Sex, Sadism & Swastikas: Psycho ‘70s Nazi sexploitation cinema cycle
11:10 am
Sex, Sadism & Swastikas: Psycho ‘70s Nazi sexploitation cinema cycle

In the mid ‘70s a whole slew of World War Two-themed sexploitation films were churned out (most coming from Italy) in the wake of the highly successful Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. Most of the films, typical ‘70s softcore porn pieces with swastika-sporting actors, followed the standard “women in prison” film formula—the locale having been transferred to the Nazi death camps and field brothels. In Italy these films are known as part of the “il sadiconazista” cycle, the bulk of which were influenced as much by Ilsa as they were by three controversial Italian art-house films: Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter, Tinto Brass’ Salon Kitty and Passolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. The entire genre can be traced back to 1969 when Bob Cresse and Lee Frost created the depraved “roughie,” Love Camp 7, which set the standard for all others to follow.

The SS-ploitation film-makers had discovered that it was far easier to get violently sexual situations past the censors if they were presented within the context of being based on the historical facts of Nazi war atrocities. Of course, none of these films had any interest whatsoever in being historically accurate. The producers were making bank by exploiting 1970s movie audiences’ craving for weirder and wilder psycho-sexual delights and justifying it all as supposed statements against war crimes.  Producer Dave Friedman (under the pseudonym Herman Traeger) put this written notice in the first shot of Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS:

“The film you are about to see is based on 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 condensed into one locality for dramatic purposes. Because of its shocking subject matter, this film is restricted to adult audiences only. We dedicate this film with the hope that these heinous crimes will never happen again.”

These films pushed the boundaries of bad taste to their lowest limit.

It’s difficult to pin down the continued appeal of these films. Any first year psychology student could interpret these films’ appeal in relation to dominance and submission, bondage fetish, rape fantasy, or basic misogyny. The likely fundamental appeal for many viewers is simply the fact that a whole slew of beautiful women get naked frequently. For others, the appeal of a film like Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS stems from the audacity of the images and the bad taste campiness of the acting and direction.

One thing is certain, these blatant exercises in cinematic depravity make no apologies and force their contents upon the viewer on their own moral terms. Unquestionably, the majority of these films are in the poorest of possible taste, yet they present material in a manner which pulls no punches—a spectacle which would never fly in today’s age of obsessive outrage. These films blur the lines between good and evil when they present Nazi atrocities in a manner that may not only repulse, but also spark the prurient interest of the viewer. To most, the thought of this is an absolutely unacceptable identification with the films’ antagonists, yet there can be a very fine psychological line between repulsion and titillation—and as such, for some, these films hold a certain power, if not vulgar charm. There are those out there who simply worship outrageous schlock, and some that just want to see a pair of boobs jiggle across the screen, and still others who are truly sick, deranged perverts. For better or worse (probably worse), there’s an audience for this shit.

Though sex, sadism, and swastikas sold lots of tickets for Ilsa and Salon Kitty, the other entries in the genre were generally box-office bombs, which meant that by the 1980s the Nazis lost yet again and no more of these films were being produced.

I was personally introduced to the genre as a mere teenager, renting a “big box” VHS of Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS from the local mom-and-pop video store. This movie may well have damaged my mind. Ilsa herself, Dyanne Thorne, became one of my biggest teenage movie star crushes and remains so to this day. I was fortunate enough to meet Dyanne and have a lengthy conversation with her a few years back. She’s a sweetheart and a class act, and is currently performing wedding ceremonies with her husband, Howard Maurer, in Las Vegas—just in case you’re dying to get married by Ilsa!

The sheer degenerate audacity of She Wolf led me to seek out other similar films, though none ever really held a candle. The genre did become a bit of a personal obsession for a while—in a “how do these movies even exist?” kind of way—and I spent (too) much money and time hunting down bootleg VHS copies of rare European prints in the pre-internet days. Of course, most of these films are found easily on the internet now. I once intended to author a book on the il sadiconazista cycle, but that’s now no longer necessary as there are two excellent and highly recommended, authoritative, recent books on the subject: Nazisploitation!: The Nazi Image in Low-Brow Cinema and Culture and Sex, Death, Swastikas: Nazi Exploitation SSinema, as well as The Ilsa Chronicles which specifically covers Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS and its sequels.

