Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Sadomania - Hölle der Lust (1981)

... aka: Hellhole Women
... aka: L'enfer du plaisir (The Pleasure of Hell)
... aka: Prisoners of the Flesh
... aka: Sadomania
... aka: Sadomanía (el infierno de la pasión) (Sadomania: Inferno of Passion)

Directed by:
Jesus Franco

Newlyweds Michael (Ángel Caballero) and Olga (Uta Koepke) Gordon are driving through an unnamed Central American country when they decide to be a little adventurous and take a back road. No Trespassing sign? No problem. They drive a little ways and pull over to the side to make out. Next thing they know they have guns pointed in their faces. The couple have not-so-accidentally stumbled upon the “Hacienda Blanca;” a private rehabilitation camp for “delinquent women” according to the sign. In reality, it's a place where women are kidnapped, tortured, sexually exploited / raped, forced to do grueling slave labor and are frequently even killed. Michael and Olga are brought before sadistic directress Magda Urlato (Ajita Wilson), who promptly informs them that “the honeymoon is over.” Magda decides to keep Olga there but instructs Michael to leave the country immediately and has him dragged off by her topless guards. Little does she know, but Olga's in for quite a little adventure. The prisoners are all expected to work long days swinging a pickaxe or shovel in a hot rock quarry. No need to worry about that too much, though, as there are far worse things that go on there. Besides, she can at least get a nice tan since the “inmates” are only given cut-off jean shorts to wear.

You may wonder how Magda can get away with what she's doing. Well, that's because she has a high-ranking politician in her pocket. Governor Mendoza (“Robert Foster” / Antonio Mayans) not only gets to pick and choose who he wants to have sex with (or try to have sex with as we will later see) but he also joins Magda for some Most Dangerous Game-style hunting excursions. A French model who attempts to escape is deemed unworthy of even being raped, so instead she's put in a cage, driven to hysteria from Magda's taunting and is then unleashed into a swamp buck naked. After giving her a generous 1 minute head start, the Governor and Magda track her down with their rifles, shoot her and then let the local gator population eliminate the evidence.

Olga's new cellmates are Mercedes Llorens (Andrea Guzon), a lesbian who keeps trying to get into everyone's pants (not hard considering they don't even wear them half the time!) and troubled Tara Lambert, who's played by pretty blonde Ursula “Fellner” / Buchfellner; a 1979 Playboy Playmate from Germany who also starred in DEVIL HUNTER (1980) and The Story of Linda (1981) for Franco. Tara ended up there after being caught smoking weed with her boyfriend, which, in bogus Hacienda Blanca terms, equates to drug smuggling and trafficking. Since she's one of the hottest ladies at the prison, the Governor requests she come to his home. Mendoza's bisexual wife Loba (Gina Janssen) has her way with the underage teen (“You have lovely breasts; firm and ripe. They need to be caressed and loved.”), but the Governor still can't perform. Loba wants someone – anyone – who can turn him on so she can eventually get knocked up and have his child. To reward Tara for her efforts, Loba takes her down to the docks and sells her to a sailor / white slaver named Mario (Otto Retzer), who suspects he's being overcharged (“7 thousand?! That's pretty high. I can get a 12-year-old for 7 thousand.”)

Worried about what's going on at the Governor's house, Olga finally caves in and lets her lez cellmate “comfort” her. After Mercedes is done there, she mocks a guard, telling her her pussy is “A whole lot cleaner and prettier than yours is;” leading to a cat-fight. Magda sticks a long pin through Mercedes' breast for punishment and then lets her and the guard duel to the death. While viewing the fight, Mendoza becomes interested in Mercedes but has his doubts that she, "a confirmed lesbian," will be able to turn him on. Nonetheless, she's taken back to the Governor's house, chained to a chair naked and is raped by a German Shepherd (!!!) Watching all of that go down gets the sick-o Governor hot enough to finally have sex with his wife.

