The Film (4/5)
Jess Franco died a little over one year ago now in April of 2013, as one of the last remaining auteurs of early EuroCult cinema it was a tragic loss, but being in his mid-80's, and having been in declining health for sometime it was hardly unexpected. If one is to find a silver lining in the dark cloud of Franco's tragic passing it would be that over his very long and prolific career the Spanish director left us with over 200 films (more if you qualify the varying cuts of some of his films) to explore and to enjoy for decades to come. Prior to his passing his films began to trickle on to the Blu-ray format with Redemption Films releasing his classics Female Vampire and Exorcism on to the format in October of 2012. However, it would be Ascot-Elite Films with their line of Franco Blu-ray's that have been keeping the maestro's work visible, and in very beautiful Blu-ray editions since late 2013. The series is working it's way down, and we have decided to go back, and review as many of these titles as time allows as these are some of the most gorgeous cult titles on the market, and they offer a great tribute to the late Jess Franco.
In 1975 exploitation pioneer David F. Friedman (Blood Feast) got together with director Don Edmonds (8 Million Ways to Die) and the soon to be immortalized in sleaze actress Dyanne Thorne on the about to be torn down set of the TV show Bonanza and created exploitation history with the violent Nazisploitation sleazefest Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. The role would be the one Thorne would become most known for, and the film would be so popular that 3 official sequels to the film would be created over the years. There would also be a fourth film in the Ilsa sequence, an unofficial sequel, created the same year as the first follow up (Tigress of Siberia), which also starred Thorne. That film would be titled Ilsa the Wicked Warden (or Ilsa the Mad Butcher on this Blu-ray release).
The film was not the only unofficial sequel in Franco's filmography, he would later make Mansion of the Living Dead a pseudo sequel to Armando De Ossario's Blind Dead series of films. That film felt like it was more intentionally crafted into a sequel, while Ilsa: Wicked Warden was a simple act of of re-titling due to the nature of the film in question, and the fact that Dyanne Thorne happened to be the lead in both films. The film was shot under the title Greta - Haus ohne Männer, which from what I gather means Great in the house with no men.
This film finds Dyanne Thorne playing Greta, the warden of a mental ward. The film follows Abbie, a young woman who gets herself thrown into said mental ward to investigate her sisters disappearance. She believes that Greta/Ilsa is behind it, and from the moment she is behind those walls begins to investigate, but ends up finding out much more than she bargained for including the fact that the mental ward is being used to create underground pornography where the guards and inmates are the stars.
When watching Ilsa: The Wicked Warden it's probably a good idea to remind yourself that this is not a proper entry in the Ilsa sequence. The film certainly has parallels to proper entries in the series, but it is a Franco film, and offers more sex than violence. That being said Franco doesn't skimp on the disturbing elements of torture and degradation in the film, and if you want the type of sleazy film that will make you want to take a shower afterward, Ilsa the Wicked Warden will certainly fill that requirement.
Ascot Elite presents Ilsa: The Wicked Warden in a spectacular 1:78:1 1080p transfer. The transfer offers excellent fine detail and color reproduction. The flesh tones are accurate, and there is a healthy level of film grain present.
There are multiple audio options, but I stuck to the German 5.1 DTS-HD track with English subs. That track sounded quite good with dialogue coming through clear and crisp as did the music and effects.
There is an interview with Franco and producer Erwin C. Dietrich. There is also multiple trailers for this film, and other films in the series.
Franco's Ilsa film may not be an official entry in the Ilsa sequence, but it offers an excellent performances from Dyanne Thorne and Lina Romay coupled with enough sleaze to please any exploitation fan. The transfer is gorgeous in keeping with the rest of the Ascot Elite Blu-ray's. Ilsa: the Wicked Warden COMES HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.