This is probably one reason he did so well with Women's Prison movies. He could immediately think of thousands of reasons for lots and lots of women to get naked all at the same time. And Lesbian Sex? Done deal, pilgrims! Effortless. He should almost feel guilty. But then, this is the man who made Vampyros Lesbos, the movie that dared ask the question "Okay, but what if Dracula... was a Naked Lesbian?"
Really, why the guy didn't just start making Porn, I'll never know. His films were essentially vehicles for just that anyway. The special effects were almost always incredibly cheap and the action scenes were generally excuses for a breast or two to pop out of some actress' top. Yes, Jess Franco was, and is, the KING of SLEAZE.
What he didn't invent, he borrowed and made his own. This film is a case in point. I can only imagine he went to see either Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks or both and sat in stunned silence during the closing credits with eyes wide behind his lightly tinted, square spectacles thinking "Mia Madre... why didn't I think of this? A Huge-Breasted Fraulein Commandant in charge of a group of naked prisoners? I was BORN to make that movie! What happened? Am I slipping?"
Probably to keep his sanity and make up for the fact that some Americans thought of Evil Ilsa first, Jess Franco hired Ilsa star Dyanne Thorne, shoved her buxom body in with his usual cast and crew (on the same set as his most famous Women-In-Prison picture Barbed Wire Dolls, no less) and set about rectifying the situation, creating Greta - Haus ohne Männer. The implication is, of course, that Greta IS Ilsa, hiding in South America and now running a (drumroll) Women's Prison. One would be hard pressed to find a poster, video cover or advertisement that didn't either reference the name "Ilsa" or flat out rename the movie to feature "Ilsa" in the title. It worked, too, as "Greta the Torturer" was widely considered to be an Ilsa movie to the point that it's now better known by its international English title Ilsa, the Wicked Warden.
Yeah, she's back, cruel intentions, big breasts, fake German accent and all. All the Jess Franco tricks are back as well. The film starts as the moaning female voices give way to a shower scene filled with a whole group of hot women including yet another Jess Franco standard: Lina Romay. Franco makes frequent cuts to another washroom where Greta herself (Thorne) is having a bubble bath. What follows is a bottomless escape from this Institution for the Criminally Insane (through a lush jungle), that sets the stage for the entire rest of the film.
The escapee is Rosa Phillips (Esther Studer) and after her brief sanctuary with a local Doctor named Milton Arcos (played by Franco himself) she is brought right back to Los Palomas clinic for treatment. But when word of her death gets around, Dr. Arcos teams up with Rosa's sister Abbie (Tania Busselier) and sets about to ruin the plans of the Wicked Warden herself.
To this end Abbie decides to become a patient at the clinic herself, but to do so, she requires Arcos' seal of disapproval. Herein lies one of my favorite exchanges in the movie.
Yeah, because he only has SANE people committed. The mad must go free!
What follows is the same standard women's prison movie that Franco himself had already made several times. This time they had bankable Dyanne Thorne, fresh off of her last Ilsa flick to spice up that Exploitation Marketing Campaign. The good news is that Ilsa isn't a Nazi at this point (though some of the posters and VHS covers suggested otherwise). The bad news is that she's still incredibly sick and performs lots of torturous experiments.
Also, this time she's not looking for a man with a perpetual erection. This time out Ilsa, or should I say Greta... or should I say WANDA... is a full fledged Lesbian who is satisfied with her current plaything Juana (Lina Romay). Naturally, Juana has eyes for the new girl in town, Abbie. It's probably helpful to Juana's machinations that the two evil female guards don't allow Panties to be worn. Not that I heard the evil Male guard (played by Eric Faulk) complaining either.
The main focus of this movie is, as in most of Jess Franco's films, a lot of naked women doing a lot of naked things. He's not quite as gratuitous in Greta as he was in Women Behind Bars (the methodical repeated vagina zoom shots are seared into my memory), but he gets enough flesh in virtually every scene to make sure you don't forget you're watching a Jesus Franco movie. Here, however, he and his co-writer Erwin C. Dietrich seem to be compelled to keep this unofficial sequel to the Ilsa pictures firmly in place with its predecessors. This means, of course, sick ideas for torture and experiments and, in one case, a nauseating rape scene taken straight out of Gestapo's Last Orgy. This time instead of a bunch of Fat German Soldiers piling on captive women, you've got a bunch of Fat South American prisoners piling on captive women and being filmed and sold on the adult film market. Freudian much, Jess?
The surprise revelations and attempts at Depth that Franco and Dietrich make are ridiculous and sad and the beautiful bounty this film could have enjoyed is ruined by scenes of inflicted pain and more sick things than any movie since... the last Ilsa picture. Trust me, if you've seen one, you've seen them all, and that goes for both Ilsa flicks and Jess Franco flicks (with a few exceptions).
But maybe you haven't quite seen them like this. Fans of Lina Romay certainly won't want to miss seeing her in this film even though she's basically doing the exact same things she did in her last one. The same goes for fans of Dyanne Thorne, Tania Busselier, Esther Studer, Peggy Markoff, Esther Moser and all the actresses in this film. Yeah, you may have seen them, but you may want to see them some more, man!
It's safe to say that this is my favorite of the morally reprehensible Ilsa films... and this one wasn't even REALLY an Ilsa film. That said, it still gets a DOG! Man, you've got all the unnecessary ingredients here to make an Exploitation Flick. Incidentally, this one isn't a Video Nasty, as it wasn't released in the UK yet at the time of the Bannings. Before its release the British Board of Film Classification made them cut over two minutes anyway to keep it from being "Obscene". Good luck, guys, especially with that ending that really pushes the boundaries of "good taste". Man, I've watched too many of these. Don't get me wrong, I'm not desensitized to violence... I'm desensitized to fake-ass repetitive, rehashed trash cinematic violence. When I'm done with this most recent Blitz, I'm done with Exploitation Flicks. I'm going for some nice, polite Romantic Comedies. Well... Lesbian Romantic Comedies. Until then, see you in the next reel.
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I wonder if Franco sat Lina and Dyanne down and said:
"Two words for you, Babes: JESS SANDWICH!"
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