Director: Bruno Mattei
Intervision Picture Corp./Severin Films

Bruno Mattei tries one last hand at the women-in-prison genre (minus Laura Gemser, unfortunately) with the Filipino-lensed SOV production THE JAIL: THE WOMEN'S HELL.

Petite drug trafficker Lisa (Love Gutierrez), thunder-thighed pimp-wasting prostitute Carol (Amelie Pontailler), and general bad mama Jennifer (Yvette Yzon, ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD) are shipped off to "The House of Lost Souls" a jungle prison where the warden (Odette Khan) tells them the outside world no longer exists for its inmates. Compared to the guards, the girls actually find their fellow inmates quite sympathetic – lead by Monica (Dyane Craystan, ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING) – with the exception of warden's pet Valery (Xeah Atillano) who informs on her fellow inmates in return for a regular fix. The new girls soon discover that among the indignities they must suffer is serving the depraved needs of the patrons of a brothel belonging owned by the governor (Jim Gaines, AFTER DEATH) with many of the girls not surviving the ordeal. When Jennifer refuses a deal from the governor for a private party, she is forced to witness the torture and death of another inmate for the entertainment of his sadistic clientele (among them American ex-patriate Mike Monty, FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE OF FREAKS). When Carol is sent to "The Devil's Hole" (a sweatbox that looks like an outhouse) and Monica to "The Rat Hole" after fights instigated by Valery, Jennifer accepts the governor's deal with the stipulation that Carol and Monica be among the girls she selects to entertain his customers which include sportsman Ortega (Bobby Benitez). The governor suspects Jennifer has other motives behind her change of heart and the warden also suspects that they are plotting an escape based on Valery's intelligence. After a raucous night of degradation, the girls sneak off into the jungle only to discover that they are the prey in MOST DANGEROUS GAME-style hunt.

Produced in between Mattei's cannibal duo IN THE LAND OF THE CANNIBALS and CANNIBAL WORLD and zombie duo ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD and ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING (both also starring Yzon) for Mattei's production company La Perla Nera with Giovanni Paolucci (THE ARK OF THE SUN GOD), THE JAIL: THE WOMEN'S HELL delivers everything you could possibly want from a Mattei film in a single production that seems as if it could have started out conceptually like an intended back-to-back duo. The first half of the film is typical women-in-prison showers, hose-downs, beatings, lesbianism, and rape (with a CHAINED HEAT-esque prostitution subplot) before amping up to eleven in the latter half with jungle deathtraps, beheadings, breast and genital mutilation right out of an Italian cannibal flick (and even then, this one goes a little farther than the Mattei cannibal flicks) with a leering sadism that is too over-the-top to take seriously. Most of the performances are dubbed and subject to the awkward phonetic line readings of the inexperienced performers but Yzon and Craystan remain sympathetic while Gaines, Khan, and Benitez are believably odious. The photography of Luigi Ciccarese (DEMONIA) is a step up from the cannibal films, even looking bit more like an eighties 35mm Mattei Filipino film at times. Editor Daniele Campelli (DRACULA 3D) is credited with the score, but it is likely that he and Mattei were responsible for selecting library cues (Atillano is followed around the film by a cue that almost sounds like but isn't Jerry Goldsmith's theme for BASIC INSTINCT). The splattery gore effects are the work of Cecille Baun, a make-up and prosthetics artist whose work goes back to THE THIRSTY DEAD but also includes such Filipino-lensed American flicks like PLATOON and HAMBURGER HILL (as well as RAW FORCE and JUNGLE HEAT).

Previously, American viewers had to resort to perfectly suitable Japanese and Czech import DVDs for THE JAIL: THE WOMEN'S HELL is presented by Intervision on DVD in a progressive, anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer that looks great considering the decade-old standard definition digital video technology. White can blow out at times, but jungle greens and browns are rich and the red blood palpably sticky. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track gives the most spread to the music and a handful of sound effects.

In "Acting for Bruno" (8:31), actors Yzon and Anson – who did not appear in THE JAIL – discuss the difference between Filipino and Italian temperaments with a lot of yelling by Mattei and the Italian crew that dissipated during meal times with all animosity forgotten by the next morning. They recall Mattei with affection and their feelings about his sickness and death, as well as their experiences on the zombie films. In "Prison Inferno" (21:43), producer Paolucci waxes on the "fresh soil" in the Philippines ripe with tax breaks, cheap equipment rentals, picturesque locations, and enthusiastic performers willing to go to extremes while screenwriter Antonio Tentori – who had written the softcore erotica duo ORIENT ESCAPE and THE SECREST OF WOMEN for Mattei – recalls Mattei's inspiration for the project being a screening of Jess Franco's 99 WOMEN at a horror festival. He discusses how he served as assistant director and was rewriting the project on set, with the film's violence deliberately held back during the first half and then cut loose during the second half. The disc also includes the film's trailer (2:04). (Eric Cotenas)