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Escape from Women’s Prison (1978)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/30/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/22/2019
Nose around the cinematic universe long enough, and you’re bound to notice some true oddities – movies which don’t fit the general mold. Some of the weirdest movies are exploitation films from the 1970s. Truly turning their back on mainstream fare, the makers of these movies often abandoned storytelling and character development to focus on the unabashed promotion of one sleazy idea or another. The films were far from art and often weren’t especially good, but their blind devotion to titillation made some of them a mesmerizing experience. This was especially true of foreign films from this period, where morals were looser and, thus, things got crazier. And they don’t get much crazier than 1978’s Escape from Women’s Prison.
Escape from Women’s Prison opens by introducing the audience to two very diverse group of women. First, we have a tennis team, who are taking a bus through the countryside on their way to a tournament. Secondly, we have Monica (Lilli Carati), Diana (Marina D’Aunia), Eric (Ada Pometti), and Betty (Artemia Terenziani), four women who have just escaped from prison. When their getaway car is run off the road, the fugitives hi-hack the team’s bus. One of the tennis players discloses that she knows of a nearby house, the convicts insist on going there. They are even more excited about the house, as it belongs to a judge (Filippo De Gara), and they decide that he will be a good place to start their schemes of revenge on society. Upon arriving at the house, the escapees start to indulge in the trappings of living on the outside, while they continue to threaten their hostages. Soon, animal instincts will kick in on both sides and a tense siege will begin.
The first few minutes of Escape from Women’s Prison will lead to a series of mixed emotions. First of all, one will be disappointed by the somewhat misleading title. The “escape” is simply the four women appearing at the bottom of a wall. Those hoping to see an actual escape with a plan or an attempt at an inconspicuous exit will quickly see that we get nothing of the sort here. However, this will soon make way for other feelings, as the film certainly can’t be accused of beating around the bush. Within the first 10 minutes, the fugitives have hijacked the bus and taken the tennis team to the judge’s house. Having read a brief synopsis of the film before watching it, I was surprised to see so much of what I’d read transpire so quickly. European movies often drag, but Escape from Women’s Prison appeared to be determined to hit the ground running.
The problem is that the remaining two-acts-plus become a decidedly risqué siege and torture (sort of) movie. Once the escapees and their hostages arrive at the judge’s house and the women add the frightened man to their group of detainees, the movie devolves into scene after scene of violence and degradation. (The film’s on-screen title for this print is “A Story of Sex and Violence”.) The jailbirds either berate the girls or taunt the men. There is very little story save from a weak subplot concerning Monica’s political leanings. When we aren’t watching someone being humiliated, we see the group attempting to flee their captors. The movie continues to churn out these moments until we reach the somewhat bleak ending.
Obviously, Escape from Women’s Prison isn’t for everyone. But, if you are a fan of grindhouse fare, then you will find this one appealing. If nothing else, the film should be applauded for sticking to its principles and never straying form the path of wacky trash. Director/Co-Writer Giovanni Brusadori doesn’t bring much style to the film, but he certainly shows a lot of nerve. Overall, there aren’t many original ideas here, but (in a way) it was refreshing for a film to show that women can have a sexual appetite. Escape from Women’s Prison may not be the pinnacle of Eurosleaze, but it contains all of the hallmarks of this sub-genre and plays as an example of what a movie can be like when it doesn’t hold back.
Escape from Women’s Prison also celebrates the diversity of female body types on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Severin Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is sharp, but it shows some scratches on the image which can’t be ignored. The picture also displays nearly constant grain. The colors are a bit washed out, and there are a few jumpy splices. I know that Severin puts a lot of working into their transfers and that they work with the best elements which they can find, but this one looks rough. (Of course, for some, that will only enhance the grindhouse feel.) The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a mono track, we don’t get any dynamic action here, but the actors are always audible, and the music and sound effects don’t overpower the dialogue.
The Escape from Women’s Prison Blu-ray Disc contains only a few extras. “Le Evase” is the 94-minute Italian cut of the film. This transfer has more of a “VHS” look, but it doesn’t show the grain and defects seen in main version of the film featured here. Which makes one wonder why this cut – longer and better-looking – isn’t the main attraction on this Disc. “Of Freedom, Sex and Violence” (33 minutes) offers a modern interview with Director Giovanni Brusadori who, like every Italian filmmaker, is interviewed in front of a bookcase. He jumps right in and gives a detailed description of the making of Escape from Women’s Prison. And while he states that it was long ago, he has quite a memory of the film’s production. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long