Saturday, 13 September 2008

Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976)

Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks is my first experience of an “official” Ilsa film. I’d previously seen Jess Franco’s Ilsa, the Wicked Warden, but since it was not originally filmed as a Ilsa movie it doesn’t really count in the eyes of hardcore Ilsa devotees.

It’s pointless looking for redeeming features in a movie like this. It’s the sort of production that glories in its complete lack of any redeeming qualities. It’s brutal, although it’s really too silly and far-fetched for the violence to be really offensive.

Ilsa, who may or may not be the same Ilsa who featured in the notorious Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS (it’s now 30 years later so really she can’t possibly be the same person, but in the cartoonish world of the Ilsa films that’s a mere detail), is in charge of the household of an Arab oil sheikh. Her main responsibility is to look,after the harem, and to maintain discipline in the harem, the discipline being the part of her job that she enjoys most. The women of the harem were all kidnapped by white slavers (this movie contains just about every possible exploitation element you can think of).

As the movie opens an American intelligence agent is just about to arrive in this desert sheikhdom. He’s part of a plot to get rid of the sheikh in order to secure a more favourable oil deal. To do this he will have to deal with Ilsa, but she has already discovered the agent he had planted in the harem. But the American agent and Ilsa hit it off surprisingly well, especially in the bedroom, and soon the plots and counter-plots become even more complicated.

There’s really only one reason to watch an Ilsa movie, and that’s Dyanne Thorne. She really is wonderful. In this movie she has two beautiful black female assistants, Satin and Velvet. Armed with spears and almost naked for the entire film, they’re a lot of fun.

I can’t imagine myself bothering to chase up the other movies in this series, but if you’re a cult movie fan do you need to see at least one Ilsa film. While Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks is certainly somewhat campy, I personally would have preferred it to be more campy still. But it is an experience. I thought Franco’s Ilsa, the Wicked Warden was more entertaining. It’s much more perverse and brutal, but Franco at least does perverse and brutal with a certain amount of relish and a good deal of style.

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