Ilsa, Tigress of Siberia was the second of the official sequels to that most notorious of all exploitation movies, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. This time Ilsa is the Colonel in command of one of Stalin’s gulags, although the movie really doesn’t turn out quite the way you might expect.
This was a Canadian production, and more than half of the film actually takes place in Canada. It opens in 1953, with Ilsa trying to break the spirit of a particularly recalcitrant political prisoner, Andrei Chikurin. She has her own mad doctor, an unpleasant character named Leve, who is in charge of the more technological means of persuasion. Prisoners who don’t respond to Leve’s scientific approach can always be dealt with in Ilsa’s favourite manner - they are given to her pet tiger Sasha for dinner.
Ilsa is not lacking for other means of entertainment. Her guards fight each other and engage in epic drinking competitions for the honour of sharing her bed. There are always two winners, one man a night not being enough to satisfy llsa.
Unfortunately 1953 is not going to be a happy year for our heroine (or anti-heroine). The news of Stalin’s death casts a chill over proceedings. Ilsa and her most favoured henchmen decide it might be a good time to leave Russia.
We then cut to Montreal in 1977. A team of Soviet athletes is in Canada, and their coach is none other than Andrei Chikurin, who caused Ilsa considerable inconvenience back in 1953. Two of his athletes are very reluctant to leave Montreal without first visiting Montreal’s most celebrated brothel. Chikuin decides the boys have earned some recreation, and he accompanies them. But he is in for a very nasty shock. The madam of the brothel is, yes you guessed it, it’s Comrade Colonel Ilsa.
She’s not the Comrade Colonel any more, but she is the head of a major crime syndicate. Running into Chikurin is rather a shock for her as well, but she’s always prided herself on he thoroughness. She set out to break Andrei Chikurin fourteen years earlier, and now she’s going to finish the job. And Doctor Leve is still with her, and he’s perfected much more sophisticated methods of destroying people’s minds and bending them to Ilsa’s will. But the Soviet authorities do not take kindly to the news that one of the nation’s top sports officials has disappeared in Canada. Their intelligence services swing into action and once they discover the identity of the criminal behind the kidnapping it becomes a matter of top priority to deal with the rogue one-time Soviet employee.
So this is not really a prison exploitation movie. It starts that way but it develops into a spy thriller. And a spy thriller of an unusual kind, with the Soviet secret services being the good guys. Those crazy Canadians, making a movie in which the Soviet Special Forces will be the heroes!
Of course it’s all rather silly, but it’s supposed to be. This is very much an exercise in intentional camp, and if you accept it as such then it’s pretty entertaining. If you’re expecting a typical Ilsa movie though you may be disappointed, and that undoubtedly accounts for the movie’s rather poor reputation.
Dyanne Thorne is suitably awesome as Ilsa. The other actors are competent enough but she’s more than capable of carrying the movie on her own.
There’s quite a bit of gore, and it’s actually done with a certain mount of imagination and style. Snowmobiles, spears, automatic weapons, ravenous tigers, explosions and electronic torture devices are all deployed in the service of creating mayhem. There are some reasonably well executed stunts and the movie makes very effective use of the snow-covered landscapes of Canada.
There’s sex and nudity of course, in copious quantities. This is an unabashed exploitation flick and it glories in its trashiness. And that’s its greatest strength. You won’t find too much in the way of redeeming social values or artistic merit here. This movie promises sleaze, trash and fun and it delivers them. And Dyanne Thorne on her own is sufficient reason to watch it.