MVD Visual brings one of Eurocine's lesser-seen women-in-prison films to DVD with HELGA: SHE WOLF OF STILBERG.
In a small South American country, President Steiner has a tighter rein on the people than he does on his own cabinet. Director of propaganda Helga (Malisa Longo, A CAT IN THE BRAIN) feels that not enough is being done to quell revolt now that leftist lawyer Vogel has joined the rebels. General Gomez (Olivier Mathot, THE WICKED CARESSES OF SATAN) dismisses her concerns and urges the president to sideline Helga by putting her in charge of the women's work camp at the isolated fortress of Stilberg where she can break dissidents to her heart's content. It's all fun and games for Helga who goes horseback riding while her soldiers who – and a randy doctor played by Jacques Marbeuf whose career encompassed everything from Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and Melville's ARMY OF SHADOWS to PORNO POKER and Franco's KISS ME KILLER later on – have their way with the prisoners until the newest prisoner turns out to be Elizabeth Vogel (Patrizia Gori, WAR OF THE ROBOTS), daughter of the rebel Vogel. Helga initially plans to use the girl to get Vogel to reveal himself in an attempt to liberate her, but soon becomes infatuated with her after multiple attempts to break her. Sympathetic guard John (Richard Allan, PUSSY TALK 2) advises Elizabeth to submit to Helga's attentions to save her own life and Elizabeth soon becomes Helga's favorite, much to the jealousy of the other prisoners as well as Helga's soldier lover Hugo (Dominique Aveline, ILLUSIONS WITHIN GIRLS). As the revolution reaches the capital, Elizabeth and the prisoners must find a way to escape before Helga decides to silence them all permanently.
Shot back-to-back with NATHALIE: ESCAPE FROM HELL featuring many of the same cast members and locations, HELGA is about as bad as the other Eurocine Nazisploitation films (which are even worse than their cannibal films) which seem to have been more inspired by the American ILSA films (and Jess Franco's unofficial WANDA entry) than Italy's own trashy takeoffs on films like THE DAMNED and THE NIGHT PORTER. Pacing is listless, the photography (credited to Alain Hardy who may or may not be a real person since he is credited on Eurocine prints of some Jess Franco films the director shot himself) is colorful but flatly lit, and director Patrice Rohmm (ELSA FRAULEIN SS) lingers on neither the sadism or the sex even though a number of the cast – including Allan, Aveline, and Alban Ceray (EDUCATION OF THE BARONESS) who appears here as a soldier – were porn stars in France at the time and supporting actor Franco Lo Cascio would later achieve fame in Italy as pornographer Luca Damiano (there does not appear to be a hardcore insert cut of the film). Despite the cover ballyhoo that she is "deadlier than Ilsa," Longo's Helga is not so much imperious as constantly frustrated when the women do not respond to her advances or disobey her work orders. The striking chateau standing in for Stilberg looks like it was converted to a hotel above ground while the underground chambers are suitably dank (possibly the ones used for the reshoot scenes of REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER), while the floggings are rather mild and even the military violence relatively bloodless. Like Eurocine's other Nazisploitation films, stock footage also seems to have been spliced in from other war films (much of it mismatching stock footage including some that appears to be blown-up from 16mm with the frame line visible). Daniel White's score seems to be composed of library music and cues from ZOMBIE LAKE, with that film's main theme having an anaesthetizing effect during the tame lesbian grope sessions. The cast also includes Franco regulars Pamela Stanford (LORNA THE EXORCIST) and Richard Biggotini (HOT NIGHTS OF LINDA) as production manager, along with Jean Rollin regular Jean-Pierre Bouyxou (THE LIVING DEAD GIRL).
Unreleased stateside theatrically or on videotape (although it did garner theatrical and tape release in Canada), HELGA (onscreen title THE SHE WOLF OF STILBERG) also eluded DVD at the time when Media Blasters raided Eurocine's vaults for their other Nazisploitation pics HELLTRAIN and ELSA FRAULEIN SS. MVD Visual's single-layer DVD presents a colorful progressive, anamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen transfer of a relatively clean source with the scratches and splices one expects from a Eurocine master of a film that was already somewhat patchwork to begin with. Audio options consist of moderately hissy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono tracks for the English and French dubs (no subtitles are included). The film appears to be uncut at 96:51 but the entire program length is 108:24 as MVD seem to have just encoded Eurocine's digital master to DVD without realizing that the feature is followed by eight minutes of alternate covered takes of the nude and whipping scenes and the film's opening and closing credits on black (the feature transfer itself has no credits but it does contain the lengthy static backgrounds on which the credits were meant to appear). (Eric Cotenas)
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