(a.k.a. EMANUELLE FUGA DALL'INFERNO; EMANUELLE IN PRISON; EMANUELLE ESCAPES FROM HELL; BLADE VIOLENT)
Billed as the "most gruesome" women-in-prison film, WOMEN'S PRISON MASSACRE has been released by Retro Shock-O-Rama on DVD before. They're obviously proud of owning the rights to this one (restored by Sage Stallone's Grindhouse stable, no less), as here it returns on a new double-disc package, along with the equally dubious CAGED WOMEN.
Disc 1 houses the widescreen version of MASSACRE.
A misleadingly stylish opening scene sees three females on a stage in a tough women's prison, introducing themselves poetically to their fellow inmates. The three concerned are Irene (Antonella Giacomini, VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON), Laura (the beautiful Maria Romano, THOR THE CONQUEROR) and Emanuelle (Laura Gemser, EMANUELLE IN AMERICA; EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD etc).
Their performance is halted by the heckling Albina (Ursula Flores, VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON), who decries the play as "shit" and pelts Emanuelle with tomatoes. A fight ensues, and the guards are quick to step in with nightsticks at hand.
Emanuelle is called to the office of warden Colleen (Lorraine De Selle, CANNIBAL FEROX; HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK etc). Colleen warns Emanuelle that she is seen as an influence on the other inmates, and that she must clean up the play - and her act - if she wants to do her time peacefully. However, we soon learn that Emanuelle is more concerned with ensuring justice prevails - she was working as an undercover reporter and was about to expose a drug smuggling ring involving District Attorney Robinson (Jacques Stany, FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET), when Robinson framed her on a drugs charge and got her banged up.
Emanuelle is determined for the truth to come out, but she has the distinct feeling that she'll be lucky if she even gets out of prison alive - understandable, really, when you consider Albina is trying to kill her at every opportunity and the guards have a liking for beating her black and blue.
Things get even worse for our heroine when the warden agrees to house four dangerous male convicts overnight while they await sentencing. Brought into the prison by Lawman Harrison (Carlo De Mejo, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD; THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY etc), the psycho quartet - led by "Crazy Boy" Henderson (Gabrielle Tinti, THE SEXORCIST; CUT AND RUN etc) - soon overpower the bungling cop.
Proving they are serious by shooting Harrison in the shoulder and slashing a female guard's throat, the convicts demand that they speak to someone important. Moments later, would you credit it, District Attorney Robinson turns up to negotiate with the thugs. They demand an escort to the airport and a suitcase with $5 million in it. A tall order, but Robinson promises to try his best.
In the meantime, the convicts just have to sit tight and wait for their demands to be met, while armed police gather outside the prison. As this is an Italian exploitation film, it should surprise no-one that the convicts entertain themselves by brutalising, raping, humiliating, shooting, slashing and cursing virtually every caged woman.
Emanuelle's story takes a back seat for the film's final half as we're invited to sit back, switch off our brains and enjoy Henderson's boys running amuck in a women's prison.
I still agree upon a repeat viewing of this film that it is huge fun, for all the wrong reasons. It is, of course, politically incorrect from the first minute through to the last. It is badly framed, clumsily edited and poorly acted. The laughable dialogue and crappy dubbing don't help in the latter department either.
But there's no denying that MASSACRE is filled with action, many of which involves jaw-dropping scenes of bloody shootouts, cut-rate car chases, softcore sex scenes and more gratuitous nudity than you could possibly pray for. And, of course, the gorgeous Romano - even with a razor blade concealed in her vagina, she manages to look fabulously sexy …
The print used on disc 1 is presented in 1.78:1 and has been enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. The back cover states that the film is "pre-mastered in 23.98psf Hi-Definition". What does "pre-mastered" mean - I'm not sure?
Upon watching the disc, I assume it means "no different to the last release". In other words, this is a fairly soft print with a fair amount of specks on screen. While grain is not too great an issue, the film does look pretty worn. Still, as the action progresses the picture quality does seem to improve: by the end, images are bright, colourful and well contrasted.
