Friday, May 27, 2016

Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS- Nazisploitation at its Finest

Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS is perhaps the definition of an exploitation film. It is a gory, violently sexual made expressly for the purpose of giving the audience a cheap and shocking thrill, yet still attempting to drape itself in the paper thin masquerade of being a serious expose of the atrocities of the past.
You can see this right at the beginning of the picture when a message from Herman Traeger, the film’s producer: 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 reduced 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 occur again. 
Directly after this high minded statement, we move into a sex scene where the incredibly buxom Ilsa is grinding away on a male prisoner whom she then orders to be castrated as punishment for not being able to satiate her nymphomaniac appetite.
Ilsa is the warden of Special Camp 9. Her goal, apart from some other sadistic games, is to prove that women can withstand more pain and suffering than men and therefore should be allowed to fight on the front lines. The movie includes the standard exploitation elements of sadism, degradation, whipping, sexual slavery, graphic torture, and a bloody finale with Ilsa shot dead and the camp set ablaze. I could more into detail on the plot, but I’m sure you get the general idea and by this time you are either interested or you are not.
It was shot in nine days on the set of Hogan's Heroes TV show- a much different take on the Nazi camps. The series had been cancelled, and, on learning that the movie had the camp being burned down at the end, the set was given over to save the cost of demolition. It also included amongst the women prisoners many porn actresses of the early 1970s, whose cleavage they never failed to flaunt.
 The film was a surprise hit on the drive-in theater and grindhouse circuit. Ilsa was resurrected for three profitable sequels that ignored her Nazi origins and her death. As a freelance mistress-for-hire, she became Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976), commander of a 1953 gulag in Ilsa, the Tigress of Siberia (1977), and the warden of a corrupt Latin-American prison in Ilsa, the Wicked Warden (1977). The last one was originally not meant to be an Ilsa sequel, but it was changed post production.
Ilse Koch

The character of Ilsa, played by the lovely Dyanne Throne, was loosely based on Ilse Koch "The Bitch of Buchenwald". She was the wife of Karl-Otto Koch, commandant of Buchenwald and later on Majdanek. In 1947, she became one of the first prominent Nazis to be tried by the U.S. military. She was well known for being promiscuous with many of the SS officers at the camp and involved in embezzling confiscated materials from the prisoners. Additionally she was accused of marking prisoners with tattoos for death so she could harvest the skin and make lampshades out of them. She was tried twice and garnered a life sentence, which she ironically protested about to the International Human Rights Commission. She committed suicide in prison in 1967.

Richard Kennedy
Additionally, this film sports Richard Kennedy (whom we covered before in the wonderful film The Love Butcher). Here he plays a Nazi General inspecting the camp and becomes enthralled with Ilsa, whom he sees as the ideal Aryan woman, a Goddess made manifest. And as such, wants her to urinate all over his face for his sexual gratification. He had appeared in episodes of a number of TV show, most notably, Happy Days, Beretta, and Little House on the Prairie, and handful of  other bad films- Henry Kissinger in Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, and a hillbilly in Invasion of the Blood Farmers. His career continued on into the 80s where he died in 1985 at the age of 78.
She Wolf of the SS pioneered the subgenre of Nazisploitation. Usually they were a retread of the women-in-prison formula simply relocated to a concentration camp. The genre eventually died out as none of these films were very successful. Due, I believe, to a lack of campiness that the Ilsa films generated, despite the sex and gore. A few others, for those who are interested, are : The Beast in Heat, SS Hell Camp, Last Orgy of the Third Reich, Helltrain, Germany Year Zero, SS Experiment Love Camp, SS Special Section Women, Red Nights of the Gestapo, Nazi Love Camp 2, Helga, She Wolf of Stilberg, Fraulein Devil, and Nathalie: Escape from Hell- and so on and so on.
And surprisingly the genre has inspired actual critically acclaimed art house films. Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter , Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (which we also have covered here), and Tinto Brass's Salon Kitty all are due in some part to Ilsa trail blazing brutality and demonstrating what can actually be gotten away in film. 

     For an exploitation Ilsa has tremendous staying power. It is campy and profane, sexual and sadistic. For those who like such things, it is a must see.
                      The entire film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!  

