Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975)

Damaged Film, Damaged Viewers

Movies touch life in fewer and more unexpected places than you think. Most movies are about other movies or society’s dreams rather than the real world. So films that reference major historical events are interesting beasts.

Possibly apart from Vietnam, no war-related event has been more trammelled by films than the holocaust. The Nazi phenomenon was in large measure a result of cinematic twists to history and science. Each film that uses it as a touchstone reinforces the energy that made it powerful.

That makes this a recommended film of the holocaust. Yes, much more than “Schindler”. Sure it is cheesy. Sure it is exaggerated from fact and overly theatrical. Sure, it uses shortcuts: visible breasts are substituted for sex; grimaces for anguish; accents for culture.

Why I recommend it is because it makes the viewer feel superior in just the way it tacitly deplores. The fulcrum is the merger of the American POW icon. American film audiences needed this in various war pictures to help them decide who they were. It culminated in the Steve McQueen character among Brits and Krauts in “Great Escape” which has since become a stereotype.

Here it is slightly adjusted as sexual prowess. Not such a big change.

You should really see this paired with “Auto Focus” which is a similar take with similar real life touchstones, including “Hogan’s Heros”. Exploitation is a costly business on both sides.

Posted in 2004

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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