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Shock DVD Entertainment presents
Ilsa The Tigress of Siberia (R0 PAL) (1977)

"We have improved our techniques. You will tell us everything you know."
- Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: January 13, 2003

Stars: Dyanne Thorne, Michel Morin, Jean-Guy Latour, Michael Maillet
Other Stars: Tony Angelo, Terry Coady, Joe Mattia, Sonny Forbes, Greg Gianis, Howard Mauer
Director: Jean Lafleur

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (gore, violence, nudity, sex, torture, sadomasochistic abuse)
Run Time: 01h:31m:43s
Release Date: December 00, 2002
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- DC+C- D+

DVD Review

Given the drive-in success of Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, sequels were inevitable. The 1976 Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks showed there was still life in the old girl, ensuring the production of this picture to round out the Ilsa trilogy (or tetralogy, if you count the slightly bogus Ilsa, the Wicked Warden, which became an Ilsa picture only through a retitling). This long sought-after picture remains MIA on DVD in Region 1, apparently the victim of some sort of rights dispute. Having waited several years for Anchor Bay to get the rights to add to its set, I've given up and am going the foreign route, specifically the Dutch region-free PAL disc. It won't work in standard NTSC-only players, but since multi-format players are becoming quite common (and are often quite cheap), this isn't the obstacle that it was for Region 1 viewers a few years ago.

This time around, dear busty and lusty Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne) is the commandant of Gulag 14 in the waning days of Stalin's USSR in 1953. There she practices her trademark cruelty, apparently none the worse for wear from the finale of She-Wolf. About the first half hour is devoted to her usual antics of nastiness, including a keelhauling under the ice of a frozen lake, arm-wrestling on a table with running chainsaws and the like. Whether because the writers ran out of ideas, or to provide something completely different, the picture switches gears totally with the death of Stalin. The film then goes forward to 1977 Montreal, where Ilsa is now using mind control technology to run a brothel. One of her former prisoners, Andrei Chikurin (Michel Morin), now a hockey coach on a tour of Canada, stumbles onto the brothel and is taken prisoner. When the KGB fears that Andrei has defected, they go up against Ilsa and her minions. Ilsa also has scammed the Mafia, and they're after her too, in a weak subplot that goes nowhere.

The first half hour will certainly please Ilsa fans; the last hour is more dubious. It does, however feature two utterly jaw-dropping moments. One is the most gratuitous shower scene of all time, as Ilsa lathers up in the middle of a meeting with her minions. The second is the very baddest of all the Very Bad Science I've ever been subjected to on the screen, when a KGB agent "reverses the field" on Ilsa's closed-circuit TV system to turn her monitor into a camera. We're in serious Ed Wood territory here. And we're not even into the question why Ilsa, who surely must be pushing 60 by the time of the finale here, still looks exactly the same as she did in 1945.

Thorne is entertaining as usual, and those who like their women tough and overly-well-endowed will certainly enjoy her performance. The surrounding cast is generally unmemorable, but they're good enough for this type of fare. Nudity is plentiful and gratuitous, the gore quotient is high, with a particularly fun episode featuring a snowblower, long before Fargo's woodchipper, but surprisingly, the language is rather mild. One of the Russian guards feebly attempts to insult another by referring to him as a "son of a sea cook," an epithet even my aged grandmother could recite without blushing. Surely the producers weren't expecting a television sale of this thing.

Learning their lessons from the other pictures, the ending leaves open the possibility of a sequel, but alas none ever appeared. In any event, this makes for entertainment in the so-bad-it's-good vein, and for that it's worth a look. The source print appears to be uncut, running (even after the 4% PAL speedup) somewhat longer than the longest running time for it listed on the IMDB.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen picture looks decent on the whole. It does tend to be rather soft, although the glare of the white from the Canadian snow masquerading as Siberia doesn't help matters any, since it washes out much of the picture. Color is otherwise surprisingly good, however. There is some speckling, primarily at the reel changes. Visible txtures are limited to closeups. The bit rate hovers at a fairly generous 6 Mbps, so the issues seem to be primarily with the source print.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original English mono soundtrack is provided. It understandably sounds dated and undistinguished, but was good enough for the drive-ins and grindhouses. There is some annoying hiss and crackle that comes and goes. Music tends to be on the shrill side, but dialogue is clear enough. I didn't find the PAL speedup noticeably problematic.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Dutch with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Still gallery slideshow
Extras Review: The most notable extra here is the theatrical trailer (also anamorphic widescreen), which is hugely entertaining in its own right, with a darkly comic attitude towards the feature. The title used here is The Tigress, which may indicate that the Ilsa tag was also added to this feature late in the game (Thorne's character is never actually named onscreen). A slideshow provides frame blowups (or reductions, actually, since the picture covers only about a third of the screen). This runs for about six minutes; near the end is some poster artwork and a few lobby cards, so it's worth sitting through.

Alas, there's no Dyanne Thorne commentary here, but on the bright side we don't have to put up with Martin Lewis either. No English subtitles, but you're in luck if you speak Dutch. Chaptering is quite thin.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Ilsa completists will be pleased to have this disc; low on extras and a slightly iffy source print, but it's still worth checking out for some of the best in Very Bad Filmmaking.


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