What comes to mind when you think of Women In Prison movies? Shower scenes. Cavity searches. Sadistic wardens. Icy female guards and perverted matrons. Torture devices. Beat-downs. Hose-downs. Cat fights. And of course, the unspeakable lesbian love that inevitably results between prisoners who are forced to seek comfort and tenderness in each other’s arms. Why do I have a feeling real women’s prisons are never so sexy? Here’s a 2 DVD collection enticingly entitled Women in Prison Triple Feature. Does it deliver on all the goodies promised by the genre? Not really. They kinda forgot to include the prisons.
The Hot Box
Starring: Carmen Argenziano, Charles Dierkop
Directed by: Joe Viola
The first entry in the triple feature comes with quite a pedigree. The Hot Box is a Roger Corman production, shot in the Philippines, with a script co-written by future Oscar-winner Jonathan Demme. The story concerns four American nurses stationed overseas who get caught up in a guerilla attack and are taken as hostages by some Filipino bad guys. Using their American smarts and cunning female wiles, they manage to outsmart the guerrillas and outshoot them in a big explosion-filled shootout.
Technically, The Hot Box isn’t a prison movie at all. It’s a subgenre which needs to be given a name… something along the lines of “Women in Jungle Camp” movies. The women in these sorts of movies are kept in huts and barracks rather than behind bars. They’re made to walk in Bataan-like death marches, bathe in rivers, and every time they try to escape the jungle camp, they usually get hunted down and shot, but not before the pervy jungle undergrowth has managed to shred or remove most of their clothing. In this one, the women don’t really suffer too much at the hands of their captors. The river bathing, of which there are two scenes (tops off only, sorry to say), actually looks rather pleasant. The nurses get roughed up a little, but they put up a united front, and the beatings and deprivations aren’t enough force them into a little lesbian comfort. Come on foreign captors, get on the ball!
Women in Cell Block 7
Starring: Anita Strindberg, Jenny Tamburi
Directed by: Rino Di Silvestro
This is as early Italian entry in the genre. A young female Interpol agent whose father was killed allows herself to be incarcerated with her father’s ex-girlfriend, who she thinks has had charges trumped up against her, to see if…well, I watched the part where they explained the plot twice and I still don’t get it. The point is, an innocent girl enters the women’s prison and gets subjected to all that entails. Bad move, girly! This is another one of the tropes of the genre, that there’s always an innocent goody two-shoes who’s in there for the wrong reasons.
Unlike the other two movies in this inaccurately-titled collection, this one actually features a prison and has some of the stuff listed above, including a nice hose-down. It also has surprisingly good lesbian sex scenes, full of desperate longings and gropings, the sort of thing that the Italians perfected in their Nunsploitation epics. Sadly, the two main characters never get together.
Escape from Hell
Starring: Ajita Wilson, Anthony Steffans
Directed by: Edoardo Mulargia
We’re back in the jungle for this one, but by the time you here, you’ve advanced eight years to 1980 and the genre has matured: everything is sicker and more sadistic. This is kind of a plotless parade of atrocities; women being drowned, suffocated, bitten by snakes, buried up to their waist in the ground, etc. I suppose this kind of film has its fans, but I can’t help but think that you have to hate women in order to enjoy this kind of movie. You’re probably better off going to some of the better movies in this subgenre, including Erwin Dietrich and Jesus Franco’s seminal Love Camp, or Women Of Cellblock 9, which, as you can surmise from the derivative title, is 2 better than than previous movie in this collection. The chicks are hotter in those movies too. Other than the famous transgendered star Ajita Wilson, the cast of this Italian-Brazilian co-production features a number of female Brazilians, before they invented brazilians, if you know what I mean.
I’m spoiled by the DVDs produced by Cult Epics and Severin Films, because the prints of these movies are just plain awful. You can’t see shit! Secret Key is falling behind the times. They need to do some image processing before they commit them to DVD and sell them to us. Secret Key is usually good at the booklets at least, but this one is pretty half-assed, honestly. Sort of like the choice of movies themselves. That’s it Secret Key… cavity searches for everybody.