Thursday, 12 February 2009

Emanuelle in Prison (1983)

Oh come on, Laura, this film isn't that bad.

Oh Emanuelle, you mischievous minx, what saucy adventures are you getting up to this time? If you've never heard of Emanuelle before (shame on you), here is a brief run-down. In 1974, a French film named Emmanuelle was released, with Dutch beauty Sylvia Kristel as the titular character. The plot isn't worth mentioning but it did feature lots of sex, nudity and a woman inserting cigarettes into her vag, so naturally it became the most popular French film of all time. A bunch of sequels followed with other actors stepping into the role and various ripoffs began to crop up, with different spelling permutations used to distance themselves from the original. The name Emmanelle became synonymous with softcore titillation. If you see an Emanuelle film (or an Emanuelle film or an Emmannuelle film or an Emmmannnuellle film), you are guaranteed to see at least one boob, but usually two or more.

One such ripoff is the Black Emanuelle series, so named because of star Laura Gemser's slightly darker skin, but mostly to avoid copyright infringement. Complicating things are a bunch of unrelated films starring Gemser that changed her name to Emanuelle in the English dub to tie them to the series. Bruno Mattei's Emanuelle in Prison (aka Emanuelle Escapes From Hell aka Women's Prison Massacre aka Blade Violent) is one of those movies.

The movie starts, strangely enough, with Emanuelle and her two cellmates performing a bizarre performance art piece where they soliloquise about how much their lives suck. At first I thought they were going to burst into song like in Chicago, but when one of them starts babbling on and on about how much of a slut she is, I started thinking of that old screen-writing mantra "Show, Don't Tell". What does it take to get a naked shower-room knife fight around here? Luckily one of the prisoners in the audience manages to voice exactly what we were all thinking, and pretty soon our three would-be actors are being splattered with tomatoes and lettuce leaves. The head warden (Lorraine De Selle, from Cannibal Ferox) then takes Emanuelle to task for her inflammatory theater production, claiming it's full of gratuitous sex and violence (I think she must have got a copy of this film's script by mistake). My first thought was "Where did the prisoners get all the vegetables?" but my second thought was "I hope this film isn't going to be about a playwright's struggles against a corrupt system to bring her vision to the stage".

Luckily the whole incident with the play is just a setup for an old-fashioned prison cafeteria confrontation. Top dog Albina (Ursula Flores, and I'm sure you can guess why her character is called "Albina") goads Emanuelle into an arm wrestle by calling her a "haughty hot'n'tot" and threatening to bite another prisoner's nipples off. Emanuelle is winning until one of the screws breaks it up by hysterically shouting "Haven't you had enough violence?!" Not really, lady. The wardens aren't happy about Emanuelle's victory since she has been falsely imprisoned on drug charges by the corrupt DA and he has ordered them to be extra tough on her. Consequently, they set up a continuation to the Albina-vs-Emanuelle grudge match in the shower room, where Emanuelle kicks Albina's ass again and pulls off her bad blonde wig to boot. Despite the fact that Albina is about as adept at fighting as a three-legged guinea pig, the wardens figure third time must be the charm, and set up another fight in the exercise yard. This time they arm Albina with a knife, which Emanuelle subsequently acquires and stabs Albina in the thigh.

To be honest I've never really found girl-fights in films to be all that exciting. It's not like they pick the actors for their fighting skills, so they tend to be clumsy, awkward and entirely unconvincing. There's always the hope that the fight will end up with a wardrobe malfunction (sure enough Bruno manages to sneak in a panty shot here and there, he knows why we're here) but it's a long, hard slog in a film that has no shortage of tits anyway. Thankfully, the continued antagonism between Albina and Emanuelle is just the B-story, it's here that the actual plot kicks in.

Victor Brain, a half-Native-American murderer/rapist who is ironically pretty stupid. Blade Von Bauer, an overacting murderer who uses razor blades to cut up his victims. O'Hara, a violent criminal whose worst offense is his terrible Irish accent. Worst of all is Crazy Boy, a murderer/rapist/thief who murdered half a dozen cops during his last escape and figures to do the same again here. Until their sentencing is finalised, the authorities figure they should house these four worst-of-the-worst in the local women's prison. This may seem like a pretty sketchy idea at first, but from the looks of things the women's prison is severely underutilized, with maybe a half a dozen prisoners on-screen at any one time. They need to get some use out of those empty cells. Despite an attempted hijacking en route that leaves two officers dead, the remaining cop manages to get the four prisoners to their destination all by himself. Unfortunately, despite the fact that Blade Von Bauer has a reputation for hiding razor blades on his body, they didn't think to check in his mouth. Soon the head guard (Franca Stoppi from The Other Hell) has her throat cut, the head warden is held hostage and the cop is lying on the floor with a shoulder full of buckshot.

What follows is an orgy of violence, rape and debauchery that hasn't been seen since Bruno Mattei's last film. Crazy Boy, jonesing for some morphine, wanders in on the still-recovering Albina and starts rummaging around in a rickety glass cabinet full of medical supplies, which you'd really think they'd keep locked up. He makes some smooth remarks and soon they are having one of those softcore sex scenes where two naked people lie motionless on top of one another and pretend they are having sex. Albina must be totally into it because her stab wound doesn't bother her at all. Crazy Boy then knocks her unconscious with chloroform, something about not letting anyone else have her. I don't know, I really don't think these guys would let something trivial like consciousness get in their way of a good time.

Meanwhile, Blade Von Bauer gets molested by some horny inmates before he humiliates Emanuelle's two buddies Laura and Irene by forcing them to dance with Laura's blow-up doll, Bobby. Bauer then slashes him with a razor blade and I must admit I got a little teary as Bobby slowly deflated in Laura's arms. When she then stuffs a stolen razor blade into a cork and the cork into... well, you can probably guess where, it's only a matter of time before Blade Von Bauer receives the ironic punishment of a lifetime. While that is happening, Emanuelle and Albina are forced into a Deer Hunter style game of Russian Roulette that leaves Crazy Boy cursing out Albina for splattering him with gobs of her brain matter. He had his mouth open too, I bet he was tasting that for weeks!

Eventually they decide to make a break for it, taking Emanuelle and the injured cop as hostages. Crazy Boy pushes their crappy getaway car too hard and it breaks down, leaving the injured cop chasing down an injured Crazy Boy, and let me tell you, nothing is more exciting than a low-speed footchase between two near-death invalids. Nothing! A brief and unsatisfying fight that follows takes down Crazy Boy for good. The film abruptly ends with the cop chatting to a still-imprisoned Emanuelle, saying he had re-opened her case and set things up so that "even an idiot would find [her] innocent". It won't happen today though, since the credits roll with Emanuelle being led back into her cell. What a bummer!

This is a Bruno Mattei film, so there's probably no point in discussing the quality of the film, but special mention must be made of the worse-than-usual monotonous synthesizer score. All that aside, if this film has one fatal flaw (and it doesn't, it's got plenty more) it's the disappointing lack of nudity from Laura Gemser. If there is one guarantee with a Black Emanuelle film, it's that Laura Gemser will get her kit off at some point. I know this film isn't technically part of the series, but I think my point is still valid. Despite this oversight, it's got enough nudity and sex from the rest of the cast to make up for it, and more prison-violence that you can shake a shiv at. If you can't get enough of Emanuelle taking on the Women-In-Prison genre, you might want to check out Violence in a Women's Prison. Not only did Bruno Mattei shoot it back-to-back with Emanuelle In Prison, he reused the same cast, crew and most of the plot. Huzzah!

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