With her job now done, Mercedes is sold to the sailors, gets raped again and then ends up being re-sold to lisping gay pimp Lucas (played by Franco himself), who runs an oceanfront whorehouse. Mercedes finds a deathly ill Tara there and discovers her former cellmate is not only stricken with VD but also has an infected breast where one of her customers attempted to bite her nipple off. She and Uschi (Marie Luise Lusewitz), another girl who used to live at the prison, attempt to nurse her back to health, while Michael helps Olga bust out of prison. Can the reunited lovebirds save Mercedes from a fate worse than death i.e. spreading her legs for twenty dirty old men per day? Will Magda, the Governor and his wife ever pay for their crimes?

Though not saying much, this may very well be the pinnacle of Franco's uber-trashy women-in-prison cycle. It delivers the expected wall-to-wall female nudity, rape, violence, whipping, soft-core sex and torture, along with some genuinely tasteless, outrageous and surprising moments. As per the director's usual, he plays around with camera shots and there are lots of slow zooms, out of focus / blurry shots, shots into mirrors, shots through chicken wire, etc. This locations are fantastic and, in between the action, we're treated to many breathtaking shots of the horizon and ocean at various times of morning, day, dusk and night. Use of silhouette cast by the sky is a recurring visual motif here and the shots are often incredibly beautiful and striking. All of the above elements help to make the routine (and often incredibly silly and dumb) story much easier to swallow. Perhaps of everyone involved, DOP Juan Soler deserves a special shout out for his work most of all.

While literally dozens of little-known, or completely unknown and anonymous, actresses go through the naked paces here, the real standout is Wilson. I've written a bit about Wilson in the past – like in a previous review for Franco's MACUMBA SEXUAL (1983) - but she's certainly one of the, if not the, most enigmatic and mysterious exploitation actress of her time. Being a post-op trans woman, saying Wilson accomplished something miraculous is really understating it. She became a big enough sex symbol in Europe that she was able to headline her own starring vehicles and even had success as a model; appearing on the cover of Players and numerous other men's magazines. She even had exposure here in America in several films plus in the widely-read JET Magazine, who selected her as a  “Beauty of the Week” in a 1981 issue.

Of course, it was merely a rumor at the time that Wilson was born a man and the actress herself never officially came “out of the closet” (and never will since she died in a car accident nearly 30 years ago), but I'm still wanting to learn more about this fascinating performer. Recent media exposure for trans celebs like Olympic decathlon winner / reality TV star Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner and Emmy-nominated trans actress Laverne Cox (Orange Is the New Black), has quite surprisingly brought Wilson's name back into the mainstream media, where she's being heralded as a trailblazer of sorts. Even so, next to nothing is known about the real Ajita Wilson. Didn't anyone personally know her who could come forward and share some insight or information about her? Friends? Family? Co-stars? Maybe one day someone will step forward.

Franco also co-wrote (with Günter Ebert), produced and edited the film. He even goes an extra mile in his cameo role by having an above-the-waste simulated gay sex scene with a male lover, who's played by Wilson sans wig and wearing a fake mustache! Franco's partner and frequent star Lina Romay strangely doesn't appear here but was the assistant director and assistant editor instead, using her real name, Rosa Almirall. Other Franco women-in-prison movies include 99 Women (1969), Lovers of Devil's Island (1974), Women Behind Bars (1975), BARBED WIRE DOLLS (1976), ILSA, THE WICKED WARDEN (1977), Love Camp (1977) and WOMEN IN CELLBLOCK 9 (1978). I may be missing a few... and that list doesn't even include other films he made which feature women being kidnapped, held against their will and raped / tortured in mental hospitals, in castles, on islands and in places other than a prison.

There were many different versions of this released globally, some cut down to as little as 84 minutes.  What I watched was the 103 minute Spanish version under the title Sadomanía (el infierno de la pasión) (“Sadomania: Inferno of Passion”), which has been dubbed into English. For the DVD release, Blue Underground accidentally screwed up several scenes meant to be tinted for night. It's obvious but hardly worth the big uproar some made over it.


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