This film opens in an unnamed Banana republic where a group of dignitaries are gathered to discuss current issues. Their president, who resembles a bearded Robert De Niro circa ANGEL HEART, asks what matters are most pressing. We're informed that the increased popularity of a rebel rouser named Vogel - a "small time, two-bit lawyer" - is of particular concern.

Among this group is Helga (Malisa Longo) - who clearly wants to be taken seriously, having turned up to the meeting in a cutesy floral dress (!). She speaks with passion against the rebels. The president recognises her fervour but feels she'd be best placed out of the way of politics: he stations her at a chateau in Stilberg which has been modified to double up as a prison for infidels.

Helga's not happy, but she has no choice other than to accept her new job "offer".

Relocating to the chateau, she's soon at ease in her new position - getting hosed down in the shower by a comely brunette. And, for a sadistic bitch with a penchant for gawking over naked ladies in various states of distress, the acid-tongued Helga appears to have found her ultimate vocation in life.

Sure enough, this all-female prison is a haven for rape, corruption, sadistic punishments and not much else. Helga likes what she witnesses and isn't opposed to pleasuring herself while spying on her male officers overpowering nubile female inmates for their own sexual gains.

Is there a point to all of these shenanigans? Sort of. Vogel's daughter Elizabeth (Patrizia Gori) is also part of the rebellion - against what? We don't know. A fascist regime of some description. Anyway, she's captured. She's predictably sent to the same Stilberg camp that Helga oversees.

Helga has an obsessive obligation towards breaking rebellious prisoners; Elizabeth is a do-gooder seeking to right the inhumanities she witnesses within her confines. You can imagine the conflicts which ensue. Well, you can if you've seen ILSA: SHE-WOLF OF THE SS and are prepared to lower your expectations considerably in terms of both execution and exploitation value.

I'd never heard of this, I'll be honest. It's a French film from 1977, clearly made on the cheap to cash in on the ILSA cycle. I'm grateful I've seen it, simply because I have a curious nature when it comes to exploitation cinema which compels me to soak in any old shit for the sake of "having seen it all". But HELGA really is rubbish.

Is it unwatchable? No! It's rubbish in the most appealing manner. But it is so crap, I really don't know where to begin when it comes to conscientious caveats.

The facial expressions of periphery characters may be a good starting point, I suppose. They're unintentionally hilarious, as disinterested extras look on while the main players spout off stupid dialogue in stilted fashion. I could mention the terrible English dubbing of course, but surely that's a given. The energetic opening theme tune is enjoyably ominous: an organ-led romp of inappropriate pomp which ends abruptly when the film suddenly cuts awkwardly to its summit-based first scene. I could go on.

A regular supply of softcore sex scenes keep this one entertaining, even if these amount to relatively tame rape and torture set-pieces performed by ugly men and hirsute women. Longo herself has no qualms about disrobing on camera, and makes for good eye candy. Her features are far softer than Dyanne Thorne's, making her more attractive - and yet a lot less threatening, which undeniably hurts the film dramatically. I can't believe I actually just typed that last line. There is no dramatic edge to HELGA!

Cripplingly overlong at 108 minutes in length, the fun of the risible script, terrible acting, poor music choices and amateurish editing fuck-ups does wear thin by the midway point. I found HELGA a hard slog in many respects, but I'm glad I ultimately sat through it. It's a real curiosity.

MVD Visual's DVD is region-free. It presents the film uncut (I believe? The running time is 108 minutes and 45 seconds) and in what seems to be its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1. With a movie this cack it's often difficult to tell if the framing is accurate, such is the shittiness of the cinematography. But, yeah, it looks reasonably correct to me.

The picture quality is unexpectedly decent. Though this presentation doesn't benefit from any level of restoration, the print used is very clean (you get the odd speck here and there but nothing major). Colours are only very marginally muted; blacks hold up well as does detail. I expected mud and I got wine, albeit cheap wine.

Audio comes in options of the aforementioned English dubbed track and the original French soundtrack. The former is clean and clear throughout, and adds an odd charm to proceedings in terms of so-bad-it's-good qualities. Which is fortunate, because there are no English subtitles provided on the French track. So, unless you're French (or fluent in that language), this really is a "cursory glance out of curiosity" bonus and little more, I'm afraid.

The disc opens to an animated main menu page. This leads into an animated scene selection menu affording access to the film via 12 chapters.

There are no extra features.

HELGA, SHE WOLF OF STILBERG is a cheap, classless cash-in on the ILSA movies, made by Patrice Rhomm - the guy who wrote THE DEVIL'S NIGHTMARE and directed ELSA, FRAULEIN SS. This one's curiously bad: really ugly photography, clumsily scripted, badly edited and seriously lacking in terms of more perverse content.

The film's presentation isn't too shabby here, but it's a shame there are no English subtitles on hand for that French soundtrack option.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Eurocine
Region All
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review