Abbie Phillips (Tania Busselier) suspects her sister -- lets call her Sophie, shall we? -- is being mistreated in a mental hospital. When she looses all contact with Sophie, she comes up with a plan to have herself committed to the asylum by Dr. Arcos (Jess Franco), who on his terms also suspects foul play within the walls of the institute. That’s her way to try and find out what happened to her sister. With holding the friendly Dr. Arcos at gunpoint while explaining her idea, you can already suspect that she didn’t think things through properly, let alone this being one of the more clever ideas she ever came up with. A poor girl with a plan doomed to failure, as the place she so desperately wants to get into is run be Greta (that’s re-incarnated as the exact spitting image of Dyanne Thorne), a very nasty warden who’s only joy in life seems to be torturing women, throwing depraved sex & rape parties, playing vicious S&M games and a bit of that good old killing for pleasure too.
(minor spoilers follow…)
Greta – Haus Ohne Männer (for you non-German speaking English readers, that roughly translates to The House Without Men, which is technically incorrect as there are in fact male individuals walking about on said premises) was Jess Franco‘s cash-in on the infamous Ilsa trilogy (Greta was shot and released the same year came out). Greta has nothing to do with nazisploitation (as the ill-fated German title liaised with the first Ilsa film might lead you to expect), but is a flat-out women-in-prison film. And while at it, one of the most distasteful efforts produced during that era. I have to confess that I’m not the biggest fan of this particular genre and from what I can tell so far, Jack Hill was the only director in my book who at least managed to deliver entertaining WIP movies, getting very creative with the restricted subject matter (well made too, even, considering we’re talking about low-budget genre flicks here). The opening scene from Greta, featuring a female group shower scene, had me thinking up the term tabsploitation (TAB, like in Tits, Ass & Bush, but I guess sexploitation is a more favorable term from a commercial point of view). I don’t necessarily consider this a bad thing, a massive amount of female nudity this early in any kind of film. But as evident already by then, this is sleaze & trash cinema. I prepared myself for toe-curlingly bad acting, ugly cinematography, an unfitting musical score (preferably lifted from other films, keeping the budget down and hoping nobody would notice), harsh editing and a graphic nature including a lot of offensive material. I basically got all that, but to call Greta a success would be overstating things a little. Or at best, it all depends how you look at it.
In one of the first scenes we see Sophie’s escape from the asylum and it had the Fassbinder-effect on me. The Fassbinder-effect, as I like to call it, is when an exterior scene that’s supposed to take place in a foreign region (in this case a South American jungle) is clearly shot on an outdoors location close to where the director lives or the most part of the production takes place. We see Sophie running through some woods, wading through some river with some vegetation floating in it of which we should be convinced it’s some river flowing through some jungle in some part of Brazil. Some… what… ever…, yes. Seconds later we see the guy who’s chasing and shooting her arriving at that same river (aka pond), and instead of jumping in it, pursuing the girl, he chooses to take a clearly visible path (probably there for the convenience of regular visitors of this public park Franco and his crew just happened to shoot this sequence in). But hey, movies cost money and this one’s cheap. I understand. And, no, it would not have been wise for the girl to flea on that path either. For otherwise, it would not have her slow down enough for the guy to shoot her in the back during her escape. That’s the logic of scriptwriting.
Actress Dyanne Thorne has a lot of fans, I’m sure. She’s an exploitation icon to many. She has an undeniably impressive rack (too impressive for my tastes, actually). She lashes a fake whip like no other. She dominates naked female slaves superbly. Her devious & vicious ways are unmatched by any serpent-like creature on this planet. But I’m sorry to say and have to apologize to her fans… she left all but a memorable impression on me as an actress, dubbed or undubbed regardless. Heck, I saw her as Crysta inand I can’t even remember what she looked like, let alone how she acted. All I can recall from her is the nazi-suit she wore in the first Ilsa film. And her whip. Usually not the first thing I remember about good actresses. And no, impressive knockers don’t come in first either, so shut up. Coincidentally, it was one particular scene featuring her -- why her and not those dozen other women I can’t grasp -- in which Franco showcases his never-intended trademark: an out-of-focus camera (I’ll spare you the details, but it’s not hard to miss). Well at least that adds to the fun of watching a Franco film…: along with counting several moments of zooming in on women’s pubic hair, looking out for moments where the camera goes out of focus. Again, I apologize, but it’s been too long since I last made fun of this. By the way, I suspect Franco having made fun out of some fellow directors too with this film. Try to spot the names Romero and Deodato in one specific scene. Or maybe he was paying homage to them? Could be, in the light of the movie’s finale. Regardless, Franco‘s ways are inimitable, so you just can’t be too sure of anything.
