With the release of Tarantino and Rodriguez's Grindhouse coming up on April 6, I thought it might be fun to have a look at some of the greatest films of the grindhouse era. For those who haven't yet caught the retro wave, grindhouse theaters were inner city venues whose purpose was to crank out one exploitation film after another, often as part of a double feature and covering a variety of genres. The phenomenon had its heyday in the 60s and 70s, and eventually petered out in the 80s. Films of this type favored sensationalism over artistic merit, usually placing an emphasis on sex and violence. This stuff certainly isn't for everyone, but I find these films fascinating. Watching these movies now on DVD and seeing how extreme their content was, I often find myself muttering "this actually played in a theater?"
Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS (1975)
This of course is the grandaddy of a particularly sleazy genre known as nazisploitation. Ilsa (Dyanne Thorne) is the commandant of a nazi concentration camp where she is conducting experiments on the amount of pain her female prisoners can endure. It is her goal to prove that women can bear pain better than men and should be allowed to serve on the front lines in the service of the Father Land, and she does this with flogging, pressure chambers, infectious diseases and various other depravities. The male prisoners are used to gratify Ilsa's sexual appetite, but the ones who do not satisfy her (and that's nearly all of them) end up castrated. It all seems even more perverse when you realize the film was shot on the same sets at the sitcom Hogan's Heroes. Rob Zombie's fake Grindhouse trailer for Werewolf Women of the SS obviously drew inspiration from Ilsa. The film spawned two official sequels, Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Shieks, and Ilsa, Tigress of Siberia, as well as an unofficial sequel best known as Ilsa, the Wicked Warden, though it's been released under several titles.