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Home | Film Reviews | Extreme Cinema | Film Review: Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976)

Film Review: Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976)



Finding a new employer, and looking not a day older since the end of World War II, Ilsa works for an Arab sheik who enjoys importing females to use as sex slaves. An American millionaire’s daughter, a movie star, and an attractive equestrian are among his latest victims.


She’s back, somehow… One year after Don Edmonds’ (now) legendary Nazisploitation cult classic, Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS, was released, he came right back with the equally trashy Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks. Only this time, he supposedly kept it tamer so ensure an R ratings and bring in a larger audience (roughly translated, that means there’s less gore and more boobs). But, if you’re like me, you find yourself asking a simple question: how could Mr. Edwards make what is essentially Ilsa, part 2, since we know *SPOILER ALERT* that she died at the end of the first one? Well, according to a little tidbit of info on the DVD commentary, at the time, the producers figured the first movie went over so badly that no one would even remember. And so we have the return of Dyanne Thorne as the insatiable and evil Ilsa, only this time we move from the death camps of Germany to the deserts of the Middle East.


In the second of three Ilsa movies, (four, if you count Jess Franco’s Wanda, the Wicked Warden, later re-titled Ilsa, the Wicked Warden by the producers in hopes of cashing in on the franchise) we find Ilsa teamed up with El Sharif (Jerry Delony), an Arab sheik who is in the business of sex trafficking. The latest shipment of kidnapped women who will be broken down into compliance includes the daughter of a rich American businessman (Sharon Kelly, SuperCherry from Russ Meyer’s Supervixens), an actress (Uschi Digard, SuperSoul from Russ Meyer’s Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens), and an equestrian champion (Haji, Rosie from, you guessed it, Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!). As before, Ilsa also has loyal assistants, but this time they are not topless Nazi women, but rather topless black women. But to leave it at that is to sell them short; her assistants are Satin and Velvet (played by Tanya Boyd and Marilyn Joi, two very recognizable actresses from 1970’s blaxploitation films), and they are as vicious as they are intriguing (and one of the highlights of the film – check out their fight scene against a thug who broke into the palace and tell me these two aren’t awesome together).


Meanwhile, an American named Adam Scott (Max Thayer) and Dr. Kaiser (Richard Kennedy) are trying to infiltrate El Sharif’s kingdom. It may have something to do with oil, or maybe the sex trade, but that part of the plot quickly becomes a sidenote as Ilsa finds herself attracted to Scott, knowing full well that he is the enemy. And this seems to be the point that ties She Wolf of the SS and Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks together; yet again, Don Edmonds gives us a powerful woman (and this time, and more well-rounded character) who is virtually unstoppable…until it comes to a man who can satisfy her sexually. Kind of disappointing, but what did we expect, really?


To make a long story short, El Sharif knows that there are spies in his midst. He also knows there are freedom fighters who want him dead, as he is a wealthy, oil controlling dictator in an impoverished nation. Ilsa knows that Scott is an American who is trying to infiltrate the palace, but she just can’t stop getting into bed with him. Scott knows that Ilsa is essentially second in command to El Sharif, and so enjoys having his way with her (very reminiscent of the Wolfe character from She Wolf of the SS). And we, the audience, knows that the whole situation will come to a head by the end of the film. So, let’s toss aside the plot and focus on the various cruel acts instead, shall we?

Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks is the epitome of exploitation films. There is a ton of sex, virtually half of the movie featuring at least one topless woman. There is also a bunch of nasty torture throughout. We have red ants eating away feet, beggars flogged and set on fire, teeth hammered out for “better” sexual performance, testicles torn off by hand, and there’s even an IUD explosive placed inside a woman that is triggered by, um, well, deep penetration. And we get the IUD explosion TWICE. Women are sold, women are humiliated, women are tortured – your typical 1970’s exploitation fare. There’s even some kind of creature locked away in a cell in what looks like a dungeon. Is it a monster, or is it someone that poses a much more dangerous threat to El Sharif?



All that said, Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks ranks very near (but still just below) Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS on the list of all-time greats. The cast is full of returning members from the first movie – not only director Don Edmonds, special effects designer Joe Blasco, and Ilsa herself, Dyanne Thorne, come back, but also Uschi Digard, George “Buck” Flower, Richard Kennedy, Sharon Kelly, and John F. Goff, many of whom saw their character perish in the first as well. The dialogue is sleazy, the action is over the top, and the gore, while lighter than the first movie, is still on point and nasty. This is a very dirty film, and if you’re already a fan of the first, you owe it to yourself to check it out. You will not be disappointed.

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