Women’s Prison Massacre / Blade Violent / A Bunch of Bastards / Emanuelle in Prison / Emanuelle Escapes from Hell / I Violenti / Emanuelle Fuga dall’Inferno (1983/1985) -***
Don’t ask me how Caged Women earned enough money to get a sequel. Maybe it was part of a two-picture deal to start with, production on the second movie commencing as soon as the first one wrapped. That would certainly explain the virtually complete recycling of all production resources— cast, locations, costumes, rented vehicles— between Caged Women and its very weird, very loose follow-up. Women’s Prison Massacre is a sequel of a kind that hasn’t been made in any numbers since the 1940’s. Although it reuses, non-diegetically speaking, every little thing from its predecessor, its story carries over nothing but the protagonist, and even she is portrayed so differently that she may as well be a different character. (Indeed, since her last name has changed in the interim form Steerman to Larson, maybe she really is supposed to be somebody else.) Meanwhile, the rest of the actors, who are explicitly playing different people than they had the first time around, mostly might as well have the same roles, since their characters serve largely equivalent narrative functions. In some ways, Women’s Prison Massacre is more remake than sequel, but even then it would be a remake with surprisingly different concerns from its model.
Women’s Prison Massacre, that is to say, differs sharply in tone from Caged Women. The earlier movie was a slightly better fit in its pretense to be part of the Emanuelle series, for like Black Emanuelle and its Joe D’Amato-helmed successors, it was first and foremost a softcore porn film. Caged Women’s primary purpose was to get Laura Gemser and her female costars naked as often as possible. But believe it or not, at no point in Women’s Prison Massacre does Gemser remove a single article of clothing. Not even once. Oh, there’s nudity, alright, but none of it’s hers, and as you might gather from the title, Women’s Prison Massacre is only incidentally about sex. Its true business is violence and degradation, which it pursues much more aggressively than Caged Women did even at its nastiest.
Last time, Gemser’s Emanuelle was in prison of her own free will, seeking to expose the doings of a corrupt system. In the sequel, however, she’s in the time-honored chicks-in-chains position of being locked up unjustly for a crime she didn’t commit. Specifically, she’s in for smuggling drugs, and the man who framed her was no less a personage than District Attorney Robertson (Jacques Stany, from Four Flies on Gray Velvet and After the Fall of New York). Why would the D.A. bother to frame Emanuelle for anything, let alone drug-smuggling? Because she knew that he was trafficking in narcotics, and she planned to expose him— remember, she’s a reporter. Hey, any number of women’s prison movie inmates have been framed for less. Anyway, the first half-hour or so establishes all the things that need to be established in the opening act of any women’s prison movie. We meet the Draconian Warden (Lorraine De Selle, of Make Them Die Slowly and SS Extermination Camp), the Two Sadistic Prison Guards (Franca Stoppi, from The Career of a Chambermaid and The True Story of the Nun of Monza, and Françoise Perrot, of Depravity and Don’t Play with Tigers), the Bad Girl in Cahoots with the Authorities (Dead End’s Ursula Flores), the Vulnerable Petty Delinquent… you know— all the necessary archetypes. Emanuelle has the obligatory run-ins with the Sadistic Guards, who Won’t Tolerate Uppity Prisoners Undermining Their Authority, and develops the all-important rivalry with the Bad Girl, who is appropriately named Albina. (You have never seen a girl this pale outside of a Nine Inch Nails concert, I promise you.)
But then the movie throws you a curve. It turns out this isn’t the film you expected at all, because the prison is getting a special delivery in the form of four convicted serial rapist/murderers who are to be held temporarily “until their sentences are confirmed.” These four guys are really bad news. First, we have Brett O’Hara (Robert Mura, from The Seven Magnificent Gladiators) and Victor “Geronimo” Brain (Caligula and Messalina’s Raul Cabrera), who are your basic dastardly criminal types. Then, there’s Helmut “Blade” von Bauer (Pierangelo Pozzato, of Adam and Eve vs. the Cannibals and Conqueror of the World), a neo-Nazi who likes to kill people by biting them on the throat with a razorblade held between his upper lip and his incisors. Finally, we have Howard “Crazy Boy” Henderson (somebody get this guy a better nickname!), who specializes in killing cops. Crazy Boy (Gabriele Tinti, from Siren of Atlantis and The Dirty Seven) is the leader of the pack; he’s clearly the smartest, as well as the most notorious, though he is far from being the most violent or sadistic. And it seems that he’s got connections. As the van carrying the convicts nears the prison, it is attacked by some of Henderson’s men, posing as police officers. A long and surreal running firefight ensues, at the end of which all of the gangsters and all but one of the cops— their leader, Sergeant Harrison (Carlo Mejo, of Manhattan Baby and The House by the Cemetery)— lie dead. Harrison brings the convicts in anyway, but as they are being shown to their cells, something goes wrong, and both Harrison and the warden end up as Crazy Boy’s hostages. Harrison is wounded, and several prison guards are killed before the situation stabilizes into the familiar stand-off hostage crisis. Henderson demands a radio transmitter, and then arranges to speak with the D.A.— the very same one who had Emanuelle framed. Henderson’s demands are as follows: Harrison has three hours to supply him with a car, a driver, and $5,000,000, and to arrange for a private plane to take him and his comrades wherever they want to go, or Crazy Boy will begin killing people— first the warden, then the prison guards, then the prisoners themselves. The film then turns its attention back to its true purpose, the systematic sexual degradation of all the important female characters.
