Of the multitude of directors who dipped their toes into the sleazy pool of women-in-prison flicks, Bruno Mattei is hard to top in terms of extremely nasty genre entries. Only Jess Franco made more nauseating examples of the jailed women category, but Mattei's were goofier and more outrageous in the long run. His two most popular remain BLADE VIOLENT and VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN’S PRISON, shot back-to-back with much of the same cast between them. How to tell them apart? Indonesian sex goddess Laura Gemser does nudity in VIOLENCE, but not in BLADE. BLADE was released under many different titles, including EMANUELLE IN PRISON and WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE in the U.S. After several subpar Region 1 DVD releases, WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE now arrives on Blu-ray so fans of this compulsive cult item can now enjoy it in HD.
Laura Gemser plays (surprise) Emanuelle, a nosy reporter who has drugs planted on her by a powerful politician and is sent to prison to rot. There, she is attacked on both sides by vicious prisoner Albina and the snooty warden who overlooks the violence which goes on right in front of her. However, her life in hell will get even worse when a gang of hardened male criminals on their way to Death Row hijack their police truck escort and burst into the prison, holding hostages and making demands. But the women won't take this lying down (well...some of them will) and they attempt to stop the madmen before they all end up dead!
The opening stage show is definitely influenced by CAGED HEAT!, Jonathan Demme's ultimate WIP film, but the rest of WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE is so depraved, so warped, and so very...well...ITALIAN that it's 100% entertainment all the way. It's the perfect double-feature with its companion piece VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN’S PRISON. The synthesizer score is awesome, much like VIOLENCE, and the entire cast seems game to wallow in any muck that Mattei throws their way. Whoever wrote this sordid masterpiece must have had his pulse on what made every pervert in Italian grindhouses tick. You get a lesbian shower scene, vicious guards trying to drown the heroine, a switchblade fight for the guards' amusement, a razor blade hidden in a vagina to slice a man's member in half (!), a gory Russian roulette game, and an equally graphic shoot-'em-up finale outside the prison! This is non-stop Eurosleaze at its finest and warrants the highest recommendation possible!
How Laura Gemser did nudity in VIOLENCE and not this one is a complete mystery, but she is someone who's usually thought of as merely a sex symbol. Her real-life husband, Gabriele Tinti (LISA AND THE DEVIL), played a kindly doctor in VIOLENCE but really chews scenery here as Crazy Boy Henderson, the ringleader of the male criminals who rapes Emanuelle and forces her to perform Russian Roulette. Gemser is gorgeous both in and out of clothes and is a classy presence in both films, actually delivering quite competent performances for disastrous results! Anyone who sees this film will no doubt fall in love with the character "Albina," the most outrageous, campy bitch prisoner of any WIP flick ever made, played with reckless abandon by Ursula Flores! Dubbed in typical over-the-top fashion by popular dubbing artist Carolyn de Fonseca, this wide-eyed harlot speaks with perpetually clenched teeth, hides her ugly hair under a straw-like wig, and spouts so much crazy dialogue it will take more than one sitting to digest it all! Some gems: "Take my advice and die!", "I'll put a stop to your arrogance, your haughty hotten tart!", "I hate you! I hate you! You bastard! I'll kill ya!". But Albina isn't the only one with juicy dialogue. One guard screams "Stop it! Haven't you had enough violence?!" and a prisoner warns Albina, "I'd like to bite your nipples off...and I'LL DO IT!". Doe-eyed beauty Lorraine de Selle (HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK) has little to do as the warden and at this point in her career had pretty much been relegated to the trashiest films she would ever make. A shame, really, as she was such a promising performer in her earlier films of the 1970s. She seems very oppressed with a tight bun and a confining uniform, but does her best with a throwaway part. It wouldn’t be surprising if most of her scenes were shot for VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN’S PRISON but thrown into this instead. Bearded Carlo De Mejo (Lucio Fulci’s CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, Mattei's THE OTHER HELL) is the head of the policemen escorting the goons to prison, but is wounded during most of the film and only really comes alive for the finish. Also present in both this film and VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN’S PRISON are Franca Stoppi, Francoise Perrot, Maria Romano, Antonella Giacomini, all pretty much playing the same parts (except Francoise Perrot is a guard here, and a prisoner in VIOLENCE). Fans of classic Italian horror movies will recognize curly-haired Jacques Stany (here as a crooked district attorney) from 1964’s CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD opposite Christopher Lee and Donald Sutherland, as well as Dario Argento’s THE CAT O’ NINE TAILS. The film was scripted by frequent Mattei collaborator Claudio Fragasso (MONSTER DOG) and there are some unproven rumors that he had a big hand in the directing.
A filthy little gem of Italian exploitation, WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE was previously available on DVD twice in the U.S., both times from Retro Shock-O-Rama with transfers culled from 35mm print sources (the first DVD was heavily edited). Scream Factory has now picked up the title exclusively for Blu-ray, presenting the film in its unrated version. Even though the film generally has a very flat look to it, the transfer source is in impeccable shape and all the sordid sex and violence is intact. Presented here 1080p HD in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, grain is well-managed and filmic, and colors look vivid, and the strong transfer is bright and clear enough to appreciate some of the better lighting and camerawork on display. Facial features have great texture and the transfer also boasts deep blacks. The DTS-HD Master Audio mono English track is one of the funniest post-dubs in all of Italian cinema and sounds just fine here. This Blu-ray version of the film is still missing the coda with Carlo De Mejo telling Laura Gemser she will be out of prison soon, but it’s very possible this was never included in the export version. There are no extras on the disc. (Casey Scott and George R. Reis)
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