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Anchor Bay presents
Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1975)

"Each slow turn...with each slow turn of the screws you will begin to feel the pain greater and greater, until every nerve of your body begins to scream out with agony...."
- Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: July 07, 2000

Stars: Dyanne Thorne
Other Stars: Spaulding Gray (credited as "Victor Alexander"), Tanya Boyd, Marilyn Joy
Director: Don Edmonds

Manufacturer: Complete Post
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sexual situations, extreme gore, language, sadomasochistic abuse, torture, mutilation)
Run Time: 01h:33m:00s
Release Date: July 18, 2000
UPC: 013131110692
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- C+AB- B+

DVD Review

Where Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS was, for better or for worse, an unforgettable film and an extremely profitable one at that, the inevitable sequel doesn't quite measure up. There are two reasons for this, one of which is that there is not much territory which the first film left unvisited, and the second is that Ilsa seems to weaken and develop a heart in this picture.

This second Ilsa film is apparently set in the modern day, without any explicit connection to the first film, other than Dyanne Thorne retains her German accent. Here she is, as the title implies, in charge of the harem of El Sharif (supposedly, a heavily-disguised Spaulding Gray, of Swimming to Cambodia fame, although thecommentators deny this to be true), an oil sheik who seems to live mostly for depravity. Ilsa and her assistants, Satin and Velvet (Tanya Boyd and Marilyn Joi), kidnap young women from throughout the world for El Sharif's amusement. When an American diplomat comes to investigate alleged human rights abuses, the sheik sells off some of his more badly mutilated denizens of his harem to his unsuspecting brethren. The diplomat has brought with him Adam (Michael R. Thayer) an intelligence agent, for whom Ilsa falls.

Ilsa's relationship doesn't have the master/slave resonance of the one she had with Wolfe in the first film; she seems to just utterly surrender to Adam in a cliched and frankly irritating rape fantasy. Thorne even remarks in the commentary on how Ilsa is not as empowered as she is in the first film. Exploitation fans will be disappointed to know that Dyanne Thorne doesn't shed her clothes until over an hour into the film. There are, however, plenty of nude young women to be seen in the interim.

The torture and gore scenes are not quite as harrowing or as numerous as in the first film, but they are overall well done. Not quite as bloody, there are some very difficult moments, such as the woman sold at auction who has her teeth pulled because her purchaser doesn't like the feel of teeth. We also get a variety of other creative tortures such as the mammogram from hell.

The topical nature of the setting (1975 being a time period when OPEC was an easily demonized group) doesn't harm the film too badly, especially in light of current oil prices. More destructive is the camp flavor of the picture, which doesn't hold up against the intense character of the earlier film. Half of the horror is lost when the picture is winking at you. The diplomat subplot, with a thinly-veiled Henry Kissinger subplot, really doesn't go anywhere except to set up some humor.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The film is transferred from the original negative, and appears flawless. I don't see any frame damage of any kind anywhere in the film. The color appears naturalistic, although the color schemes appear slightly dated. Blacks tend to be solid, although there are a few early scenes in which the blacks seem more grey in nature. Much of the film takes place in deep shadow, and the background details are all quite clear. Grain is minimal. Overall, a phenomenal picture. Anchor Bay continues to set the standard in film transfers.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is the original mono, presented in DD 2.0. Much of the dialogue seems to be looped, apparently with less care than in She Wolf. The music doesn't suffer from the distortion that was observed in that film, though it is a good deal cheesier; there are obvious and irritating musical stings throughout the film that really overemphasize the plot points. There is no hiss or crackle to be heard. Quite satisfactory. The commentary is in stereo and comes through very clearly.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Star Dyanne Thorne, Director Don Edmonds, Howard Maurer
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The primary extra is a commentary with director Don Edmonds and star Dyanne Thorne. Supporting actor Howard Maurer (who later married Dyanne Thorne)also chips in every now and then, but Edmonds and Thorne really carry the show. British comic Martin Lewis acts as moderator, but the commentary really would have been better just letting the principals reminisce. Lewis doesn't have the background for these films, and just adds obvious jokes. These people are quite capable of doing without him. They are able to go on at length with anecdote after anecdote, and are clearly enjoying themselves hugely. One of the more amusing factoids is that many of exteriors of the Arab palace are in fact buildings, including the public library, in Glendale, California.

A theatrical trailer is included, as are brief bios for Thorne and Edmonds (the same ones as appear on the She Wolf disc) with "selected filmographies."

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

Harem Keeper isn't nearly as shocking as She Wolf, but this may make it slightly more accessible to a larger public, since the camp aspect is emphasized greatly. Exploitation fans will want to own it anyway.


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