Lina Romay (who looks pretty cute with short hair; on top of her head, I mean) plays the most interesting character, Juana a fellow inmate, and this came as a nice surprise. At least now she gets the chance to act a little (something I couldn’t really spot in Female Vampire for instance) and her character plays a pivotal role in the events leading up to the gruesome finale. Instead of being just another cuckoo or a sex craving female fiend, Juana is the main link between Abbie and Greta. Not only this but, mostly the fact that her character undergoes a drastic change throughout the film is what makes her interesting. At first she seems as malicious as everyone else of the hospital staff (and being Greta’s preferred sex slave on top), but she turns out the only one being capable of feeling remorse.
I’m convinced that Greta – The Wicked Warden is a superb WIP outing if you strictly follow the rules of this notorious subgenre. Most women run around completely naked, there’s lesbian sex and a lot of torture (whip beatings, shock therapy, needle torture, burn wounds, suffocation deaths, rape, lobotomy and what not else). It basically has everything fans will look for (and perverts dream of, I’m sure) in a film of this type. All made on a cheap budget and accompanied by horrendous German dubbing (depending on which version you’ll be able to watch). But Franco this time put a little more care in directing it, or so it comes across. Some shots show a keen eye for framing & lighting a scene, even if we’re still talking naked girls spread on a bed at night or a tortured woman chained in an isolated dungeon. And then there’s Franco showing enthusiasm in having his woman tortured and sexually abused on screen. A bit of credit to the make-up artists too, as the wounds & scars looked convincing. Not to mention the ‘death by asphyxiation’ scene, as that one looked real enough to become unsettling.
I have no comment on Jess Franco‘s acting abilities or the fact that he really seems to like casting himself in his own movies, always finding one role or another as an excuse (or maybe to cut down on the cost of hiring an extra actor). In this case, he plays Dr. Milton Arcos, who just serves the sole purpose of getting Abbie into the asylum (okay, he does file a complaint to the authorities on grounds of suspecting foul goins-on in the asylum at the beginning of the film, but that’s about it). After that, he gets killed. Milton’s complaint does have repercussions near the end of the film, as a brief inspection by the authorities takes place in the asylum. Of course evil Greta outsmarts them. But back to the men behind this film. Erwin C. Dietrich had several other collaborations with Franco during the 70′s, but the most ‘wrong’ credit on his résumé just might be as the producer of(aka Los Violadores, 1982), a notorious piece of rancid gutter-cinema every self-proclaimed exploitation freak has to see once in his life. Only once, I might stress, you’ll probably go insane if you watch it twice. Walter Baumgartner composed the ‘original music’ for Greta. That must have been only those spanish flavored tunes then, as I seem to have heard bits of a score that just sounded too expensive or simply unsuitable for this film. I can’t say too much about Ruedi Küttel -- leave out the “tel” and umlaut from his surname and you get a funny Dutch word -- other than I suspect Franco played a prank on him by pulling the camera out of focus while he wasn’t looking during that one bedroom scene with Dyanne Thorne. Uhm, why am I spending a whole paragraph on the cast and crew of this wretched film?
It’s probably due to my lack of interest in the subject matter, but most of these WIP flicks manage to bore me quite a bit, and it is no different with the wicked Greta. Never a good thing when you have several moments in any film where you just wish for it to end. The script for Haus Ohne Männer, however, does have a couple of redeeming qualities. One of them being the character of Lina Romay and how she is developed, another one being that of the sleazy general (in particular his amusing interest in theme-related voyeuristic film footage, which escalates to him demanding snuff footage from the dim-witted assistant of Greta, secretively running their own home-made porn movie business). I might even admit Franco built in a clever set-up with this one, as it pays off gloriously at the end. And the very end of Greta, The Wicked Warden, is a genuine shocker! I could not have anticipated it; at least not something this repugnant. It really saved the whole film for me: it ended my suffering as a viewer with a grin on my face. Thank you, Jess Franco.
I once said I was through with watching Jess Franco movies. I take that back now. I’m thinking about throwing a double Franco bill…vs. . One of his worst vs. one of his best. Or so I’ve been told…
Now, if Deodato is #2. Then who’s #1? Is this Franco paying tribute to Romero by placing him above Deodato? Or is this Franco saying “Screw you, guys. I’m the #1!”, leaving Romero hanging somewhere between C5 & D5…? Like I said, can’t be too sure of anything in a Franco movie.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.4
You’ll have to excuse us for not showing the trailer for Greta – Haus Ohne Männer, but we have something else for you…
I’ll just dub him The Sleaze Guy…
You judge for yourself, but to me it feels like this dude ain’t wrapped too tight…
And one more thing, if you plan on spinning around VHS boxes in such a frantic way this close to your cam-mic, you better make sure you take out the tape first…
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