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Bucket of Blood- Roger Corman at His Best

            A classic little lowbrow cinema excursion from the crown prince of low budget films, Roger Corman. This is a black comedy with horror elements attached. Hired by American International Pictures, given only a $50,000 budget and five days to shoot, Corman rushed off and hastily created a masterpiece of camp.
The film is a satire not only of Corman's own films but also of the art world and teen films of the 1950s. The film is noted as well in many circles as an honest, undiscriminating portrayal of the many pretentious facades of beatnik culture, including art, dance, and lousy style of living. The plot has similarities to Mystery of the Wax Museum. However, by setting the story in the Beat scene of 1950s California, Corman creates an entirely different mood from the earlier film.
            Written by Charles B. Griffith, it was the first of three comedy/horror collaborations between the writer and director. It was followed by Little Shop of Horrors which is much more famous, thanks to the musical created based off of it. And finally Creature from the Haunted Sea which isn’t worth mentioning except in connection to the other two.
            The protagonist is Walter Paisley, a dimwitted busboy for a beatnik café who is constantly mocked by the pompous artists and assorted riff-raff that frequent the place. Walter wants to fit in with all the other cool cats at the café, such the pompous Maxwell who recites poetry and walks with a limp, the cafe owner Leonard who wears a beret to pretend to in with the crowd but is more concerned about making a buck, and the ditzy artist Carla that wants to be surrounded by creative and artistic people, and a host of other beatnik types. To do this he tries his hand at clay sculptures, but discovers that he has no talent.
            While looking for an idea when he accidentally kills his landlady's cat. Instead of giving the feline a proper burial, Walter covers it in clay, leaving the knife stuck in. The next morning, Walter shows the cat to Carla and his boss, Leonard. Leonard dismisses the sculpture, but Carla is enthusiastic about the work and convinces Leonard to display it in the café. Walter receives praise from Maxwell and the other beatniks in the café.
            But an artist cannot just have one piece and a series of events leads Walter onto a larger sculptures with people as the base. Murder leads to murder. All of this begins to catch up with Walter, who starts drinking heavily. Leading to a brutal, but inevitable conclusion. Walter’s greatest work. Himself! 
Dick Miller as Walter Paisley
A Bucket of Blood stars the original “thank guy from that one film” actor Dick Miller, whom I am sure you will have recognized in a host of films (he has 177 acting credits to his name according to IMDB), he has only starred in three movies- this being the first. The other two were the forgettable B-movies War of the Satellites and Rock All Night. This film did have a positive effect on Miller’s career in that the character name of Walter Paisley had been adapted as an in-joke in productions such as The Howling, Chopping Mall, Twilight Zone: The Movie, and Shake, Rattle and Rock!, which credit otherwise unrelated characters played by Miller under the character name.
When first released there was a promotion in the newspaper's movie section advertisements that made the offer, "If You Bring In A Bucket Of Blood To Your Local Theater's Management (Or Ticket Booth), You Will Be Given One Free Admission." It has never been reported if someone actually took them up on the offer.
            The entire film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Magic Christian- A Comedy Exposing How "Everyone Has Their Price"

