If you’re a fan of seventies women-in-prison sexploitation dramas then Helga, She Wolf Of Stilberg (1978) from Patrice Rhomm (as Alain Garnier) may well be right up your genre alley. It, with a passion for tropes over narrative, ticks all the relevant boxes of an impassioned acolytes tick list, and does so with barely a shrug of indifference. And yet, for a film that excels in the compulsory quota of bare flesh, it is a strangely tedious affair.
What plot there is consists of Helga (a wonderfully overacting Longo) being placed in command of a female prison camp. Discovering that new inmate Elisabeth Vogel (Gori) is the daughter of a rebel political leader, Helga makes it her personal mission to abuse her charge as sexually, and brutally as possible.
If you’ve seen one version of this story, you’ve likely seen everything before. SS Hell Camp (1977) from Luigi Batzella, Women In Cell Block 7 (1973) from Rino Di Silvestro and most notably, the Ilsa series of films from Don Edmonds and Jess Franco cover the same territory with more style and exuberance. By comparison, Helga, She Wolf Of Stilberg feels somewhat familiar and ultimately sigh-inducingly flat. The largely chaste sex scenes become bland and repetitive as Rhomm goes through the full range of women-in-prison clichés from lesbian clinches to guards torturing chained up prisoners. Exactly what it says on the tin, just rather dull in its execution.
Much of the problem lies in the lack of any real sense of fun. While “tackling” supposedly important topics and themes (tenuously we know) other similarly staged films held on to a necessary sense of humour about what they were portraying. Helga, She Wolf Of Stilberg, seems to have forgotten to insert its lascivious tongue firmly into an expectant cheek, and as such the film becomes frustratingly flat. Credit where it’s due, the locations are impressive, and there is a period style to the cinematography. But, in truth, that isn’t why you would choose to watch and as such Rhomm has missed the point entirely.
As part of the sub-genre in which it exists Helga, She Wolf Of Stilberg is worth seeking out, if only to confirm why it is that you like the Isla films so much. Expect nothing new, and everything you’ve seen before, but nothing else and you won’t be too disappointed. Our advice: put Isla: She Wolf Of The SS on instead.
HELGA, SHE WOLF OF STILBERG (1978) / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: PATRICE RHOMM / SCREENPLAY: H.L. ROSTAINE / STARRING: MALISA LONGO, PATRIZIA GORI, RICHAD ALLAN / RELEASE DATE: 13TH MARCH