Ilsa: The Wicked Warden (1977)
By: Mr Intolerance on October 3, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Anchor Bay (USA). All Region, NTSC. 1.66:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 94 minutes
The Movie
Director: Jess Franco
Starring: Dyanne Thorne, Lina Romay, Tania Busselier, Erik Falk, Howard Maurer, Jess Franco
Screenplay: Jess Franco, Manfred Gregor
Music: Walter Baumgartner
Country: USA/Switzerland/West Germany
AKA: Greta The Torturer, Ilsa: Absolute Power, Wanda: The Wicked Warden, Greta: The Mad Butcher, Greta the Sadist, Greta: Haus ohne Maenner
This unofficial Euro entry was the second last in the notorious Ilsa series of films; only the rather mild Ilsa: Tigress of Siberia came afterwards. The basic premise of these films is simple: Ilsa (an enormous-breasted camp commandant) tortures and sexually degrades a whole bunch of nubile, naked young women. Then there's an uprising and she gets horribly murdered, and the young chickadees flee for the hills.

So, in this particular film, we start off with about five minutes of naked women soaping themselves up in the shower, inter-cut with our starlet Ilsa (Dyanne Thorn - with red hair this time), soaping up her enormous chesticles. After about another fifteen minutes of "plot development", we have Dyanne Thorne (nekkid) putting pins into Lina Romay's (nekkid) magnificent breasts. It's a Euro-sleaze fan's wet dream. There's a fair bit of lezzo work in The Wicked Warden. The weird thing to me is that Romay was Franco's partner at the time – who the fuck wants to put needles into their girlfriend's tits and wants to have them make out with chicks and be otherwise subjected to acts of sexual violence? Oh well, horses for courses…

What we get down to in this one is a chick (Abbie) gets herself put into Ilsa's clinic for "sexually abnormal women" in order to find out what happened to her sister, Rosa, who was previously imprisoned in the mysterious Los Palomas clinic. She's (along with the other women) degraded, tortured and otherwise abused, forced to give Lina Romay a rim-job to find out where her sister is, for example, and is more of a developed character than either of the square-jawed heroes from Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS or Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks. I guess that's the difference between what the Americans were centring on in their take on the story, versus what Franco – Ole Jess keeps it more real, more sadistic and on a more personal level. You actually give a rat's arse about the characters.

It's always amusing to hear marvellous clichés in films – Franco is in his house, the door is locked. There's some thunderous knocking, and then: I cheered when I heard the immortal line, "Open up in the name of the law!" Mild comedy ensues when Franco, poorly dubbed, questions, "What do you want?" The fellas plaintively call out, "Come on, open up – it's the law!" Guess you had to be there…

There's some weapons-grade dubbing - seriously craptacular – and generally rubbish acting, loads of nekkid women (watching wet women wrestling is fun) and sadistic (and generally sexual) violence in the way only Jess Franco can provide (one bit where Ilsa brands Abbie's clit is particularly nasty – I've never been so revolted by a curl of smoke). Franco himself turns up as a vaguely heroic, yet ineffectual, character. It's funny, Franco often casts himself in his own films, but he's never an efficacious good-guy, always deeply flawed (see Eugenie de Sade, A Virgin Among the Living Dead), and sometimes, as here, practically useless.

And when Ilsa gets inevitably killed at the end, we get this weirdness where she gets eaten alive by the inmates – bunch of naked lesbians chowing down on the camp commandant inter-cut with stock-footage of lions, tigers and so forth eating dead animal flesh. What's going on there?! That grisly vengeance aside, no-one gets a "happily-ever-after" in this film.
The picture is pretty good, but kind of soft at times. Nowhere near as good as the picture quality of Anchor Bay's previous Ilsa releases. I'm not saying it's crap, as there are no obvious flaws, no speckle, grain or artefacts. I simply think that there could have been a crisper picture.
Well, it's dubbed (badly), so it's kind of hard to say. Certainly the soundtrack is clear, unlike the nature of Dyanne Thorne's accent… No, seriously, it seems to be part German (via Hogan's Heroes), part South American (where the film is set), part… I dunno…Martian?!
Extra Features
Minimal, (theatrical trailer, talent bios), but the Commentary track is quite engaging – at least Dyanne Thorne doesn't try to distance herself from her work in the same way as William Sanderson (Fight For Your Life) or Giovanni Lombardo Radice (Cannibal Ferox, House On The Edge Of The Park, Cannibal Apocalypse). Still, I was hoping for more.
The Verdict
Campy good fun with lashings of sleaze. It's actually the darkest of the Ilsa films, and certainly much more mean-spirited than the official American directed ones. What I mean is that the women are degraded in more brutal, visceral ways than before – yes, even worse than the electrified dildo in She-Wolf of the SS. But then, I'm a fella – if I was a chick, I might think differently. In any event, this is not one for the squeamish.
Movie Score
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