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Roger Corman Collection 3 Escape from Prison

Other // R // November 30, 2010
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted December 14, 2010 | E-mail the Author

The Movies:

The third entry in Hollywood Select Video's Roger Corman - Best Of The B's collection is Escape From Prison, another quickly put together set made fast and cheap to cash in on the director's legacy. While Shout! Factory continues to put a lot of obvious love and effort into their special edition Corman reissues, Hollywood Select Video simply reissues their titles from whatever pre-existing source materials they can get their hands on. The results speak for themselves - and while it's nice to have these films on DVD, the obvious lack of effort will certainly be disheartening to their fans.

DISC ONE:

The Big Bust Out:

Another Corman film appearing on DVD for the first time, this 1973 Corman production was directed by Ernst R. von Theumer, probably best known for directing Jungle Warriors with Sybil Danning and Woody Strode and producing Chained Heat. The film was written by Sergio Garrone who worked on everything from Nazisploitation films to spaghetti westerns to horror pictures during the boom days of the Italian film industry.

When the movie begins, a multiracial group of seven women are in prison, called out by the nasty warden for their various crimes. From there, we get a look at what is evidently the day to day life behind bars for these women - cavity searches are common, prisoners get rough with one another, and thing are just generally seedy all around. Thankfully there's Sister Maria (Monica Tueber), a nun who takes pity on the seven girls and somehow manages to pull a few strings and get the powers that be to allow her to take them to her convent to work. For some reason this convent has a lot of male armed guards in odd outfits patrolling its perimeters. Once the girls are at the convent, however, all bets are off and it's time for the titular bust out. They take down some of the armed guards and steal their weapons and force some of the other nuns to hand over their habits so that they can escape in disguise. Maria, feeling guilty for what's happening, insists on accompanying the convicts.

After wising up and realizing that they stick out like a bunch of sour thumbs, they head to a friend's house and hang out and make out with some girls boyfriend for a bit, and then hang out in the nude by the pool. Unfortunately for them, it turns out the boyfriend is actually involved in human trafficking and he figures a collection of hot chicks will fetch a hefty sum on the black market. He sells them off to an old rich coot but they aren't going down without a fight. Another escape attempt ensues and lots of people get raped. There's some martial arts bits later and a fair bit of good old fashioned violence too.

The Big Bust Out isn't very good at all, but it is quite a bit of good trashy fun. Look past the obvious dubbing and the massive plot holes and don't worry about any sense of logic and just enjoy this one for the steaming slice of Euro-trash that it is. It's got plenty of sadistic violence, gratuitous nudity, and weird nunsploitation elements you could want, plus a bit of gore and all the bad dialogue you can handle. At under eighty minutes it doesn't overstay its welcome and while some might lament its lack of character development or believable premise, on a surface level, this one works. It's as dumb as a rock and if you think about it too much your head will start to hurt, but for sleazy, mindless escapism you can't really go wrong with it.

The Hot Box:

This film was also released on DVD as part of the Women In Prison Triple Feature that was put out by Shock-O-Rama a few years back. The film was produced by Corman with Jonathan Demme and Ciro Santiago in 1972, and co-written by Demme in an attempt to replicate the success of Corman's earlier women in prison box office smashes like The Big Doll House - the only catch being it's not really a women in prison movie at all.

The film tells the story of a quartet of foxy nurses - Lynn Forest (Margaret Markov), Bunny Kincaid (Andrea Cagan), Ellie St. George (Rickey Richardson) and Sue Pennwright (Laurie Rose) - who are captured by a group of rebels calling themselves The People's Army in the republic of San Rosario, lead by a man named Flavio (Carmen Argenziano). They men intend to force them to help their revolutionary soldiers but they appear to be far more interested in fondling hot women than doing much else. The girls eventually escape but are then captured by a nasty militant on the other side of the conflict who takes full advantage of them and proves himself a far worse captor.

Directed by Joe Viola, who also helmed Angels Hard As They Come, this film is entertaining enough thanks to its attractive female cast and a fair bit of action. The film does a good job of exploiting its tropical settings and the copious and wanton nudity doesn't hurt things either. As far as the script goes, it's surprisingly heavy handed and preachy, unusual for a film like this, and can't quite manage to really make its point despite the fact that buried somewhere under the boobs and gunplay is some sort of socio-political statement trying to be made. This isn't a particularly deep film despite some honest attempts now and then, but it's got some great action and the performances, if not 'good' in the award winning sense, are enjoyable. It moves at a good pace, the direction is solid if unremarkable, and while it's hardly as sleazy as many of its counterparts it packs in enough exploitative content to satisfy most viewers.

DISC TWO:

Women In Cages:

Originally released by New Concorde on DVD years back, this movie has been out of print for some time. The best known of the films in this collection, this 1971 Corman production directed by Gerardo de Leon (he of Mad Doctor Of Blood Island and Brides Of Blood fame) follows an American woman named Carol 'Jeff' Jeffries (Jennifer Gan) who is sentenced to a stint in a Filipino prison after her boyfriend, Rudy (Charlie Davao), sets her up and she's busted for drug smuggling. She's locked up and he tells her to keep quiet about the dope and he'll have her out of there in no time, but she's unaware that Rudy has really got other plans for her.

Meanwhile, on the inside, Jeff is running into problems with a tough American warden named Alabama (Pam Grier) who doesn't like white American girls and who runs a sexual torture chamber she calls The Playpen where she exploits the nubile prison population for her own kinky wants and needs. Eventually Jeff and some of her fellow prisoners decide that enough is enough and so they launch a prison break in hopes of getting out of this Hell hole and back to civilization.

