The 100+ Most Controversial
Films of All-Time


The 100+ Most Controversial Films of All-Time
Film Title/Year, Director

Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS (1975)
D. Don Edmonds

Inspired both by art-house sensation The Night Porter (1974) and real-life "Bitch of Buchenwald" Ilse Koch, this sex/torture movie spawned a wave of "nasty Nazi" movies.

This 1975 Canadian production (from David F. Friedman) - a cult classic, was the original film in a series of infamous, violent and shocking B-films, exploitational films, all with the title of Ilsa. The series was reportedly based upon the real-life actual Nazi Ilse Koch known as the "Bitch of Buchenwald," and upon actual tortures and atrocities committed by the merciless Nazi murderess during the Holocaust. The subtitle advertised that Ilsa herself was: "The Most Dreaded Nazi of Them All." Although dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust, the film was banned in Germany.

It was part of the era's trend to exhibit women-in-prison (WIP) films and add Nazi-exploitation to the mix, after the tremendous success of Love Camp 7 (1969). There were three low-budget sequels that followed in 1976 and 1977, including Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976), Ilsa: The Tigress of Siberia (1977), and the "unofficial" Ilsa: The Wicked Warden (1977). [Note: Ilsa: The Wicked Warden (1977) (aka Greta, the Mad Butcher, and Wanda, the Wicked Warden), was an "unofficial" Ilsa film directed by independent Spanish exploitation master Jess Franco.]

Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS - sick and semi-pornographic with abundant gratuitous full-frontal female nudity and gruesome incidents (such as flesh-eating maggots), was shot on the set used for the Hogan's Heroes TV show after it was cancelled in the early 70s.

Ilsa (Las Vegas showgirl Dyanne Thorne) was featured as the camp's nymphomaniacal, dominatrix, big-busted, blonde, over-the-top, sadistic commandant of the camp (stalag), who personally inspected stripped female prisoners (including cult starlets Sharon Kelly and Uschi Digard). She decided which would be 'retrained' to serve the soldiers of the Third Reich, or be subject to torturous medical or "scientific" experiments (including the use of electrified dildos and electrodes attached to sensitive areas) - research designed to prove that females could take more pain than males.

One torture victim (Uschi Digard) was strung up in a pressurized chamber, while another prisoner (Peggy Sipots) was gagged, hung by her neck with a noose and standing on a melting ice block (at the end of a dinner table during a party held for other German commandants). Another female prisoner (Sharon Kelly) was hung upside down outdoors. Ilsa also forced herself upon male prisoners and then castrated them if they couldn't hold out long enough to satisfy her. One of the American prisoners, Wolfe (Gregory Knoph), satisfied her appetite for sex - and ultimately led a prisoner uprising.

A Real Young Girl (1975, Fr.) (aka Une Vraie Jeune Fille)
D. Catherine Breillat

Hired to make a soft-focus, sexy-teen movie, French filmmaker Catherine Breillat instead delivered an explicit evocation of disturbing desires.

Director Catherine Breillat's feature debut was this erotic drama with strong and shocking sexual content - it was made in 1975, but not released until 25 years later due to financial problems with Breillat's production company and controversy surrounding this sensational, raw and strange film. This film was promptly banned upon its initial release in France in 1976.

Breillat would later become famous for the similarly-explicit Romance (1999, Fr.) and Fat Girl (2001, Fr.) which were also preoccupied with the representation of female sexuality.

This original, unapologetic and bold film charted the budding sexuality, self-exploration and awakening of sexually-curious and self-analytic teenaged Alice Bonnard (Charlotte Alexandra), a French boarding student during her summer holiday. It showed various closeups of her genitalia, her fascination with bodily fluids and smells (including vomit, urination - shown in closeup, and writing on a mirror with vaginal secretions, even her own ear-wax), and her sexual fantasies.

Crude and realistic, she lustfully fantasized about sex with factory worker Jim (Hiram Keller) in her father's sawmill, would often drop her panties to her ankles, and compulsively (and frequently) masturbated, once with a spoon and a bottle-top, and once spread-eagled between railroad tracks. She also rode her bicycle bare-assed.

In one surreal and shocking fantasy scene, 14 year-old Alice was lying naked on her back (with her hands tied back with barbed wire), as Jim dangled a live and wiggling earthworm over her genitals, then tried to insert it into her vagina, and when unsuccessful, finally segmented the worm into pieces and left the remains in her pubic hair.

