New inmate Marie arrives at an island prison in the women's sector and receives the number 99. The inmates are controlled by the sadistic lesbian warden Thelma Diaz and Governor Santos and ... See full summary »
New inmate Marie arrives at an island prison in the women's sector and receives the number 99. The inmates are controlled by the sadistic lesbian warden Thelma Diaz and Governor Santos and submitted to torture, rape and lesbianism. When the Minister of Justice replaces Diaz by Leonie Caroll, Marie believes that her life will improve and her case will be reopened. However, Marie is disappointed with the new warden and decides to escape with two other inmates. But their runaway scheme fails and the three women are chased not only by the guards, but also by male prisoners that have not seen women for many years. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Italian censorship visa # 53649 delivered on 10-4-1969. See more »
Where are they taking us?
To the island, over there.
What's eating you? Looking forward to your holidays? Three years the judge said, didn't he? I know the medicine you need, and they don't stock it over there. Home sweet home for all three of us. The Spaniards built it and christened it, Castillo de la Muerte.
"Castle of Death".
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Although there have been a few prison-set comedies, such as the British "Porridge" (based upon a popular TV series), most films about men in prison have been made with a serious purpose ("Cool Hand Luke", "Brubaker", "The Shawshank Redemption", etc.). At one time this was also true of the smaller number of films about women in prison; the American "Caged" and the British "Yield to the Night" are well-known examples from the fifties. The late sixties, however, saw the birth of a new genre, the women in prison exploitation film. Jesús Franco's "99 Women" is an early example of the type.
Films like this were made as entertainment catering for male sexual fantasies rather as serious drama about crime and punishment, but in their early days they were not explicitly pornographic. Even in the swinging sixties there was a limit to what the censors would permit. (A film on this subject made ten, or perhaps even only five, years after this one would doubtless have been considerably more sexually explicit). We know that "99 Women" will turn out to be an exploitation film as soon as we see that the inmates of this particular jail- all 99 of them- are young and attractive and that the prison uniform consists of little more than a very short mini-dress.
The actual plot storyline does not matter too much- it includes the punishment and humiliation of the women by a cruel female warder, the attempts of a relatively liberal new governor to reform conditions and a jail break- but the film features several recurrent clichés of the women in prison genre. These include cat-fights between prisoners and physical abuse of the prisoners by sadistic guards. There are, however, no real sex scenes and no full nudity. Those mini-dresses may get ripped, but the girls' underwear always stays intact. Any lesbianism remains implied rather than explicit.
"99 Women" was a box-office success when it first appeared in 1969, but by the standards of anyone other than the titillation-hungry young men of the late sixties it is a very poor film indeed, with a hackneyed plot, a villainously written script and generally low standards of acting. The film was originally shot in French and dubbed into English, but in the version I saw the dubbing had for some reason been omitted from several scenes, which remained in the original language without subtitles. In most of Franco's films the cast is made up of long- forgotten porn stars, but this one features several well-known names, not only the former Bond Girl Luciana Paluzzi but also actors as distinguished as Herbert Lom and the one-time Oscar-winning Mercedes McCambridge, neither of whom can be said to have enhanced their reputation by appearing in it.
The film is today of no more than historic interest except perhaps to those who subscribe to the idea that Franco was some great "cult director". To my way of thinking he had more talent for arousing controversy than he did for actually making films and the only "cult" that grew up around him consisted solely of those attracted to his brand of soft-core erotica. 3/10
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