Filled to the brim with the sleazy sex and violence so often associated with the women in prison genre, Women In Cages is a grim, trashy picture that delivers sex and violence galore. From the copious nude shower scenes to the lesbian bits to the shoot outs to the nihilistic dialogue, this is a fast paced drive-in picture that delivers exactly what you want it to. Gerardo de Leon's direction may not be flashy, but he keeps the picture moving at a rock solid pace and does a great job of taking full advantage of the interesting terrain that the picture is set against, particularly once the women make it out and the inevitable chase ensues.

Performance wise, Gan is good in the lead - she's likeable and sympathetic enough to work in the part and she's easy on the eyes as well so even if she comes off as a bit of an airhead at times, she still works in front of the camera. The supporting cast, featuring the likes of Judy Brown and Roberta Collins, are also a lot of fun here and all do fine in their parts but the real scene stealer in this picture if Pam Grier. She plays her jaded lesbian warden with such venomous enthusiasm that you can't help but love her, and Grier's interesting features really help her to stand out in the part. There are better women in prison films out there than this one, but Women In Cages delivers all the staples the genre is associated with and it does so quite well which results in a grim, nasty, sleazy but wholly entertaining picture with a great cast and some memorable set pieces.

Swamp Women:

Directed by Corman himself in 1955, this film has been available on budget DVD for some time now from both Alpha Video and, before that, Brentwood and it was also given the MST3K treatment some time ago. Corman's directorial debut, the film tells the story of an oil man named Bob Matthews (Mike Connors) and his girlfriend, Marie (Susan Cummings), who head out of New Orleans to a swampy bayou area so that Bob can scope out a lot he thinks might be worth drilling on. While these two are meandering their way through the swamp, we learn that a group of crooks stashed some stolen diamonds in this same swamp a few years ago. While the men involved were executed for their crimes, their girlfriends are still alive, locked up in a cell where a lady cop named Lee Hampton (Carole Matthews) decides to impersonate a fellow prisoner in hopes of busting them out and having them lead her to the loot.

Lead by Josie (Marie Windsor) and her pals Billie (Jill Jarmyn) and Vera (Beverly Garland), they bust their way out of the big house and into the swamp where they meet up with Bob and Marie and cause trouble for our two fine citizens.

Chock full of stock footage to pad out the run time and catfights, tough talking dialogue and unintentional (?) lesbian overtones, Swamp Women isn't very good but it is interesting in a goofy sort of way. The acting isn't much to write home about but Garland is great as Vera and the tension that arises between Matthews' Lee and Connors' Bob works well in what semblance of a plot there is. The story is really no great shakes at all, there's not much of a plot to think about or much in the way of deeper meaning or symbolism but for a fast, cheap, schlocky exploitation picture this one does alright. It's a film ripe for ripping on, so the MST3K treatment that it got was well deserved, but if nothing else it's amusing enough in its own right, though sometimes for all the wrong reasons.

The DVDs:

Video:

Each of the films in this set is presented fullframe, which isn't really an issue as the compositions all look fine. They're all interlaced and taken from old video masters, and there's a video bug appearing in the corner of each movie. The quality is, to be frank, pretty lousy. Women In Cages looks the best of the three and, video bug notwithstanding, it looks about the same as the previous New Concorde DVD release. The other films? They're soft, loopy looking tape transfers that are devoid of much detail and suffer from color fading, obvious print damage, tape rolls and other very obvious and irritating flaws. It's obvious that no effort was put into making these films look much better than old VHS tapes - be aware of that going in, the quality here is pretty lame. This film has been readily available on DVD for a while now from the likes of Alpha Video and other budget labels - the quality here is about on par with those other releases, it doesn't offer any sort of upgrade at all.

Sound:

Each film is presented in English language Dolby Digital Mono and the quality if the audio is about on par with that of the video. Again, Women In Cages sounds the best, it is the newest of the films in the set and was taken from a better source than the rest. Dialogue is fine for that movie and the levels are well balanced. As to the other films, expect some periodic hiss, level fluctuations, minor distortion now and then and other audible flaws. No alternate language or subtitle options are offered.

Extras:

The first two discs contain only basic, static menus and scene selection. The third disc contains a trailer for Women In Cages and a 'bonus movie' in the form of High School Big Shot, a 1959 production directed by Joel Rapp and starring Tom Pittman and Virginia Aldridge which Corman executive produced. Pittman plays Marv, whose unemployed father has left him penniless and as such, unable to get with Betty, the girl of his dreams. He gets expelled for writing her term paper but that's not enough for her, she wants a man with cash - so Marv has only one option, and that's to turn to the mob! Released a year after Pittman was tragically killed in a car accident, High School Big Shot isn't a particularly remarkable film but it's entertaining enough. Pittman makes for a likeable enough lead and even if the film plays in clich├ęs and predictability, it moves at a quick place and offers some interesting set pieces and dialogue. Like the other features, it doesn't look or sound particularly good and was taken from what appears to be an old tape source.

Final Thoughts:

An entertaining batch of fun B-movies, Roger Corman - Best Of The B's... Escape From Prison is a pretty solid selection of exploitation films that fans of drive-in cinema are sure to enjoy, and for that reason it is recommended - just be aware that the quality is rather dire and that no real effort has been put into the presentation. These films definitely deserved better than they got here, but they're still worth seeing.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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