Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ilsa: Tigress of Siberia (Jean LaFleur, 1977)

Perhaps the last, and easily the strangest entry of the Ilsa series is Ilsa: Tigress of Siberia. "Strangest?" you may ask. It is strange because it is the least "Ilsa" of all the Ilsa films. Let me explain.

Typically, the Ilsa films are part Women in Prison and part Torture Porn. Even Franco's Ilsa: The Wicked Warden follows the general formula. Ilsa runs a prison (of some sort). Ilsa is a sadist. Ilsa is horny. Ilsa takes a shower/bath. Ilsa dies. Cut. Print.

Ilsa: Tigress of Siberia certainly starts out this way, and in many ways continues along this path, but there are some modifications made. In the beginning, Ilsa is in charge of a Siberian Gulag under Stalin. She is in charge of re-educating political prisoners. Suddenly, word reaches them that Stalin has been assassinated (taking liberties with history, perhaps). The new men in power will likely purge the old guard, so Ilsa and her cronies make an escape, burning the Gulag, and killing all the prisoners (or so they thought).

Ilsa's little band turns up again in 1976 during the Canada Cup. Two Russian hockey players decide they want to visit a brothel before returning to the Soviet Union. They are accompanied by a security agent, one Andrei Chikurin, the only survivor of the Gulag. Ilsa and her band are now in organized crime, and Ilsa recognizes Chikurin. Thinking he might be on a mission from her Soviet foes, she has him captured to eliminate the problem.

Ilsa is also moving in on the local mob, forcing them out of business. She only seems to be involved in the flesh trade, but one can assume she is involved in all the dealing that typically accompany it. When the Russians discover that Chikurin is missing, they send agents to find him. Their leader immediately recognizes Ilsa as "one of Stalin's bitches" and wants her brought in. They fall upon Ilsa's mansion just as she is celebrating their complete victory over the Montreal syndicate.

The deviation from the plan likely has to do with two cinematic notables being involved in the production; Roger Corman and Ivan Reitman. This is almost more of a mob and espionage story than the previous films. Ilsa's warden responsibilities are less important than her role as "Godfather." The biggest difference (AND THIS IS A SPOILER) is that Ilsa does not die at the end. While trying to escape the Russians, whom she believes to be rival gangsters, she suffers a rather silly snowmobile accident. Chikurin, who was the only one to follow her, decides to leave her on the tundra of suburban Montreal with a broken leg, and her money the only fuel for her fire. We watch the sun go down with Ilsa sadly throwing her riches on a tiny fire.

I liked this film in a lot of ways. It was good to see Dyanne in another bad-guy role without it being just another two hours of beatings and genital mutilation. They still back-filled a lot of standard Ilsa elements. Her sexual appetite this time required two partners always, and typically her men would fight to see which two got to share her bed. The sadism was more psychological once the troupe reaches Canada, however in the Gulag they reinvent some old favorites. Thorne gets a little lost in the shuffle. There are a lot of characters in this film, and things center on action more than previously. It is a better rounded movie, and because of that it is less of an Ilsa movie. If you are an Ilsa fan this one is worth seeking out. It likely won't be your favorite, but is a nice change of pace.


Ghidorah said...

This is my favorite of the Ilsa serie. In part because a big part of it happen in Montreal, where I live, but also because of this a little bit more original than usual plot.

Not that I have anything about genital mutilations, mind you...

Darius Whiteplume said...

The best part is that it breaks the mold. That's one of the reasons I like Wicked Warden so much, is it is not just a rehash of the first two.

I might have to call in sick one day and have an Ilsa marathon. I wouldn't be lying, as I'd have to be sick to watch all four in a day! :-D

dfordoom said...

It's a fun little movie. I'm glad you liked it as well.

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