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Womens Prison Massacre

POPcinema // R // April 26, 2005
List Price: $9.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted April 14, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Say what you will about the merits of Bruno Mattei's cinema. Unabashed rip offs of popular Hollywood hits like Dawn Of The Dead, Robocop and Predator abound throughout his filmography, as do rip offs of popular Italian genre films like Cannibal Holocaust. He's not really known for his originality at least in terms of story development or plot situations. His direction is sometimes sloppy and even worse, sometimes dull. He doesn't have a knack for pulling truly great performances out of his actors and he rarely manages to create any serious tension in his horror films.

He's a hack.

One thing that a lot of Mattei's work does have though is an infectious and delirious charm usually brought about by copious amounts of sex and gore and plenty of unintentional humor from really bad dialogue and poor man's special effects. While this rarely leads to 'good' movie making in the traditional sense, it does lead to some good entertainment, even if more often than not it's in the so-bad-it's-good kind of way.

In the late seventies and early eighties women in prison films were big business in Italy and playing in grindhouses across the world. They were made fast and cheap and concentrated less on actual storylines than on gratuitous set pieces that served as showcases for explicit sex and violence (often times both at once). In 1983 he basically shot two films for the price of one and he churned out pair of memorable women in prison films with Violence In A Women's Prison and this film, Women's Prison Massacre (better known in North America as Blade Violent and abroad as Emanuelle In Prison). These films used many of the same performers and some of the same sets and crew members as well.

Story-wise what's it all about? Emanuelle (Laura Gemser as usual) is to the big house when her investigative reporting uncovers the goods on a local sinister politician. Once she's thrown behind bars she quickly finds herself in a bit of a catch twenty two when she makes fast enemies with the warden but also with a prominent fellow prisoner who wields some influence inside. The warden more or less lets the prisoners go at it, and could care less if the women under her watch get hurt or die – after all, they're criminals! Things really get out of hand though and soon the spiral from bad to worse when a gang of male convicts from a nearby men's penitentiary are sent off to be executed. Along the way they manage to overtake the guards and steal the prison transport vehicle. Rather than make a break for it they instead decide to head on over to the women's prison where they hold the foxy female felons at gunpoint and do nasty things to them.

Gemser does her usually decent job in the lead. Say what you will about the roles she chose but the woman had some serious screen presence going on in the majority of the films that she starred in – this one being no exception. Her uniquely chiseled face and amazingly toned body make her interesting to look at and while the story doesn't push her acting skills too much, she does the best she can with the material. Those looking for a cheap thrill or two on her behalf will be disheartened to know that she stays fully clothed throughout the film – a rarity in her filmography but a fact none the less.

The movie, like most of the other films in the genre, basically structures itself around the violent set pieces. In its uncut form, this one is a blood soaked sexy shocker. Sadly, this release is the R Rated version of the film and over five minutes of footage is missing from this version. What this means is that pretty much all of the sex and violence has been cut out of the movie. When you take into consideration that the film is based around its wild portrayals of said sex and violence, it's a huge detriment when you realize that the exploitative elements have all but been eliminated from the film. Basically, the entire point of the movie is gone and you're just left with a quickly made exploitation film that doesn't really have anything going for it. The uncut version of the film is great, the R rated version is not.



The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen image looks quite good. There aren't any problems with compression artifacts and edge enhancement, while there, is really minor. Some minute instances of print damage are evident on the source material but there's nothing to severe as to take anything out of the viewing experience. Grain is there, but it's not harsh enough to ruin the picture. Some of the colors look just a little bit washed out but again, it's a minor issue. This is certainly a respectable transfer.


The English language Dolby Digital Mono sound mix has a little bit of background hiss in a few spots but is otherwise just fine. Dialogue is clean and clear and the score comes through nicely as well.


Aside from some decent liner notes from the illustrious '42nd St. Pete,' Shock-O-Rama have supplied us with trailers for Bite Me!, Prison A-Go-Go, The Screaming Dead, The Sinful Wives, Suburban Nightmare, Lust For Dracula and Chantal.

Final Thoughts:

It's a crying shame that so many of the 'good bits' were chopped out of Women's Prison Massacre for it's theatrical release in the United States and it's a crying shame that Shock-O-Rama was unable to procure an uncut version of the film for it's North American DVD debut. While the film is still an entertaining trash fest even in its R-Rated form, most fans will want to opt for either the X-Rated Kult DVD (as Black Emanuelle - Revolte Im Frauenzuchthaus Teil 2 ) or the Vipco DVD (as Emanuelle In Prison), both Region 0 PAL format, as they're uncut. If this version were also uncut I could easily recommend it but as such, I'd say skipt it unless you're a hardcore Bruno Mattei completist.

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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