsels in distress particularly heartwrenching until I recalled the visual impairment was a Jess Franco signatory, avidly prevalent in 'The Devil Hunter' (1980). I applaud the dysfunctional aspect of the production, because all the hospital residents in need of treatment acted out an archetypal abnormality, the likely cause: evisceration and electrodes, all in synergy to an Olga production. Ideal research for sexploitative film aficionados studying the accessories, screen theatrics of a film chieftain who'd subtlely enveloped 'commedia sexy all'italiana' better than his compatriots, and undoubtedly done with a waggish glass eye twinkle.©1st2thebar 2017

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Comments on this review

  • Soho_Black published 20/11/2017
    Good review
  • 2mennycds published 19/11/2017
    Perceptive review
  • mikemelmak published 19/11/2017
    This sounds interesting. Excellent insights.
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Product Information : Ilsa The Wicked Warden (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Infamous Spanish director Jess Franco (VAMPYROS LESBOS) was the perfect choice to helm this third installment in the Ilsa series. It's a surprisingly well-photographed little piece of sado-masochistic erotic schlock, with Isla (Dyanne Thorne) now operating a clinic for sexually aberrant women in the jungles of Los Polomas, South America. Of course the clinic is only a cover, with Ilsa regularly torturing the inmates for political, sexual, and exploitative purposes (she makes films of their suffering, and sells them). A brave woman (Tania Busselier) goes undercover as a patient in the clinic to find her sister. Instead she finds things like whippings, burnings, rapes, electrocutions, suffocation, needle torture, shock treatment and cannibalism. In the calmer moments there's softcore lesbianism and numerous shower scenes. Franco favorite Lina Romay co-stars as Ilsa's masochistic lover. The violence is never overly convincing, but this is still pretty disturbing stuff, and not for the faint of heart. It's a Candian production filmed in Switzerland and set in South America, with an international cast that includes Angela Ritschard, Howard Maurer, Peggy Markoff, and Franco himself, as Dr. Arkos.


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