DVD Review: Elsa Fraulein SS (1977)

When an 80-minute film starts off with three whole minutes of grainy stock footage, you know you’re in for some sort of a treat. When it also includes the credit ‘Eurocine presente’ then you start to get a bit more of an idea of what kind of treat that’s going to be. And so, you’re a bit more forgiving of the bad cuts, bad editing, questionable acting and cheap costumes. Those minor details seem barely worth mentioning when considering a film that one shouldn’t really expect more of.

Elsa Fraulein SS is one of those many Naziploitation films that riffs off the Ilsa model – sadistic lady-Nazi tortures a variety of nubile ladies and grizzled Nazi-men. The exploitation of Ilsa as a pinnacle of the genre is evident in the title used here – Elsa Fraulein SS is otherwise also known as Captive Women 4 (4?!), Fraulein Devil and – surprise – Fraulein Kitty. This film’s other obvious influence is the wonderful Salon Kitty, only instead of a brothel in Berlin being used as a spy-den, the not nearly as professional spies are here based on a pleasure train, travelling all of Germany as reward for the Nazi’s greatest officers.

As far as plot goes, that’s almost it. Elsa (Malisa Longo) runs the show, and her myriad ladies shag their way through the bad and the good of the Nazi party. They manage to uncover that a double-agent is on-board, and after a bit of torture and a bit of personal melodrama, the whole operation unravels. The trouble with the film is that while it’s not nearly as bad as it could be, it constantly recalls a much better film.

The shoddiness of the film isn’t really all that galling, considering, but what is frustrating about the film is that it takes a full hour to get to any torture, leaving only the last 20 minutes as being particularly interesting. Now, maybe it’s just me, but my expectation of a film like this is, well, nastier, and here Elsa lacks that bite. Most of the film’s violence is gun-based (and the less said about how people seem to fall backwards when shot, regardless of the direction of the bullet, the better), and aside from one especially nasty torture technique, the scant torture scenes aren’t all that thrilling. While there’s plenty of T&A in the film, for me that doesn’t make up for the lack of violence – which may well make me sound like a terrible person, but then again, if you’re this far into a review of a Naziploitation film, we’re probably on a similar page.

Malisa Longo is suitably, well, loud as Elsa, and while she seems a powerful presence she does end up off-screen for annoyingly long durations of time. The rest of the cast is also fine, including others who also feature in Rohm’s Helga: She-Wolf of Stillberg, and a number of other Eurocine staples. It might be indicative of the level on which I was enjoying the film that the thing that was most entertaining to me was the jaunty angle at which the Nazi flags are hung in the train’s main social room – a room with very little décor otherwise. Such as seemingly perfunctory decoration, diegetically, struck me as both pathetic and hugely amusing. In the real world, it seemed one of the less obvious signs of a very low budget.

By all means, then, Elsa Fraulein SS has its moments, and is certainly watchable as one of a questionable sub-genre of films. My biggest disappointment was perhaps the distinct lack of ‘train going into a tunnel’ jokes, but those might not have been tonally coherent with the film’s intention. I suspect that this release will be for some particularly completist collectors only – not so much because of the film, but because this is a DVD-only release with nary a special feature in sight (honestly, do trailers for other releases even count, these days?). The picture quality of the screener version I watched was absolutely fine, but for release throw in some liner notes, or at least a couple of talking-head special features, and then maybe it would be a bit more appealing to more than just hardcore followers of Elsa and her ilk.

Elsa Fraulein SS is out now on DVD from Maison Rouge.