O’Hara makes the warden perform a striptease. Geronimo goes to the infirmary in search of drugs, and when he finds Albina instead (she was injured in a knife-fight with Emanuelle), has sex with her and then chloroforms her to prevent her from screwing any of the others. Von Bauer finds Laura (Maria Romano, from The Final Executioner and Young, Beautiful… Probably Rich) and Irene (Lady of the Night’s Antonella Giacomini), who share Vulnerable Petty Delinquent duties, and subjects them to a complete psycho’s version of petty bullying. He slaps them both around a bit, slashes Irene’s face with his razor, and destroys the latter girl’s inflatable sex doll after making her slow-dance with it. (Hey, man, don’t look at me— I didn’t come up with this shit.) Last but not least, Henderson rapes Emanuelle in her cell. The convicts have to take a break from their recreation, however, when D. A. Robertson sends in a SWAT team (or whatever they call the Italian equivalent) to seize control of the situation. Apparently Italian SWAT teams aren’t nearly as good as the ones we have here, because four men with a shotgun, a service revolver, and a razorblade between them manage to wipe out the whole crew while taking but a single casualty in exchange.
Next come what must be the ugliest two scenes in the whole film. Laura finds von Bauer’s razor, and uses it and a bottle cork to exact her revenge on her tormentor. I won’t spoil the impact by giving her plan away, but holy shit!! Talk about playing dirty, man! And while that’s going on in one part of the prison, the other two convicts force Emanuelle and Albina to play Russian roulette against each other for what seems like fucking hours.
Shortly thereafter, the plot gets moving again. The three hours are up, and Robertson has caved to Henderson’s demands. The flight arrangements have been made, and the car and driver are in position, along with a briefcase containing $5,000,000 in ten-dollar bills. (Yeah, about that briefcase… According to my calculations, $5,000,000 in ten-dollar bills would take up over thirteen cubic feet of space. The valise Robertson produces for the prison-breakers is just a little smaller than that.) Henderson and Geronimo emerge from the prison with Emanuelle, Harrison, and the warden as hostages, and when the D.A. sees Emanuelle, he goes completely ape-shit, grabs the M-16 out of the nearest cop’s hands, and opens fire, killing Geronimo the warden before he himself is gunned down by Henderson. Crazy Boy then gets in the car, with Harrison and Emanuelle still in tow, and has the driver head for the airport. But guess what— the driver’s packing heat, so this movie still has one last shoot-out left in it. All I’m going to say at this point is that Women’s Prison Massacre does not end the way you think it does.
The biggest improvement Women’s Prison Massacre makes over its predecessor is the inclusion of something more closely resembling a plot. Whereas Caged Women spent the whole of its running time wallowing in the clichés of the women’s prison genre, adding nothing of its own save greater than average incompetence, Women’s Prison Massacre establishes an independent personality rapidly by pitting the inmates not only against the prison staff, but against Crazy Boy Henderson and his gang as well. And to the extent that this movie does wallow in decade-old clichés, it wallows faster, if that makes any sense. Women’s Prison Massacre also displays more of the Mattei-Fragasso touch than the preceding film. I grant you, it’s weird to hear myself saying that like it’s a compliment, but in this case, it really is. I would never have guessed until I saw a similar movie without it how much I’d miss ridiculous bullshit like Irene’s sex doll or the mess hall poetry slam that Emanuelle, Laura, and Irene put on in the opening scene. In retrospect, that’s exactly what Caged Women most sorely lacks.
At the same time, though, Women’s Prison Massacre is actually a pretty disturbing movie. Very rarely do cheap-ass flicks like this one have much of a handle on what genuine evil is like. But Crazy Boy Henderson and Blade von Bauer are the real fucking deal, and by the end of the film, you’ll be left with the unsettling feeling that you might be, too, because you just spent an hour and a half watching this for fun. It isn’t as relentless about that as, for example, Bloodsucking Freaks, nor does it seem, like the latter movie, to have been designed expressly to achieve said effect, but Women’s Prison Massacre does not end as the sort of light-hearted exploitation carnival that it begins as. I’m leaving the minus-sign in front of its rating, but be warned— this sucker changes polarities on you, and you won’t even realize it until it’s already too late.