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Anchor Bay presents
Ilsa, the Wicked Warden (1977)

"This will be an uncontrolled experiment, as is our usual philosophy."
- Ilsa/Greta (Dyanne Thorne)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: July 10, 2000

Stars: Dyanne Thorne
Other Stars: Lina Romay, Tania Busselier, Jess Franco, Howard Maurer
Director: Jess Franco

Manufacturer: Complete Post
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (Nudity, sexual situations, extreme gore, language, sadomasochistic abuse, rape, torture, mutilation, coprophilia, cannibalism....missing anything?)
Run Time: 01h:34m:09s
Release Date: July 18, 2000
UPC: 013131110791
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

This really isn't an Ilsa film; as the commentary makes clear, it wasn't supposed to be an Ilsa picture, and it was only after release under a number of different names, including Wanda, the Wicked Warden, Greta, the Wicked Warden and Greta, the Mad Butcher, that it made its way to video under the Ilsa banner. Indeed, Dyanne Thorne's character is still referred to in a couple places as "Greta" and they didn't even bother to change the reference to "Ilsa". However, other than red curly hair, she is Ilsa, right down to the German accent.

Regardless of what may have been intended however, this picture is a close and equally nasty sister to Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS. The humor and camp quality of Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks is completely absent here; all of the proceedings are conducted with earnestness, albeit often over-the-top.

This time around, Ilsa/Greta is in control of a mental hospital for "sexual deviants of women: nymphomania, lesbianism and prostitution." To all purposes however, it's a prison, where the inmates are forgotten and left to the tender mercies of Greta and her sadistic assistants. Of course, as befits any women-in-prison film, there are plenty of shower scenes (yes, they must be clean, clean, clean), and they tend to spend most of the film nude or semi-nude. Indeed, there can't be more than ten minutes of film that don't include at least some nudity. Funny how all of the prisoners happen to be attractive and shapely young women.

Abby Philips (Tania Busselier) convinces Dr. Arcos (director Jess Franco) to have her committed to this mental hospital under an assumed name to find out what happened to her older sister, Rosa. Before long, Abby is being abused by Greta and her lover, No. 10 (Lina Romay, later to be the wife of Franco). Unfortunately for Abby, Greta learns that Dr. Arcos is an enemy and she has him removed permanently. Too bad he was the only one who knew she wasn't really insane.... In the meantime, Greta and her assistants are filming the tortures of the inmates and selling them on the pornography market; the customers get more demanding, eventually asking for snuff content, leading to potential disaster for Abby. Franco makes a humorous observation of commercial disregard by shooting the discussion of the snuff films through a window-sized Coca-Cola ad.

Franco as always enjoys the soft-core content of the film, consistently using the camera to caress the flesh of the women inmates. He also makes a big point of contrasting the communal showers of the inmates and Greta's private tub where she takes lengthy bubble baths. Although Thorne tells us that her agreement with the producers required that there not be frontal nudity to her part, apparently Franco disregarded this instruction and produced the memorable footage which is such a major part of the film.

The torture and S & M content is ferocious and brutal; much of it is absolutely not for the sensitive. The "human pincushion" lovemaking scene between Thorne and Romay is in particular hard to take. Franco emphasizes the bloodthirsty cruelty of the climax by intercutting shots of tigers and lions feeding (lifted from the fourth Ilsa film, Ilsa, Tigress of Siberia, which Anchor Bay unfortunately doesn't have rights to issue on DVD thus far).

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The picture, as is the case for the other Ilsa films issued by Anchor Bay, is flawless. Colors are vibrant, although somewhat dated, blacks are powerful and the shadow detail excellent. Grain is very limited. The image is crisp throughout. Even the jungle scenes at the beginning are clear without over-enhancement. There is a little bit of shimmer and flicker which is all that keeps this from an A+ rating. Another lovely first-rate transfer for Anchor Bay's hat.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is a decent 2.0 mono, free of noise or hiss. The film has extremely poor dubbing, which is often a nuisance. The dialogue is obviously looped (as the commentary notes, most of the actors besides Thorne were speaking some other language) and often sounds much too forward. However, it gets the job done.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Dyanne Thorne and Howard Maurer
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The primary extra is a commentary by star Dyanne Thorne and her co-star and husband Howard Maurer. Unfortunately, the commentary is again hosted by comedian Martin Lewis, who does quite a poor job. His lack of preparation is obvious here, more so even than for the other Ilsa films. Lewis mostly relies on IMDB for his information, and acknowledges that he had never even heard of Jess Franco before agreeing to do the commentary. Surely there is someone who is knowledgeable who could have acted as emcee for this commentary. Thorne and Maurer are forthcoming with a good many anecdotes when Lewis doesn't get in the way, but this is the weakest of the commentaries for the three Ilsa discs.

We get a theatrical trailer for Wanda, the Wicked Warden, which states that the film stars Dyanne Thorne as Greta. Clearly internal consistency is not one of the strengths of this film's producers. There is the same bio and filmography for Thorne that appears on the other discs, as well as a bio and very brief filmography for Franco. That about does it for extras here; the chaptering is generous, but I wish that Anchor Bay would start issuing subtitles on its discs.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Ilsa or not, Thorne and Franco make a harrowing and brutal exploitation combination. This is easily the equal of She-Wolf of the SS and accordingly is not recommended for the sensitive or those seeking wholesome entertainment. Fans of nasty exploitation films will definitely want to own this disc, though. Having watched all three of Anchor Bay's Ilsa films in quick succession, I have this urge to watch Mary Poppins to cleanse my mind.


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