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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Review: Island Women (1980)

aka Gefangene Frauen

Producer, writer and director Erwin C. Dietrich is well known in foreign film circles as a kind of European equivalent to Roger Corman.  His company became a spring board for countless other talent and is probably best known for financing some of Jess Franco and Antonio Margheriti's glossier productions.  The savvy Swiss would churn out hundreds of titles in the 70s and 80s, many of which he would direct himself.  It was inevitable then that Dietrich would see the release of a women-in-prison flick or twenty, being that it is a virtual corner-stone in the big-house of exploitation.

Since sex and sleaze is unarguably the name of the game here; it is to what degree of the scale your own tastes lean that will likely determine your enjoyment factor of these types of films.  Dietrich's directorial efforts in this area are far less offensive (and imaginative) when stacked up against the likes of Franco and some of their other prurient peers; however, his sense of eroticism and attention to production values seems a little more acute.

"Somewhere in South America" we are privy to a secret meeting between President Marco and his comely female commander-in-chief, Carla.  Concerned over a pending UN investigation that might expose their forced prostitution ring, the two officials agree to round up the local talent in a bogus brothel raid and export them to "Rat Island" until the heat dies down.  After agreeing to each other's terms, Carla's own debriefing becomes the next matter of importance, as she undresses and masturbates for the President on his couch while he leers approvingly and puffs a cigar.

The brothels are busted and the working girls are rounded up and sent to the remote island.  Herded into an arena like cattle, Carla introduces herself to the convicts before sending them to the showers to get stripped, hosed down and verbally abused in preparation of a physical exam.  This equates to a deviant doc securing the ladies in stirrups and inserting a finger into their vagina to see if "everything is in order".  Then they're hustled to their cells and ravaged by the guards at lights out.  A couple of minutes of simulated sex follows, after which barred babe Rita comments, "well that was a pleasant surprise."  Another answers, "More than that, it was fantastic."  These aren’t exactly your typical women in peril, obviously.

More hanky panky follows: first between Carla and her head-guard Juan, who enjoy an indiscriminate hump on the beach; then the guards are shown getting their jollies with the jailed jezebels again.  Next we move to the arena, where inmate Lisa has been chosen to nudie-fight against one of Carla's henchman.  She emerges victorious and her efforts earn her a graphic groin-grinding session with the Commander.  Seemingly shaken after this incident, Lisa convinces the other girls to plan an escape and another trip to the doctor's stirrups provides the perfect opportunity.

Can Lisa and her band of bawdy bimbos successfully escape Rat Island with their lives?

Especially considering a political coup conveniently erupts at the very last moment to further complicate their plight?

Not to even mention the fact that our escapees are wearing absolutely nothing but their shoes!

It's a real nail-biter right up to the very end, I'm tellin' ya!

Ultimately, Island Women is about as harmless a WiP film as you are likely to see.  As long as you don't find lingering split beaver shots and a few scenes that border on hardcore alarming, then your comfort zone is assured.  It uncharacteristically offers very little in the way of violence and unsavory situations.  The few moments of perversity that do transpire are certainly tamer than what was fashionable at the time.  So if ever a women-in-prison film could almost be labeled as light-hearted, Island Women may be it.  I personally found it endearing in all its senselessness.

and the awards go to:
* France Lomay who turns in the best performance of the film as Lisa and asks cellmate Rita after their first medical exam "do you think that stupid doctor put his finger up all the other girls?"
* 70's Euro-sleaze starlet Karine Gambier as Carla, who does practically everyone in the film and tells the creepy doctor before seducing him, "I want your medical opinion on my health."
* 70's French porn starlet Brigitte Lahaie as Rita, who simply looks amazing in whatever position she happens to find herself in (most often on her back) and expresses to the other girls, "I'd rather work for nothing than live without sex. I can't help it, I need sex."
* The head guard Juan, who relishes hosing down the ladies in the shower and remarks to Rita "you got the kind of body I like to work on", then adding "you got a nice puss."
* The peculiar doctor who cuts out and reassembles photos of naked women, can determine the status of a woman's health by simply fingering her vagina for a moment ("everything is in order, next please") and says to Carla, "your body is definitely a work of nature for me to examine, you know?"

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