“Ilsa, The Wicked Warden” (1977)

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By Jerome Reuter

Ilsa, The Wicked Warden, is the third ‘installment’ in the infamous Ilsa series. I use the term ‘installment’ loosely, as it’s not an official sequel to its predecessors. (Ilsa, She Wolf Of The SS, and Ilsa, Harem Keeper Of The Oil Sheiks respectively.) It’s also the most exploitive and excessive one in the series. This is more or less another entry into the women in prison sexploitation subgenre. It’s step below soft-core pornography, with plenty of sadomasochism, and several scantily clad female prisoners.

Once again, Dyanne Thorne portrays our brutal antagonist. Considering the setting, and the casting choice, it makes perfect sense to cash in on a previously successful franchise. At the helm of this production was smut auteur Jesus Franco, someone who certainly knew how to craft a film of this nature. The best way to describe Franco’s approach to filmmaking, is ‘shot through a jar of Vaseline.’ That’s certainly the case with this one. Franco pulls out all the stops, and pushes the limitations of sexual conduct committed to celluloid. Franco even places himself into the film as a doctor, as if he’s trying to get in on the action anyway he can.

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The premise of the story is rather easy to break down and explain. Ilsa is the warden of a third world psychiatric facility populated by female inmates. (Convenient, no?) The story unfolds in a way you would expect from an exploitation film of this nature. However, here Ilsa isn’t the primary focus, more or less a sub plot. The main story surrounds the convicts, mainly on one who sneaks into the prison in a pseudo-undercover investigation. Ilsa pops up from time to time to torture the prisoners, or have a random sexual encounter. In a lot of ways, this film bears more of a resemblance to works such as Womens Prison Massacre, than an actual Ilsa flick. One things for certain, Thorne hams it up every time she’s given screen time, and you can tell she lives for every moment. Thorne herself has stated on numerous occasions that she loved playing Ilsa, a character she described as ‘timeless.’

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When it comes to the sexual content of this one, it’s a lot more graphic then we saw in the previous entries. It’s something you’d expect in a film starring Laura Gemser with Emmanuel in the title. In this day and age, something like this would NEVER be released. This is a product of its’ time, when exploitation was a necessity for deviants. It’s certainly a work that pushes the envelope, and one of Franco’s more interesting works. To this films credit, it stands apart from the other three in the series, and holds distinction as the most visceral. In the next entry, Ilsa, Tigress Of Siberia, we would get a finale that was almost comical in some aspects.

Consider this a film that took the series in a different direction. A must watch for fans of the series, and the exploitation subgenre itself.

 

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