Of the twenty or so films that comprise the short-lived Nazi sexploitation genre, these are the ten best (worst?):

10. Frauleins In Uniform - Also known as Gretchen Sans Uniforme and Fraulein Without a Uniform. Swiss master of erotica, Erwin C. Deitrich, presented this exploiter about women being recruited for “special assignment” by the Gestapo. One guess as to what that “special assignment” was? Also known as She Devils of the SS, this one goes light on the violence, but delivers one of the wildest exploitation images of the ‘70s: women running naked through a battlefield as live shells explode around them. This bizarre flick may be more offensive than other genre entries simply because of its light-hearted approach and the fact that the Nazis aren’t really portrayed as “bad guys”—they just love sex and their Führer!

9. SS Girls - Also known as Private House of the SS. Bruno Mattei’s rip-off of Salon Kitty (see below) offers wall to wall full-frontal nudity, soft-core sex, plus some saucy S&M bondage to round things out. A highly watchable entry in the genre, Nazi prostitutes are trained in every fashion of sleazy lovemaking so that they can get their victims to confess before trial and execution. In what is surely one of the most visually bizarre scenes in the entire genre, a tribunal is conducted by a character in a “Nazi Pope” costume.

SS Girls is somewhat tame by comparison to other entries in this cycle, but makes the list due to Gabriele Carrara’s over-the-top performance as Hans, the Nazi Pope.

8. Nazi Love Camp 27 - AKA La Svastica Nel Ventre and Living Nightmare. Sirpa Lane stars as the blonde beaten into submission by the Nazi love camp Commandant. He gives her the choice of screwing him or his dog. She winds up falling in love with one of the “kinder, gentler” Nazis and tries to escape—that is until the Commandant finds out! The torture and humiliation are augmented with hardcore sex scenes. The original Italian title translates literally to “swastika in the stomach”.

7. Deported Women Of The SS: Special Section - One of two Nazi sexploitation movies starring John Steiner (the creepy looking guy that played Longinus in Caligula), proving Steiner really loved his work in the genre. Steiner tries to convince one of his prisoners to fall in love with him through humiliation and exposure to hellish tortures. The typical beatings, lesbianism, and shaving scenes we come to expect from the il sadiconazista cycle—all held together by Steiner’s maniacal performance. Deported Women of the SS: Special Section was the film that introduced the razor-blade-up-the-vagina method of rape defense.

6. SS Hell Camp - AKA Beast in Heat. An evil female Ilsa-clone creates a hairy mutant hunchbacked monster that brutally rapes women and eats their pubic hair.

The Italians try to stop the depraved Nazis who have been machine gunning old women and babies, castrating men, pistol-raping, and torturing women with flesh-eating rats (seemingly played by hamsters). Eventually a partisan uprising forces the errant wanna-be-Ilsa into a cage with her “beast-in-heat.” All the actors—including those playing the Nazis—sport truly atrocious hairstyles. One of the most revolting films ever made.

5. S.S. Experiment Love Camp - AKA Women’s Camp 23 - The Seed of Death, Lager SSadis Kastrat Kommandantur, Captive Women II: Orgies of the Damned, and SS Experiment Camp. Spaghetti Western director, Sergio Garrone, presents this ridiculous story of a Nazi commander who seeks to cure his impotency by having a healthy guard’s testicles implanted in his scrotum. The castrated victim doesn’t seem to realize the unfortunate result of this operation until he goes to boink one of the French prisoners. This provides the best scene ever when he confronts the Commandant and says, “What have you been doing with my balls?” The testicle-deprived guard seeks revenge by freeing the prisoners of the camp who go on a berserk rampage. Fans of ovarian and testicular surgery will not want to miss this entry in the SSploitation cycle.

