Women’s Prison Massacre/Blade Violent/Emanuelle in Prison/ Emmanuelle Escapes from Hell/I Violenti/Revolte au Penitencier des Filles (1983/1985) -***
I can’t say I’m completely sure what to make of this movie. There’s a good chance that it’s a sequel to a movie called Caged Women/Chicks in Chains/Emanuelle Reports from a Women’s Prison/Emmanuelle in Hell/Violenza in un Carcere Feminile, which was made a year earlier, and which also starred Laura Gemser. From time to time, both films have been billed as very late sequels to Black Emanuelle, and I guess it’s possible that they actually are. Certainly, in the version of I Violenti that I saw (under the title Women’s Prison Massacre), Laura Gemser’s character is named Emanuelle Larson, and she is said to have been a reporter prior to her incarceration. But of course, the version I saw had been dubbed into English, so who knows what anyone’s name had originally been, and one must consider the well-documented phenomenon of American distributors slapping an “Emanuelle/Emmanuelle” title on any Laura Gemser movie they get their hands on in order to maximize profits. Because the original Italian title of this Franco-Italian production means “The Violent Ones,” while the French title means something to the effect of “Revolt in a Women’s Prison,” and because all of the actual Emanuelle movies I know of in which Gemser appears at least mention the character’s name in the title, my inclination is to believe that this is one of the many “spurious Emanuelles.” But of course, I could be mistaken.
I don’t think so, though, because Women’s Prison Massacre is completely unlike any Emanuelle movie I’ve ever seen. The Emanuelle series is, after all, first and foremost a porno franchise-- even when they bring her face to face with gut-munching cannibals, the films’ primary purpose is to showcase Laura Gemser’s spectacular body. And believe it or not, at no point in this movie 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 isn’t about sex at all. It is about violence and degradation.
Gemser naturally plays the obligatory good girl being punished unjustly for a crime she did not commit. In this case, she’s in for smuggling drugs, and the person who framed her is no less a personage than District Attorney Robertson (Jacques Stany, from Four Flies on Gray Velvet and After the Fall of New York) himself. 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, so why not? Anyway, the first half-hour or so establishes all of the things that need to be established in the first act of any women’s prison movie. We meet the Draconian Warden (Lorraine De Selle, from Make Them Die Slowly and S.S. Extermination Camp), the Two Sadistic Prison Guards, the Bad Girl In Cahoots With The Authorities, 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 (Ursula Flores), 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.” (I’m no expert on the Italian legal system, but this business of sending male convicts to a women’s prison pending sentencing confirmation smells mighty fishy to me. Isn’t the whole point of sexually segregated prisons to keep male and female convicts apart? And who exactly needs to “confirm” these sentences, anyway?) These four guys are really bad news. First, we have O’Hara (Robert Mura) and Geronimo (Raul Cabrera, from Caged Women and Caligula and Messalina), 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 “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 de Mejo, of Manhattan Baby and House by the Cemetery-- and by the way, why the hell is everybody in this movie with a last name called Somethingson?!)-- lie dead. Harrison brings the convicts in anyway, but as they are being shown to their cells, something goes wrong, and both he and the warden end up as Crazy Boy’s hostages. Harrison is wounded, and several prison guards are killed (von Bauer bites out one woman’s carotid artery with his razorblade) before the situation stabilizes into the familiar stand-off hostage crisis. Henderson demands a radio transmitter (he curiously ends up with this colossal World War II surplus handset model), and then arranges to speak with the D.A., the very same one who had Emanuelle framed. Henderson’s demands are as follows: the D.A. 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 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 and Irene (Marla Romano, of Thor the Conqueror and The Last Warrior, and Antonella Giacomini, who share Vulnerable Petty Delinquent duties), slaps them around a bit, slashes Irene’s face with his razor, and destroys her inflatable sex doll. (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. (Either she doesn’t wear underwear, or Crazy Boy’s dick is sharp, because he doesn’t bother to take any of her clothes off first.) 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 analog) 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 take out the whole crew, killing, in the process, several inmates who happened to get in the way, including Irene.
Next come what must be the nastiest 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 three 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. (Let’s take a moment to discuss that briefcase, shall we? Granted, it’s a fairly large one, but according to my calculations, $5,000,000 in ten-dollar bills would take up over thirteen cubic feet of space. A briefcase just isn’t going to cut it-- you need something more along the lines of a steamer trunk, and a big one at that.) Henderson and company emerge from the prison with Emanuelle and Harrison 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 just starts shooting, taking out both Geronimo and O’Hara before he himself is killed 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.
You know, at some levels, this is actually a pretty disturbing movie. Very rarely do cheap-ass flicks like this one have much of a handle on what actual 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 this as, for example, Bloodsucking Freaks, nor does it seem, like the latter movie, to have been designed expressly to achieve this 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.