Grindhouse Double Feature - Episode One: Ilsa, She Wolf of the S.S.Ilsa She Wolf and The Big Doll House

What is Grindhouse?

The term Grindhouse came from the theaters in which these mainly exploitation genre films were often shown, usually former burlesque theaters that once featured "bump and grind" striptease shows. These theaters were far from family-friendly and were often dirty, uncomfortable, and filled with low-lifes and perverts. These theaters were famous for double and triple features, showing films through out the day and night. Although these theaters existed in inner cities throughoutthe country, the most well known was the chain of theaters on New York City's 42nd Street in Time Square, nicknamed the "The Deuce."

With the advent of home video grindhouses gradually became a thing of the past. If people wished to view exploitative or pornographic films they could do it in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

So now that I've covered what grindhouse is I thought I'd give a few prime examples for anyone interested in seeing exactly what grindhouse is about. So here goes in no particular order

Ilsa, She Wolf of the S.S.

Notorious Canadian Nazi concentration camp sexploitation opus. Produced by sleazemeister David F. Friedman, Ilsa was the only film that he ever felt so ashamed of that actually had his name removed from it. Dyanne Thorne stars as Ilsa, the ruthless and sadistic commandant of a Nazi medial Camp where she is conducting experiments on the amount of pain her (usually naked) female prisoners can endure. Her goal is to prove that women are more resistant to pain than men and should be allowed on the front lines. Male inmates perform slave labor during the day and at night Ilsa chooses one to gratify her sexual appetite, but those who fail to satisfy her (which is pretty much all of them) are castrated. That is until she meets her match, in the form of two new prisoners. Anna, who will not break no matter what torture Ilsa tries her. And Wolfe, whom she can not conquer in bed.

Shot in a week on the left over sets from Hogan's Heroes after it's cancelation. It's a brutal, nasty, tasteless predecessor to the current slate of torture films like Hostel and Saw. Ilsa spawned two official sequels, Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Shieks and Ilsa,Tigress of Siberia, as well as an official one best know as Ilsa, the Wicked Wardern, though it has been released under numerous titles.

The Big Doll House

Essential title in the women of prison subgenre. The Big Doll House marks the first collaboration between future blaxploitation star Pam Grier and director Jack Hill. They would go on to work with each other again on the blaxploitation classics Coffy and Foxy Brown. Produced by B-Movie maestro Roger Corman and shot in the Philippines; The Big Doll House has everything that you would want from a Women in Prison picture... nudity, sex, violence, guns, drugs, lesbians, an evil insane warden, a sadistic guard, sadomasochistic torture, poisonous snakes, cat-fights, food fights, mud wrestling...

The plot is fairly routine for this type of picture. A women is sent to some undisclosed foreign tropical prison. The movie then follows her and five other inmates through life in the corrupt and abusive prison system. Eventually the women team up to bust out action movie style with guns blazing.

Much of the film was shot on the fly with some dialogue and plot elements being improvised by the cast and crew while filming. Hill brings some tongue-in-cheek humor to the proceedings with out devolving into out right camp (though some of the dialogue verges on it at times). It is most notable for being Pam Grier first major film role. Grier also sings the movie's theme song. Another frequent Jack Hill regular, cult b-movie actor, Sid Haig (House of 1000 Corpse, The Devil's Rejects) makes an appearances in the picture.

Released in 1971, film did a very successful business on the drive-in and grindhouse circuits. It was followed later that same year, by the film Women in Cages, which reused most of the same cast and locations from The Big Doll House. Hill himself directed the non-sequel follow-up, The Big Bird Cage, which was released the following year.

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