Salo (1975, It./Fr.) (aka The 120 Days of Sodom)
D. Pier Paolo Pasolini

Radical Italian artist Pier Paolo Pasolini's movie equated fascism and sexual torture, and its graphic images aroused outrage and disgust.

Salò was directed by the notorious Italian poet, novelist, painter and film-maker Pier Paolo Pasolini, who was murdered before it was released. The art house film was based on a work 120 Days of Sodom by the notorious Marquis de Sade - to depict the short-lived, lakeside republic of Salo in Nazi-controlled N. Italy at the close of WWII. There, four ruling fascist officials in a secluded chateau near Marzabotto totally controlled, abused, tortured, enslaved and victimized an anonymous group of about 30 young and attractive peasant teenagers (both male and female) who were rounded up.

The film began with perverted acts of degradation, carnal debaucheries, and atrocities -- the male and female youths who were seized in the town were stripped and inspected ("A delicious little ass. Never seen one firmer. A pair of little breasts, to revive a dying man") and then driven to the secluded chateau. The group of four fascist officials (with four similar females) subjected them to sexual and physical tortures, psychological humiliation and violence over a period of a few days. They were instructed that every day would include these acts: "intermingling, entwining and copulating incestuously, committing adultery and sodomy."

This extreme exercise and abuse of power was supposed to symbolize the evil of fascism itself. The acts of perversion were justified and exalted by the philosophy of libertinism. The imprisoned youth ("Weak, chained creatures, destined for our pleasure") were warned they were "beyond the reach of any legality." One girl committed suicide by slashing her own throat to escape the humiliations.

The nihilistic film's many contested scenes immediately ran into censorship problems and utter disgust. Its four chapters clearly delineated the reason for the aroused outrage:

  • "Antechamber of Hell"
  • "Circle of Obsessions"
  • "Circle of Shit"
  • "Circle of Blood"

They practiced male masturbation with a life-sized dummy, a mock wedding ceremony in which a couple (Renata and Sergio) was denied consummation and then anally raped by the libertines, and unprovoked gropings that interrupted the proceedings. In one scene, the youths were stripped, collared, leashed, and forced to act like dogs begging for pieces of meat (one girl bit into a piece of food laced with nails) and then followed by whippings for disobedience.

In "Circle of Shit" (a segment obsessed with anal bodily functions), Renata - a hapless grieving blonde girl, was forced to eat human excrement (a metaphor for capitalistic consumerism and junk food) as she was urged on by a man after he freshly defecated on the floor: "Come, little one, it's ready. On your knees. Courage. Go on, eat! Take this spoon. Eat!"

The other girls were forced to eat their own excrement deposited in bed pans. A second mock "wedding feast" served platters of cooked excrement for the guests as an "intoxicating dish." Another young girl was commanded to stand above a man and urinate into his open mouth. A contest was held to judge the "loveliest ass in the villa" - the youths were arranged in a circle on the floor in the dark, bent over with their behinds facing upwards and inspected by flashlight during the judging, as the men commented: "The differences between boys and girls are enormous...let's try to be objective."

"Circle of Blood" began with a group wedding ceremony in which the three cross-dressed older men were coupled with a male youth and then engaged in homosexual kissing and sodomy in the bedroom, in a master/slave relationship.

As punishment for breaking the rules, male youth Ezio was executed, along with his black maid partner, for illegally making normal love together. The teens were further tortured for their "misdeeds" - bound by their wrists and sitting in a tub of excrement, as one girl cried out: "God, why did you abandon us?"

In the conclusion, further tortures in the outdoor courtyard, viewed voyeuristically through binoculars, included penis and breast nipple-burning, tongue-extraction and cutting, strangulation by hanging, eye-gouging, scalping, whippings, and male nipple branding!

Salo aroused outrage and disgust when it was released. It was prosecuted by various film certification boards and banned outright in numerous countries.

The 100+ Most Controversial Films of All-Time
(chronologically, by film title)
Intro | Silents-1930s | 1940s-1950s | 1960-1961 | 1962-1967 | 1968-1969
1970-1971 | 1972 | 1973-1974 | 1975 | 1976-1977 | 1978 | 1979
1980-1982 | 1983-1986 | 1987-1989 | 1990-1992 | 1993-1995 | 1996-1999
2000-2002 | 2003-2005 | 2006-2009 | 2010-present

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