The English dubbed mono audio is a tad quiet, but free from hiss or drop-out.
A static main menu page leads into an animated scene-selection menu that allows access to the main feature via 10 chapters.
The only extras on disc 1 are trailers for MASSACRE, SLIME CITY, CRIMINALLY INSANE and SATAN'S BLACK WEDDING.
Over on disc 2, we get the open-matte 4x3 version of MASSACRE. Bizarrely, this has different opening credits to the version on disc 1 (less wear on the print too) and is 10 seconds longer.
As for framing, it made little difference in my eyes. Bruno Mattei is still a hack with no eye for a decent composition, whichever version you watch.
Also on disc 2 is CAGED WOMEN (a.k.a. CHICKS IN CHAINS; VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON; WOMEN'S PENITENTARY 4; EMANUELLE IN HELL; PENITENCIER DE FEMMES; EMANUELLE REPORTS FROM A WOMEN'S PRISON; EMANUELLE REPORTAGE DA UN CARCERE FEMMINILE; VIOLENZA IN UM CARCERE FEMMINILE).
This was shot back-to back with MASSACRE, so it makes perfect sense to finally have both films in the same DVD packaging.
WOMEN opens with Laura (Gemser) being added to a police van as a last-minute addition. The van is on its way to a notoriously tough prison set on a hilltop in Italian countryside.
Laura is joined by two other female prisoners, one of which is Kitty (Romano again - yay), who recently escaped from the brutal penitentiary but has been caught.
Once at the prison, the prisoners meet the sadistic guard Rescaut (Franca Stoppi) and Laura is ushered into the sadistic head warden's (De Selle) office to explain why she's inside. We learn that Laura is convicted of prostitution, drug-pushing and of killing her pimp.
Laura is then sent to see the prison doctor, Moran (Tinti), for a check-up. The pair clearly have an instant attraction towards one another. Which could prove a problem down the line, as Moran is an ex-convict who owes his position as doctor to Rescaut, who now expects sexual favours from him in return.
Another inmate heading for trouble is Kitty, who is treated like a heroine upon her return by most of the prisoners. But she seems intent on making an enemy of her rival when she takes a shine to her lesbian lover, Malone (Antonella Giacomini).
As if Laura and Kitty didn't have enough to contend with, also thrown into the mix are Laura's demented cellmate (complete with a cockroach for a pet), a neighbouring male prison and an astounding amount of corruption within the prison system.
It's a good job there's plenty of stripping and softcore sex for these lovelies to be occupying themselves with!
But all is not as it at first seems, as Rescaut finds out when she discovers Laura's true identity and her real reason for arriving at the prison. Crumbs, it all leads to more violence, corruption and - of course - sex.
CAGED WOMEN is less interesting than MASSACRE, but still enjoyable enough in pretty much the same way. Again directed by Mattei (credited on screen here as Vincent Dawn), it's a fast-paced rummage through sleazy lesbian scenes and authoritarian brutality with a laughable political message tagged on as an afterthought.
If there's one thing wrong with WOMEN it's that, after watching MASSACRE, it's neither as violent or as fun. Still worth a watch though, for the more forgiving sleazehound.
Both films are presented uncut (there's a line of dialogue missing in both versions of MASSACRE due to prints being lost - but it doesn't impede enjoyment of the film).
CAGED WOMEN is presented in 4x3 with mono English dubbed audio, and looks just as worn as MASSACRE. It's audio track hold up well though.
Although there are no scene-selection menus on disc 2, both films can be navigated through by way of your remote handset - MASSACRE by 10 chapters, WOMEN by 12.
The only extras on disc 2 are 9 trailers, including SKIN CRAWL and CHAINSAW SALLY.
There's also a highly enjoyable fold-out six page booklet with new liner notes from Paul Gaita.
A double-bill of incredible sleaze that will appeal to all fans of Mattei (if such a fanbase exists?!). Trashy, but fun.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Retro Shock-O-Rama|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|