Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Women In Prison Triple Feature (2009)
Shock-O-Rama | Buy at Amazon | Review by Sinferno

Pardon the pun but there must be something captivating about women in prison movies as they just made so many of them. Could it be the stark visual contrast between cold gray sets and hot naked flesh? Is it the usual endearing triumph of the underdog story; the will of the individual against the will of society? Or is it the fact that shower scenes, lesbianism and senseless physical abuse is always a way to increase the hype of any B-movie with a threadbare plot to a predominantly male demographic? Regardless of why they work, there can be no doubt that the formula of the wrongfully condemned woman captive, is a guilty pleasure indeed to many B-movie buffs. What follows is a review of the new boxed set from retro Shock-o-rama a DVD lock-down of 309 minutes of your life. Was it a sweet conjugal visit or a hard boiled strip search of a cinema product that would confiscate your arousal like so much contraband? As always with truth and punishment, the answer is seldom swift nor certain.

WOMEN IN CELL BLOCK 7
The plot of WICB7 has been used so many times this film should be mandatory viewing for any women whose boyfriend is suspected for drug dealing because apparently they too are in great danger of being sent to a brutal woman's prison and mauled by naked sexy lesbians (I would call this program "Scared-not-so-straight). Danielle Venchi is put in the big house because her boyfriend dies in a car wreck after stealing some drugs from the exact type of people who would have large quantities of drugs to begin with. While she rots in jail and claims not to know anything, the bulk of the movie takes place without her knowledge as Mr. Mussolmecchi, a wrongfully pursued crime boss is harassed, kidnapped and tortured to return drugs he doesn't have. His daughter Hilda, goes undercover in the worst possible woman's prison imaginable just to prove her father's innocence and to get the information out of Danielle, who as mentioned before doesn't trust anyone by the time of of her strip search and entrance into the system. If all this plot sounds cumbersome, unnecessary, it plays out even much more so onscreen over the course of an hour and forty minutes. The female denizens of Cell block 7 themselves are largely benign and harmless as far as characters in woman's prison movies go. While each one of them seems playfully (albeit criminally) insane, they often help one another in exchange for sex, taking the "buddy system" to a whole new echelon. The women are very beautiful, better than the rest of the movie would have you expect they have any right to be and the sex scenes make a nice reprieve from the rest of the shrill screaming and violence that permeates the rest of the film for one reason or another. Yet, as always, in a WIP picture, it isn't the aspect of tender, consensual intimacy among two loving partners that makes these movies resonate. For we, as viewers are left to only wonder about the debauched acts that Hilda must endure during her stay in cell block 7 to get access to Danielle in solitary to ask her about the missing package of drugs which will save her father's life. And I say that, because they are never shown in detail but implied with artful and suggestive fade outs. Will Danielle's innocence ever be known? Will Hilda ever get the drugs in time to save her father's life? Can a couple fire hoses with 5 psi pressure be used to quell a riot of angry topless women, many of whom haven't seen a man in years? The answer to all the aforementioned questions are answered by the end of the film, each with a big fucking NO.

