|Plot Outline: Ilsa, who isn’t actually called by that name in this film (gotta love those imports!) is the head of a woman’s mental health clinic, much unlike the majority of health clinics I would hope. Very little is offered in the way of rehabilitation, and mostly torture seems to be the key to getting any situation solved. After one young woman goes missing without a trace and no word is heard from her, her sister checks herself into this same hospital (as a nymphomaniac who molested school children, as this is a hospital for the sexually insane I’m guessing) and begins to snoop around. With the warden’s greatest profits coming from videotaped sales of her torture sessions, she has to remain on her toes and ensure the inmates don’t become rowdy – so a classic face off is set-up, but how will it turn out?|
The Review: You know, I reviewed an Ilsa for this website a long time ago. Back before Rogue Cinema or much of any recognition from any particular direction, but that review actually spurred one of my first encounters with a filmmaker who created something I reviewed. That was the immortal Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS, and the director of that film Don Edmonds. To be honest, I don’t think my particular review was all that fair and perhaps made light of the film a little more than I am proud of (every film deserves mutual respect, this is something I have learned over time), but Don felt I was fair with his film and he thanked me for it. I was floored to even be contacted by him much less thanked or congratulated. The original Ilsa was never really in contention for greatest cinematic work ever made, nor was it ever really close to the greatest exploitation film in my opinion – but it definitely made it as a classic in its own right. It was perverse, distressing, exploitive and nasty when it wanted to be. Not usually what you would consider great qualities for a lot of people, but when you compare it to other films of the era, the sexual torture and sexualized brutality of the film made it something really original. To this day these issues are taboo and Ilsa did its best with the limited budget and ability that it had, to break down these walls and show the audience something it had never been seen before. Of course, any film in or around the Hollywood system that makes money will have people questioning when the sequel is going to debut. With Ilsa, film fans didn’t have to wait long. Ilsa, Harem of the Oil Sheiks was released the next year, and our film here today was released once again another year later. This time under the guidance of veteran sexual/sleaze filmmaker Jesus Franco. There is much to be said about Franco, the man delivered soft-core erotica on his own terms and even though his work was nowhere near as consistent as a lot of his peers, he still held his head much higher than the likes of other exploitation directors of the time like Bruno Mattei (someday Bruno is going to pound my face in for constantly zinging him I bet). He made erotica chic and often times delivered some style to go with his provocative work. Ilsa sadly doesn’t up the ante very much in terms of style or beauty mixed with erotica, but, well, it does deliver the erotica part. At the same time some might say you can’t ask much more from a Franco film, but I consider working with what the film had, it could have either been a whole lot nastier or it could have at least punched things up a bit in one form or another; sadly I can’t help but think of the film as a tiny bit on the bland side.
Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS, even after all of these years remains a well-talked about exploitation nasty and I think that speaks volumes for the staying power of something genuinely new. If hardened horror fans are to go into it expecting something that keeps up with Salo or the August Underground flicks, of course they are going to be disappointed but it is an unfair comparison to make and I hope that most viewers of that film take into account the system it was made in, the content it presented and the taboos that were being broken in the age it was made. Ilsa the Wicked Warden, well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a bad film; a lot of these sort of films you can interchange the titles and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference; Wicked Warden at the very least has a few things going for it. A boob joke, most likely centered around Dyanne Thorne and her huge chest would probably go over pretty well right here, but I’ll keep things PG. Dyanne Thorne, and yes her chest too, do add to the film tremendously in their own respective fields I must say. It has been a while since first seeing She-Wolf, but I have to say that after Wicked Warden I can see where all the praise for Thorne comes from. She is looking much better here in my opinion (and attractiveness is even more subjective than comedy), and does well at developing her character even though she isn’t given a whole lot of change aside from this character being a lesbian rather than a man-hating heterosexual. How much does that change the course of things? Not really a whole lot. Torture is committed, young women are brutalized and there is a whole ton of nudity to make you feel uncomfortable watching with your family. Wicked Warden follows a less formulaic conclusion than the film this feature tries to spin-off of, but it’s a case of too little too late. If Wicked Warden were to break through more taboos, it could have become at least a more interesting film and if Franco had put to work some of his usual flare for creativity and beauty amongst the trashier side of things (as seen in Vampiros Lesbos), this at least could have been something produced either in a very good way, outrageously bad or any combination thereof. At the very least it could have been something interesting, and been highly memorable. As it is though, I hate to say it, but Ilsa the Wicked Warden for me is one of those flicks you watch, put back on your DVD shelf and have it slowly fade from memory. Then your only reason for re-watching it is just to refresh your memory of what it was actually about.
I am not giving Wicked Warden a horrible score or anything like that. It isn’t a terrible piece of work. It has decent production values for it’s budget, there’s plenty of genre fodder for those who are interested (Girls fighting in the shower! Huzzah!) but I can’t help but deduct points for there not being a whole lot else to it other than the fact that it’s an “Ilsa” movie. There are a couple of memorable characters aside from Dyanne Thorne’s in the film, but it just isn’t enough for me to re-think my two star score. Probably the lowest rating I’ve given a film in a good while, but that’s been due to selective film-watching more than anything. Like I’ve said, I would never list Wicked Warden on any “worst films ever made” list, but I for one found it to be fairly drab and lacking any real pace that could keep me too interested or involved. What can you say though, some claim it as one of the best of the series, I guess I’ll just have to search out the rest of the series and find out for myself (hopefully I can track down that one Bruceploitation Ilsa flick if that thing even exists… which, no, it does not) and hopefully you guys can join me. Remember kids, this is what videostores and netflix are for!