Director: Jess Franco
Blue Underground

Feel like gettin' down 'n dirty? Want a movie that packs lesbians, bestiality, Count Zaroff-esque human hunts? Look no further than sleaze master Jess Franco's SADOMANIA, a film from his less-than-appreciated early 80s period. Starring the peerless Ajita Wilson, this WIP epic isn't as nauseating as Franco's BARBED WIRE DOLLS and not as professional as 99 WOMEN, but it falls snugly somewhere in-between and is definitely one hell of a rollercoaster ride!

Lovey-dubbey newlywed couple Olga and Michael are caught trespassing on the private property of La Hacienda Blanca, a womens' prison camp, and are promptly arrested by the topless armed guards patrolling the surrounding mountains! They are introduced to Magda (Ms. Wilson, whose character uses her mother's name!), the slinky black warden who imprisons Olga in the prison and sends Michael out of the country! Olga is put to work, doing...uh...I don't know, all the topless women just dig holes in the desert for no apparent reason. She shares her cell with mouthy lesbian Conita and beautiful quiet Tara, who was convicted of drug possession. The fact that all three women are blonde often makes it tough to decipher who is who. Inmates who rebel against the maniacal Magda (who rides in a horse-drawn cart through the camp) are set loose in the swamp and are hunted down by the sadist and creepy Governor Mendoza, who covers up her illegal activities in exchange for booty calls from the prisoner of his choice. His lesbian wife Loba has her way with the girls, too! Am I forgetting anything? Oh yes, Jess Franco plays a gay pimp who captures girls and loans them out to paying customers. His lover is played by Ajita Wilson in male drag!!

SADOMANIA is right, this flick is sick! No one makes a women-in-prison flick like Jess Franco. There is something about imprisoned females resorting to lesbian and falling victim to all manner of sick pleasures that brings out the inner sleazoid of Mr. Franco. As I mentioned before, this isn't as nasty and vile as his previous Dietrich-produced BARBED WIRE DOLLS, but how can you top that one?! It's still up there on the list of raunchy WIP epics, including a nasty rape by a dog (!!!!!), forced lesbianism, innocent girls sold into slavery, the aforementioned human hunt, and the sadistic fully nude gladiator-influenced battle to the death between Conita and a primitive guard. This is also an ably produced little Franco flick, with excellent location photography (the girl-on-girl battle at sundown is breathtaking) and top-notch editing. None of the acting is very good (save Ms. Wilson), but this is a solid exploitation vehicle with enough sex, violence, and jaw-dropping nastiness to please your craving for sordid entertainment. Franco is also the only director who brought out the best in Ajita Wilson, usually just a piece of sex furniture in her films.

Ajita Wilson is a sex goddess like no other. There, I've said it and I'm proud of my unabashed love for all things Ajita! The transsexual black actress reportedly began her career in fetish films in New York City (unconfirmed) before moving to Rome to become a fashion model. When this proved successful (I'd kill to see some of those photos!), she made her starring debut in 1976's THE NUDE PRINCESS (available on an essential DVD from Mondo Macabro UK) and from there she became one of the reigning Eurotrash princesses of the 1970s. She was immensely popular in Greece and Turkey, despite the fact that her films weren't exactly shining examples of the film medium (that's an understatement!), but her star waned by the mid-80s and she perished due to complications of cerebral hemorrhage caused by a car accident. Now, almost 15 years later, Ajita's star is shining again and hopefully more of her BETTER films will be made available on DVD to entrance an entire new generation of adventurous viewers. Here's hoping Blue Underground will release Ajita's other Franco collaboration, MACUMBA SEXUAL! Here, in SADOMANIA, she seems to relish finally being offered a role she can sink her teeth into! She plays the villainess with a crooked smile on her face, enjoying every instance of pain she brings to her unwilling slaves, and of course is enthusiastic in her sex scenes. Those who have never experienced Ajita's wily charms should be instantly converted by her performance here.

