Thursday, October 20, 2016

Femmine infernali (1980)

... aka: Escape
... aka: Escape from Hell
... aka: Hell Females
... aka: Hellfire on Ice, Part 2: Escape from Hell
... aka: Hell Prison
... aka: Les évadées du camp d'amour (Escapees of Love Camp)

Directed by:
"Tony Moore" (Edoardo Mulargia)

I've owned a copy of the Linda Blair vehicle SAVAGE ISLAND (1985) for quite some time now and put off watching it after learning it's mostly made up of footage from two other Italian / Spanish women-in-prison exploitation movies; this one and Orinoco: Prigioniere del sesso / “Orinoco: Prison of Sex” (better known by the title HOTEL PARADISE). Both Escape and Orinoco were shot back-to-back by the same director for the same production companies in the same country using the same sets and featuring the same actors. In fact, the two are so similar that for the longest time they were listed as being the same film in most reference books. So I held off on watching the Blair version until I acquired the other two films just so I could map out the chronology of how one shoot produces two films and then two films become three films and about how three films can then be released under about thirty different titles between them. Anyway, I now have all three so expect to see a one-two-three punch of W.I.P. crap in your near future.

This genre of film basically exists for one reason: To show scantily-clad / naked females being raped, abused, tortured and degraded in various ways. Having a mostly female cast trapped in a prison setting is pretty much the ideal exploitation premise because it means more shower scenes and more lesbian scenes which means more flesh on display. A tropical prison setting is even better. After all, hot = less clothing and hot also = more showers needed. Most of these films attempt to justify what they're doing by applying a “girl power” angle and allowing the ladies to either outsmart the corrupt staff and escape or turn the tables on their oppressors and get bloody revenge. Of course that usually happens in the last ten minutes or so. There are far more pressing things to take care of first!

To its credit, Escape from Hell clicks not only all of the expected boxes, plus also a few unexpected ones. Things open with a group of ladies dressed essentially in ripped, stained t-shirts doing their hard labor for the day and getting pushed, kicked, whipped and berated by laughing, leering guards the entire time. A girl named Ann attempts to escape but she's caught, gang raped and murdered. Lead guard Martinez (Serafino Profumo) tells everyone else she's been killed and eaten by a jaguar but most of the women know better. Things are about to get even worse for the prisoners with the arrival of the new warden (Luciano Pigozzi), who's an asshole germaphobe that claims to be a stickler for law and order but isn't above torturing the prisoners when they do something he doesn't happen to like. He's also so uptight that even his room cannot be dusted to his satisfaction. As it turns out, the Warden is under contract to clear a path through the swamp and I bet you can guess who gets to work their asses off even harder than usual to accomplish that.

Along with the new Warden, a new batch of prisoners are brought in, including the pouty Vivienne (Cristina Lay), who's set to serve 10 long years. She's introduced to her three cellmates; Mary (Maite Nicote), a former prostitute, Zaira (Ajita Wilson), who's serving 20 years for unpremeditated murder for accidentally shooting her partner in a circus act gone wrong and blonde lesbian Katie (Cintia Lodetti), a lifer who rather casually mentions that she killed her girlfriend as if were nothing to her. Katie is also the Queen Bee of the prison and insists that whatever she says goes and whatever she wants she eventually gets... including the new arrival. Vivienne resists her advances at first and is slapped in the face. She eventually caves in but Zaira also has eyes for the newcomer and gets into a nude cat fight with Katie (“You black bitch!” “White trash!”) over her.

The girls are called things like “swine,” “rats” and “fucking whores” and are fed nothing but a steady diet of snake meat because it “gives them zip.” For punishment, they get strung up by their wrists, are forced to run around in a circle carrying heavy bags, are whipped bloody or get shot dead. Mary, who's been screwing one of the guards for special favors (“I prefer to buy you like a whore than take you by force!”), is busted with booze and cigarettes so she ends up getting buried up to her shoulders on the jungle floor and is killed by a giant python. Having had enough torture, rape and slave labor to probably last them a lifetime, Vivienne, Zaira and Katie, along with their new cellmate Lucy (former Miss Italy Zaira Zoccheddu), decide to attempt an escape and even have an ally on the inside...

Classical music loving drunk Dr. Farrell (Anthony Steffen), the only halfway decent person who works at the camp, has seen enough himself and decides to help the ladies out. He gives them a potion that will make them erupt in red soars and puke up blood in hopes that he can convince the Warden they have the plague. It works and he's given permission to take the infected girls a few miles away from the camp until they recover. Farrell decides to kill the Warden before they take off, which ends up biting them in the ass once his body is discovered. What follows is a Most Dangerous Game-style forest hunt with the doc and the girls trying to elude armed guards whilst also trying to survive the elements during their 10 mile trek to the river. There's death by snake, leeches, dehydration, quicksand and gunfire, plus an out of nowhere fantasy striptease from Wilson, which is wedged in because the film had gone (gasp!) a whopping 15 minutes without gratuitous nudity beforehand.

Also for your viewing pleasure, you get a snake having its head bitten off, a crazy woman “dog lover” who supposedly has a sexual relationship with the resident canine and a voyeuristic mute servant who's had his tongue removed. There's plenty of torture violence (though this isn't quite as sadistic as the Ilsa movies) and full frontal nudity in shower scenes, soft core sex scenes (both straight and girl-girl) and cat fights and one long and rather graphic rape scene including spread eagle shots that would have gotten this slapped with an X here in America had they not been cut out. In other words, you get everything you could possibly want from one of these things and then some with this dumb but lively piece of Euro-sleaze. The version I viewed ran 89 minutes and does not appear to have been cut, though some sources claim there's a 93 minute version out there.

Wizard Video first released this in the U.S. in 1984 under the title Escape, which managed to actually beat Savage Island to theaters so some people saw parts of the same film twice. In 1990, the obscure label Hurricane Pictures then reissued it under the name Hellfire on Ice, Part 2: Escape from Hell (the *other* Hellfire on Ice was actually 1972's Sweet Sugar). It was then picked up by Troma and Shock-O-Rama for DVD distribution. The UK version titled Hell Prison was cut by about 5 minutes. In Germany, it was released as part three in a bogus series entitled Die Schwarze Nymphomanin / “The Black Nymphomaniac.” The first two Black Nympho releases (all of which starred African American post op transsexual Wilson) were Queen of Sex (1977) and Erotic Passion (1981). It was also released in Germany under the irresistible title Die Liebeshexen vom Rio Cannibale / “Love Witches of Cannibal River.” This is much easier to find that its companion piece.

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