ESCAPE FROM HELL
Four walls do not a prison make, but in ESCAPE FROM HELL the locale is a work camp in the middle of the Amazon. While the setting is not as claustrophobic as most other WIP features I have seen, the outdoorsy locale does is nothing that would make the setting more natural, attractive or hospitable. Escape from Hell is a grittier, filthier picture and I am not just referring to the dirt which covers everything onscreen, nor to the print of the movie itself which looks a little grainy compared to the others. A camp full of problem women who all have been convicted of one kind of violent crime or another are forced to dig holes and cut trees in order to "clear the rainforest" (and all this time I thought it was Styrofoam fast food containers that were responsible). Of course discipline is often a problem and the more troublesome (or unlucky) inmates are raped, mistreated and buried up to their necks large constrictor snakes can be progressively posed in sequential shots around their necks, killing them slowly but certainly with their lethal non-venomous bite. Not only is the camp run like Guantanamo Bay meets Bridge on the River Kwai, but there is much infighting among the women themselves as they struggle for power, dominance over one another in some kind of sexual food chain showing all the diplomacy and class of feral alley cats fighting over fresh fish. But thrust into this tragic kingdom is Escape's own vision of Prince Charming, an alcoholic doctor Named Ferral (Feral?) who takes pity on the women who are interned there, offering advice, medical care and rape counseling with victims, by sleeping with girls himself, mumbling incoherently as he has clumsy, loveless sex with them, addressing them in strange sweet nothings as if he thinks they are his dead wife. Eventually he sobers up for enough time to rediscover his own humanity by coming up with a remarkably intricate plan which would allow him to simply leave the camp forever with the women in tow by convincing the extremely germophobic warden that the girls have some sort of of highly contagious jungle disease. But sadly, just before he leaves free and clear, he has a moral epiphany which compels him strangle the warden in cold blood which makes the guards pursue the unlikely group of travelers through the jungle to question him about their bosses untimely demise in the usual fact finding dialogue punctuated by gunshots instead of words that usually summarize these movies. Rape, torture and murder, wash, rinse repeat. Regardless of your own most heartfelt personal sensibilities (or lack thereof) viewing this movie is the very definition of Hard Time at least in one form or another.

THE HOT BOX
Odd how this one was called "The Hot Box" yet it depicted neither the heat nor the forbidden enclosures so common to these films. The third outing is a kinder, gentler sexploitation flick by that I mean four really hot nurses are held in San Roasario, Cuba where they are forcibly conscripted by a rag tag of bunch of mercenaries who force them the work to care for the medical needs of a small camp. The Afro headed leader Flavio looks like a Hispanic Bob Ross, you know, the Joy of Painting guy who always painted "happy little trees" on Public Television and despite fact he had the women kidnapped, he doesn't come across as brutal in the least, not even when the women escape from his camp a couple times, (though some really severe threats are made). There are all sorts of betrayals and double dealings in this movie but very little of the "revolution" plot-line actually involves the woman's well being as they spend the entire movie being captured, recaptured or turned over to one of the three different factions of the countries civil war, with different degrees of punishment for their trouble. The women in this film are actually attractive, groomed and made up in ways which aren't conducive to daily life in the jungle and it is sometimes hard to take their situation seriously as they spend much of the movie lounging about topless for no apparent reason whatsoever, even as they are held against their will in a camp filled with militant angry men armed with machine guns who look like they haven't had the company of a woman for quite some time. There is a rape, and some torture involving fire hoses that shoot steam, but there is nothing going on in this film that couldn't be covered with an R rating or passed off as the next Joe Francis video entitled Girls Gone Wild: Heat in Havanna. If anything, this film actually has more emotional depth than the others, not only because the sleaze is reigned in to countless "booby shots" but because the nurses eventually come to care about their captors, so much so that they even pick up rifles and fight for the side of Flavio and the revolution itself in the final climactic gun battle. I found this to be strange behavior indeed for a quartet of nurses but at least by doing so they were are able to portray a textbook example of the medical condition as the Stockholm Syndrome. So you see, it educates while it titillates! (I'm just kidding of course, this one actually does neither).

Sinferno Says...
Yucko/Neato Factor: Though it sounds like lazy reviewing these films are exactly what you would expect by the site, cover and liner notes for this product. Shameless prisonesque girl-on-girl exploitation designed to publicly offend every feminist woman's right advocate (even as it would surely titillate more than a few of them privately behind closed doors).
Production Values: Nuances were "brutally simple" in every sense and therefore authentic. A good fusion of beautiful victims and ugly perpetrators, in scary settings so necessary to the genre. The second disk was never enclosed in my review copy and the replacement that finally arrived (about a month later) was labeled in magic marker. That's taking this "Grindhouse" thing a bit too far.
Realism: At least it wasn't filled with historically anachronistic Nazis portrayed by Italians.
Value for Price: For $22.99 it was the breast of times, it was the worst of times.
Plot: I'm the warden of Women in Prison films and as such a plot will NOT be tolerated!


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