The 1.66:1 anamorphic transfer for SADOMANIA has been subject of much on-line fan discussion. While the image as a whole is polished and clean, with a faint sheen of grain during some sequences, all of the outdoor scenes taking place at night are not correctly tinted so what should have looked like "day for night" shooting now looks like "day for day" shooting. Perhaps this tinting was not on the original negative, which was probably the source material for this otherwise gorgeous presentation, and was added later? Fans who loved the film through previous video incarnations will be disappointed, but as this was my first exposure to the film, it didn't bother me too much. Franco has made a number of films (VOODOO PASSION, for example) where outdoor scenes take place in broad daylight, but are set at night. The mono audio, which sounds almost like it was recorded yesterday, is an oddly recorded English dub. Francophiles have said the Spanish language track is much better and listening to the scenes in the Spanish trailer on the disc, I would have to agree. The obviously white voice of Ajita Wilson is wholly inappropriate, though some of the dialogue is priceless ("I'll soon tame you, my pretty beast! That's all you are, an animal in a cage! Your squirming is pure joy to me!")!

Blue Underground offers some great supplements to compliment this outrageous viewing experience. "Sadomaniac" is the best extra, an 18-minute interview with the one, the only Jess Franco, who could talk about reading a newspaper and could still keep me interested! He discusses the genesis of SADOMANIA, stemming from a producer who had a desire to work with Ajita, the wonderful locations he discovered for the film, the dangers of shooting the girl-on-girl battle with real weapons (!), and talks at length about his love of working with Ajita, including a great story of the effects drinking had on her implants! It's, as always, a consistently amazing featurette; I wish someone would produce a full-length documentary a la THE GODFATHERS OF MONDO about Franco discussing his entire exploitation career, because BU's Franco featurettes just leave me craving more talks with the guy. Two theatrical trailers, one English and the other Spanish, both sell the film very well. The English trailer has a few scenes with an alternate dub track and excellent narration. The Spanish trailer offers the Spanish language audio track with English subtitles, and goes under the title of SADOMANIA: INFERNO OF PASSION (or as the narrator puts it, INFERRRRRRRNO DE LA PASSION). There is very different dialogue in some scenes than the English dub track, making me wish BU had included the Spanish track with subs (which probably was not an option unless they wanted to pay a lot more). A lengthy stills gallery offers glimpses at international posters, photos and articles from the Spanish and German pressbooks, international lobby cards, production stills, and video sleeves from around the world. The best image is of Olga, Tara, and Conita on all fours with Ajita towering above them holding together with horse's reigns, which served as at least one poster image. If it wasn't for Ajita's breasts, this would have made a great DVD cover! A bio of Jess Franco is carried over from the other BU Franco discs, but the real eye-opener is one of the best bios of Ajita Wilson I've read so far, up there with Pete Tombs' bio piece on the NUDE PRINCESS disc. There should be a full-length book on Ajita written sometime, but until then this should probably suffice. It discusses her mysterious origins, her most noteworthy films, and her outrageous exploits in the Italian tabloids. Kudos to Sergio Martorelli for this wonderful piece!

On a side note, the two new Jess Franco discs from Blue Underground (SADOMANIA and GIRL FROM RIO) both start a new cool trend in the company's presentation: the amaray is clear plastic with the chapter listings listed on the back of the cover art. It's a super-cool new look for this super-cool company. On another note, the blurb on the front ("Perverse! Jess Franco pours on the sleaze!") should be credited to Francophile Robert Monell, not DVD Maniacs.

It seems that Blue Underground is set on releasing a definitive Eurocult disc once every year. 2002 saw EUGENIE...THE STORY OF HER JOURNEY INTO PERVERSION. 2003 saw EMANUELLE IN AMERICA. 2004 embraces SADOMANIA. Despite the qualms over the incorrectly tinted transfer, this is one incredible slimefest that should be on every cult film fan's shelf, and does a great job in commemorating the memory of the late great Ajita Wilson. One of the best discs of 2004. (Casey Scott)