          The Magic Christian is a nearly forgotten movie bursting with 1960s comedic genius, starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. It is based on the novel of the same name by Terry Southern. Though the film is much altered from the novel with several more scenes written by Southern himself, along with John Cleese and Graham Chapman. The casting of Peter Sellers also necessitated the setting be moved from New York to London.
          The novel itself became important in that it brought Southern to the attention of Stanley Kubrick, who had received a copy as a gift from Peter Sellers, who then hired him on as co-writer for Dr. Strangelove, when Kubrick decided to make that film a black comedy, rather than a straightforward thriller.
          The plot is simple and episodic (it is in fact almost an anti-narrative), Sir Guy Grand (Peter Sellers), an eccentric billionaire, together with his newly adopted heir (formerly a homeless derelict), Youngman Grand (Ringo Starr), start playing elaborate practical jokes on people.
A big spender, Grand does not mind handing out large sums of money to various people, bribing them to fulfill his whims, or shocking them by bringing down what they hold dear. Their misadventures are designed to display the hypocrisy of life and that "everyone has their price"—it just depends on the amount one is prepared to pay. In fact the purpose of the film is Grand attempting to explore just how far he can go.
          There then follows a series of massive practical jokes. Starting with minor spoofs, like bribing a Shakespearean actor to strip during a stage performance of Hamlet, and convincing a traffic warden to take back a parking ticket and eat it.
          This all culminates in The Magic Christian which is pitched as the exclusive cruise liner and the “social must of the season.” Only the richest and stuffiest of socialites are allowed on board. Things start off pleasantly enough, but quickly turn weird. A solitary drinker at the bar is approached by a transvestite cabaret singer a vampire poses as a waiter, and a cinema film features the unsuccessful transplant of a black person's head onto a white person's body. Passengers start noticing, through the ship's closed-circuit television, that their captain is in a drunken stupor and gets carted off by a gorilla.
Roman Polanski and Yul Brenner
 In a crescendo of panic, the guests try to abandon ship. It is full of cameos with Christopher Lee, Roman Polanski, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Yul Brenner, and Raquel Welch (as “the Priestess of the Whip”).  Eventually climaxing in one of the madcap kitchen-sink comedic frenzies of insanity popular in the 60s comedies (Perhaps perfected in Casino Royale). A group of them, shown the way by Youngman Grand, instead reach the machine-room. There, the Priestess of the Whip assisted by two topless drummers, commands more than a hundred slave girls. They are naked except for loincloths. Rowing five to an oar, their wrists are manacled and fastened by chains to the ceiling. Apparently the actors kept deliberately flubbing their lines for this scene, so that they could spend more time perving on the naked women.
As passengers finally find an exit, and lords and ladies stumble out in the daylight, it is discovered that the supposed ship was in fact a structure built inside a warehouse, and the passengers had never left London.
In the final scene the pair fill up a huge vat with urine, blood and animal excrement and adds to it thousands of bank notes. Attracting a crowd of onlookers by announcing "Free money!” Grand successfully entices the city's workers to recover the cash. The sequence concludes with many members of the crowd submerging themselves, in order to retrieve money that had sunk beneath the surface. Originally Sellers wanted to do this in front of the Statue of Liberty, but due to the expense they stayed in London.
          The role of Youngman Grand was originally offered to John Lennon, but who had to back due to his 1968 arrest for possession of pot. Ringo Starr - who was hoping to pursue a career as an actor after having received favorable reviews for his performance in the 1964 Beatles film A Hard Day's Night  then stepped into the role intended for Lennon.
          There is a further Monty Python connection, besides Cleese and Chapman’s roles, in that one of the earliest Python sketches “The Mouse Problem”- a fake documentary about a man who is part of a subculture that enjoys dressing up as mice, an obvious parody of the secretive lives and social condemnation of gay men in the 1960s (although nowadays it seems much more on point with the “furries” subculture) - was written for the film. It was ultimately rejected by Sellers.
          This film is a product of its time, yet it still rings true today. Grand’s own blasé disdain for the culture and class which gave him the freedom and capital to mock it, is understated but ever present. While some critics have claimed that it was too silly to make a point, I feel they have missed it.
          The entire film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Mothers Day Special: The Worst Mothers in History

       Happy Mother’s Day everyone! This is the time of year that we celebrate our maternal parent’s infinite love and eternal sacrifice in rearing us up from the time when we were babes mewling and puking in our cribs to the sterling adults that we doubt are now. The image of the mother figure is iconic throughout all of history and well represented in art from the beginning of time.
          However, as we all know, not every female is cut from the same nurturing cloth and should have been sterilized at birth. To counter the overwhelming schmaltzy female adoration that will be plastered everywhere this weekend, I present to you a sample of the worst mothers in history.

          Kathrine Mary Knight: She has the distinction of being the first woman in Australian history to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Knight's father was an alcoholic who openly used violence and intimidation to rape her mother up to ten times a day. Her mother, in turn, often told her daughters intimate details of her sex life and how much she hated sex and men. As such she grew up to be a violent bully who would fly into uncontrollable rages. She went through a series of mutually violent marriages, whelping several children, before meeting John Price.   
One night he returned home to find she had sent the children away, and after a romantic night of booze, pills, and sex, she stabbed him to death and then skinned him. She then put his skin on a meat hook, cooked his head and parts of his body and placed them together with vegetables on plates with placecards with the children's names.

