jeudi 15 juillet 2010

Ilsa Superstar

Fetish expert Bob Cresse inaugurated the new genre in his 1969’s ironically titled Love Camp 7 (1969) depicting a Nazi torture concentration camp with a sadistic commandant who encouraged sexual depravity. One year after the “Summer of Love” the unspeakable and un-representable Shoah had become a theatrical stage for S&M private fantasies in what could be called the most obscene recuperation of collective suffering. All the scandal of the sado-masochistic twist of seventies’ psychotronia would be embedded in this pushing of the ultimate limits for profit and fun, appealing to an audience eager of watching the unwatchable. This ultimate sacrilege was a creepy confirmation of Bataillian eroticism as affirmation of live against death itself, reapropriation of the Unbearable and ultimate transgression.

Producer David Friedman and director Don Edmonds followed that transgressive path with Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1975) who rocketed the subgenre. “Aware of the intrinsic commercial value of Nazi fetish films, Friedman would marry their sadomasochistic sexploitation elements with the gore genre he’d innovated” (B. Landis &M. Clifford, op cit, p.218) . Loosely based on real-life war criminal Ilsa Koch the movie follows the Super-Sadean Dyanne Thorne in what became the ultimate dominatrix fantasy. Like a religious mantis she disposes of his male slaves after having sexually abused them, while making comparative experiences so as to prove that “a well-trained woman can withstand pain longer than a man”. Horror ingredients alternate with porn acrobatics against the background of Nazi medical experiments in the death camps. Supersadist Isla is also, in a significant phallocratical pattern, a super-masochist waiting to be tamed by a super-phallic “sex machine”, an Americanized Aryan to which the male audience is invited to identify.

Ilsa –murdered by the nazi general to erase evidence of the torture camp for the Allies to find, at the end of the film- would return the following year as Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheks, showing the versatility of the women in prison genre –as of the Man’s Adventure magazines that presented Nazi bitchs along Vietcong sadists- and the supernatural anti-heroic status of Ilsa, new myth that would even confront Bruce Lee in one specially psychotronic project (ads for Ilsa meets Bruce Lee in the Devils Triangle date from 1976). Dyanne worked for Jesse Franco in Ilsa, the Wicked Warden, as the evil director of a South American prison-clinic for women and would return in the last installment of the series, Ilsa, Tigress of Siberia (1977), this time running a Soviet gulag.

dimanche 4 juillet 2010


The Women In Prison genre evolved with different varieties such as Asylum horrors (Don’t look in the basement 1973; House of Insane women, House of the Whipcord 1974) or slave plantations (Sweet Sugar, 1972), culminating in one of the most extreme subgenres of the decade, Nazi exploitation. Because of its extremism this subgenre deserves a special attention from the cultural historian. The association of Nazism with sado-masochism was, quite surprisingly, one of the first attempts to come to terms with the horrors of the Shoa. B. D’Astorg’s 1946 article on the Marquis de Sade and the “concentration camp universe” (Introduction au monde de la Terreur)was seminal to that approach, being also one of the first texts to adress the unspeakable (B. d’Astorg, Paris, Seuil).

Against the apologetic “misreading” of the Marquis by prewar Surrealism, the comparison between Sadean dystopias –specially the Shilling Castle from 120 Days of Sodom- and the camps was hotly debated by existentialist discourse: Albert Camus and Simone de Beauvoir deconstructed sadean eugenics and misogyny in the shadow of the gaz chambers while Jean Genet was adressing Nazi eroticism in Pompes funèbres (1947), presenting a provocative and dark epiphany:

« Je note encore qu'au centre du tourbillon qui précède - et enveloppe presque - l'instant de la jouissance, tourbillon plus enivrant quelquefois que la jouissance elle-même, la plus belle image érotique, la plus grave, celle vers quoi tout tendait, préparée par une sorte de fête intérieure, m'était offerte par un beau soldat allemand en costume noir du tankiste » (Editions Gallimard, 1953, p. 134) .

Thus the second “Sadean revival” of the fifties and sixties would, despite apparent similarities, strongly differ from Surrealist enchantment.

Ilan Avisar, in Screening the Holocaust, traces the cinematic connection of Nazism and “sexual deviance” to Rossellini’s Open City that portrayed Nazis as “perverted/sadistic/homosexual”, distorted mirror of the anguished hypermasculinization of the Nietzschean Übermensch (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1988, p. 134) . Following Kristeva´s dynamics of abjection, those images soon triggered ambivalent emotional reactions of disgust and fascination, shifting identifications of spectators and refiguring Holocaust as a sexual practice in Nazi erotica of Men’s Adventure magazines of the fifties and sixties, where routine propaganda evolved towards a troublesome sado-masochist fascination –the Nazis evolving towards female dominatrix. Exploring “the fladge market” G. Freeman remarks that “there is scarcely an issue without a cover illustration with a swastika”, worn by female dominatrix or lecherous generals. “Scream for my Kisses Amerikaner Soldat!” (Men Today), “Soft Flesh for the Nazi Fanged Doom” (Men), “I blasted Hitler’s super sin and spy brothel” or “Hideous secrets of the Nazi Torture Cult” are only some of the “countless stories of young girls enduring floggings and tortures at the hands of camp commandants, illustrated with lurid drawings” (G. Freeman, op cit, p. 102) . Books like Gerda, the Bestial Wardress of Belsen cashed in the fad while the S&M subculture of the motorbike gangs started using Nazi paraphernalia as the ultimate outsider icon, as shown in Keneth Anger’s lyrical delirium Scorpio Rising.