In the annals of shitty cinema, the 1980s saw the Italians holding the world championship crown. Between Enzo G. Castellari, Joe D’Amato, and Lucio Fulci, American b-flicks just didn’t stand a chance. Bruno Mattei is another filmmaker who can be added to this list of sublime cinematic futility. His 1983 film, Women’s Prison Massacre, also released as Emanuelle Escapes From Hell, among a couple of other titles, is an unbelievable piece of shit. Not only is it bottom feeding trash, it’s sexually exploitative. Being a film about a women’s prison, that’s to be expected. But there is also a cut floating around out there with hardcore porn, using body doubles of the cast, stitched into the R-rated sex scenes. I didn’t see that cut because, believe it or not, I wanted to watch this dog for the plot.
The film is the 9th in the Black Emanuelle film series, which was a ripoff of the Emmanuelle series from France. There’s no point in trying to parse the series’ continuity. These flicks aren’t meant to tell a gripping story. All a viewer needs to know is that a character named Emanuelle (Laura Gesmer) has been sent to a women’s prison.
Right away this flick looks like the piece of shit it is. Mattei and company couldn’t be bothered with finding a real prison set. Instead, it looks like the production rented an abandoned Italian villa and just plopped their cast into it. There are a couple places with prison bars and the cells are appropriately austere, but that’s about it. In addition, this film appears to take place in the United States, but other than Anglicizing the characters’ names and stenciling ‘Police’ on the side of cop cars instead of ‘Polizia,’ no other effort was made.
At first, the film plays out like any other women in prison flick. The first lesbian shower scene comes about 11 minutes in. There’s also conflict between the wrongly imprisoned heroine (Emanuelle), and the toughest prisoner, Albina (Ursula Flores), but this story runs out of gas before it gets going to satisfaction. That’s because Mattei and company decided to throw some men into the mix. That makes sense considering part of the aim of the production was to produce a porn film. Introducing male characters allowed them to get the straight sex they needed.
The male characters, woe be to us viewers, are a group of violent criminals that were being transported to another prison. Circumstances led them to the women’s prison where they quickly take it over and hold the staff and prisoners hostage. What follows is rape, after rape, after rape. These bad boys just can’t stop themselves, and most of the women end up being reluctant, and even willing, victims. What had promise as a shitty prison flick becomes an exercise in endurance for us viewers. How much rape can we take? How much more time are we willing to spend with these terrible, awful, no-good, very bad characters?
Back when this film was made, there was no such thing as the World Wide Web. It took more than just a little typing to find some video of explicit sex. This was the type of film one had to wade through to get their porn fix back then. Luckily for the horny youth of the 1980s, there was a fast-forward button on the VCR. There was no such respite for this reviewer. I watched the whole thing, in a version that was no more explicit than some occasional full-frontal nudity. But that also meant I sat through an afterthought of a plot, and one that was filled with some of the least enjoyable characters ever put to film. Early on (there’s a knife fighting scene that is particularly precious) this was looking like an excellent shitty movie, but as soon as the men showed up, it fell apart. Alien: Resurrection is a better film than Women’s Prison Massacre.