Marie Noe: A wonderful example of someone with Munchausen-by-Proxy syndrome, wherein a caregiver exaggerates, or induces mental or physical health problems of a child in their care, usually to gain attention or sympathy from others. Noe was convicted in June 1999 of murdering eight of her children. Between 1949 and 1968, eight of the ten Noe children died of mysterious causes which were then attributed to sudden infant death syndrome.
All eight children were healthy at birth and were developing normally. Her other two children died as well, but this was shown to be of natural causes (or else it couldn’t be proven otherwise). Ironically in 1963 Life magazine published a sympathetic article on Noe (written by Mary Cadwalader and using the pseudonyms Martha and Andrew Moore for Noe and her husband) after six of Noe's children had died

Viola Lucas: Mother of infamous serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. Giving birth to nine children, then having to care for a husband who lost both his legs in a train accident, was too much for this mother. She found a wonderful way to vent her frustrations by beating her youngest child, one of which went so far that it actually resulted in him being in a coma for three days. She left an eye injury Henry had received unattended for four days. It became infected and had to be removed then replaced with a glass eye. She often dressed him up as a girl and curled his hair to embarrass him. She often forced him to go to school in this manner. While earning money as a prostitute she often made watch while she had sex with clients.
He eventually repaid this attention by murdering her. On January 11, 1960, in Tecumseh, Michigan, Lucas killed his mother during the course of an ongoing argument regarding whether or not he should return home to his mother's house to care for her as she grew older. He claimed she struck him over the head with a broom, at which point he stabbed her in the neck and she fell. He stated, “All I remember was slapping her alongside the neck, but after I did that I saw her fall and decided to grab her. But she fell to the floor and when I went back to pick her up, I realized she was dead. Then I noticed that I had my knife in my hand and she had been cut.

Susan Smith: On October 25, 1994, Smith, a South Carolinian with a history of drunk-and-disorderly arrests, reported to police that her vehicle had been carjacked by a black man who drove away with her sons still in it. For nine days, she made dramatic pleas on national television for their rescue and return. Her and her ex-husband, whom she had cheated on repeatedly, were subjected to intense polygraph examinations.
The murdered children of Susan Smith
Following an intensive investigation and a nationwide search, on November 3, 1994, she confessed to letting her 1990 Mazda Protegé roll into nearby John D. Long Lake, drowning the boys, 3-year-old Michael Daniel Smith, and 14-month-old Alexander Tyler Smith. Her motivation was reportedly to be able to have a relationship with a local wealthy man, even though the latter had no intention of forming a family. She was sentenced to life imprisonment for her crimes (It’s amazing how few of these women actually get the death penalty even for the most heinous of crimes. It’s a clear example of the sort of sexism we’ve all been fighting against). She will actually be eligible for parole in 2024, but due to lack of remorse it is unlikely that will happen.

Sanae Nakamura: A sex worker in Japan, she fought for custody of her two children during her divorce then quickly grew tired of caring for them. She had no time or inclination to do housework, as evidenced by the mountains of garbage in the apartment. In March 2010 Sanae Nakamura got herself a boyfriend and began to spend the nights with him, leaving her 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son home alone.
A concerned neighbor contacted the Osaka municipal child consultation center 3 times because the children could be heard crying and screaming “mama, mama!” every night. The first phone call was made on March 30, 2010. Two welfare officials showed up on March 31, April 1 and April 2. Nobody answered the door so they left. The neighbor called again early on April 8, 2010. The children were still crying and screaming late into the night. The welfare officials showed up that day but again nobody answered the door. So they left. This happened again a third time.
In early June, 2010, Sanae Nakamura locked the door to her apartment and walked away. Little Sakurako Hagi and her baby brother Kaede Hagi were abandoned inside and left to die. She later told the police that she wanted “to flee from everything and have time to myself. I thought about a week later they might be dead. I didn’t feel like I should return home to save them.”
Left to starve to death by Sanae Nakamura
On July 29, 2010 Sanae Nakamura did return to the apartment, but as soon as she found her babies’ decomposing corpses she left again, just as if nothing happened. On July 30, 2010, police arrived at the apartment after somebody reported a “strange smell coming from apartment 303”. The police had to enter the apartment from the balcony because the door was locked. When they got inside, they discovered the source(s) of the smell. The 2 tiny, emaciated corpses were naked and lying face up in the middle of the room, surrounded by garbage.
When arrested, she showed no remorse. “Since I divorced in May last year, I had become tired of caring for my children. I wanted free time,” She openly told police. “I wished I hadn’t had children. I knew that such young children couldn’t live if I left them behind and refused to give them food or water.”
At her trial, she used all of the usual tactics of blaming her actions on a poor upbringing and false statements of being sexually molested when she was a child. Which availed her as well as the rest of the women on this list. She was given thirty years in prison.

I hope you enjoyed this little segment. Have a happy Mother’s Day!