4. Women’s Camp 119- AKA KZ9 - Lager di Sterminio and SS Extermination Camp. Lorraine De Selle, star of the excellent cannibal gore flick, Cannibal Ferox, stars in Bruno Mattei’s hyper-disgusting account of a Jewish woman doctor who is recruited from the ranks of prisoners to help in conducting “medical research.”

A sadistic Obersturmbannführer takes particular pleasure in letting his insane “pet”, a bald, leashed moron named Kurt, rape the prisoners while he watches. Kurt steals the show and is the chief selling point for this lowbrow epic.

3. The Gestapo’s Last Orgy - AKA Caligula Reincarnated as Hitler. In addition to the typically sleazy tortures, this film features an orgy between Nazis and their Jewish prisoners, and a Nazi scientist who informs his dinner guests that they can solve the world’s hunger problems by eating “inferior races”—which they proceed to do, taking a poor young prisoner, sprinkling her with cooking oil and cooking her up right on the spot. Daniela Poggi (appearing here under the pseudonym “Daniela Levy”) plays Lise, a Jewish survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, who lures her former tormentor back to the scene of his crimes. Considered a classic of the genre, director Cesare Canevari’s film is a relentless and shocking depiction of suffering and brutality.

2. Salon Kitty - AKA Madame Kitty. Caligula director Tinto Brass’ opulent epic film about a Nazi Commander (John Steiner again) who overtakes the famous “Salon Kitty” brothel and packs it with new girls of good Aryan stock and impeccable National Socialist credentials. Their mission is to spy on their military officer clients and report back to their controllers about anyone who seems to be wavering from the Party line. The pubic-hair-eating mutant from SS Hell Camp also makes a surprise appearance in this film.

Lot’s of gorgeous bordello/cabaret scenes and a decent budget elevate this one from the other entries in the genre, though it’s still sleazy as hell. It’s the mid-ground between the depravity of Ilsa and the artiness of The Night Porter. This was the second most successful of the Nazi sexploitation films.

1. Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS- Dyanne Thorne stars as the buxom Ilsa, commandant of Medical Camp Nine. Through ghastly and perverted experiments, she is trying to prove her theory that women can withstand much more pain than men, and should therefore be put on the front lines of the war. She falls in love with an American P.O.W. whose ability to control ejaculation eventually becomes her undoing. Shot on the Hogan’s Heroes set, this was a runaway drive-in theater hit. She Wolf isn’t quite as nasty as some of the others on the list, but far more cohesive and entertaining than any of the Italian knock-offs, plus not more than five minutes ever goes by without some form of sex or violence (or both) invading the frame.

It’s incredible, the lengths director Don Edmonds went through to make sure there was always someone naked around.  The producer was legendary (Jewish) exploitation film pioneer: Dave Friedman, here going under the Teutonic pseudonym “Herman Traeger.” Friedman had, five years earlier, produced Love Camp 7.

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS is everything a sleazy drive-in movie should be, and then some. Ilsa is the Gone With the Wind of Nazi sexploitation movies. This comment from the internet movie database sums up the appeal, or lack-thereof, of Ilsa:

“If you found this film to be at all entertaining you are in need of strict medical supervision. This is pornographic, rabid filth and anybody who likes this type of film is a sad specimen of humanity. I pity you. Get help!”

It goes without saying, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS is not for everyone.

Other films worth mentioning in the SSexploitation cycle: SS Camp 5, Achtung! The Desert Tigers, SS Cutthroats, Helltrain, Nazi Love Camp 7, Hitler Sucks, Red Nights of the Gestapo, Helga: She Wolf of Spilburg, Nathalie - Escape from Hell, Fraulein Devil, and Stalag 69.

In 2013 a DVD collection of Nazi Sexploitation trailers was released under the title: Nazithon: Decadence And Destruction.

And speaking of trailers, Rob Zombie paid a goofy, but fun homage to the Nazi sexploitation genre in his Werewolf Women of the SS mock-trailer from 2007’s Grindhouse, which you can watch here

We dedicate this article with the hope that these heinous crimes against cinema will never happen again.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Grisly rites of Hitler’s monster flesh stripper’: Vintage Naziploitation magazine covers

Posted by Christopher Bickel
11:10 am



comments powered by Disqus