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 ...
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Conrado San Martín,
Women's prison tale, with Lina Romay as Maria who is jailed after killing her father, played by director Jess Franco, who tries to rape her. Lesbian wardens, torture, nudity, sex, insanity and conspiracy round out the formula.
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Amando de Ossorio
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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Jesus Franco is one of the few directors in the world who could take a much-maligned genre like the women-in-prison film and make it even sleazier. "Barb-Wire Dolls" would have been unwatchably repugnant were it not so inept, and "Ilsa, the Wicked Warden" WAS unwatchably repugnant despite being equally inept. For that reason, I approached this movie with great trepidation, but was surprised to find it relatively well-made and surprisingly tasteful. The plot is pretty standard. Girls are imprisoned on island--they give them a number and take away their names. Since this was made in the more censorial 60's there is no graphic torture and no showers and the prisoners actually get to wear underwear beneath their prison smocks. Mercedes McCambridge is the harsh warden. Herbert Lom is the corrupt commander of the island who takes sexual liberties with the prisoners. Maria Schell is the well-intentioned but ineffective reformer,. Luciana Paluzzi is the top-billed convict, but she exits quickly and the real stars are Maria Rohm and Rosalba Neri who together lead the big bust out at the end.
Relatively speaking this movie had a decent budget and a talented cast, and perhaps because of this (and the aforementioned threat of censorship)Franco had to reign himself in from his usual indulges. (I can just imagine the conversations he would have had with these relatively classy actresses: "No Jesus, I'm NOT going to perform analingus on her masticated rectum, I was a Bond girl for christsakes!"). Not that there isn't any sex or nudity. There is a great catfight/lesbian sex scene between Neri and Rohm as the lascivious Lom looks on, but the action is shot almost entirely in a montage of extreme close-ups (the only time after this that Franco was this circumspect in a sex scene was in "Erotismo" and that was no doubt because he was trying to avoid child porn charges after stupidly casting an underage actress). My favorite scene though is a flashback sequence where Neri does a sexy strip to a flickering candelabra, and in a touch that is both perverse and surreal her audience is a bunch of cigarette-smoking schoolgirls! Of course, there are those Franco aficionados out there who would prefer endless static shots of Lina Romay or somebody rolling around naked on a bed while Franco conducts a gynecological exam with his zoom lens to these much more sedate sex scenes, but there can be little doubt which is more classy and tasteful.
The best part though might be the catchy theme song ("Born to Be Bad") that leaves you with a warm feeling of nostalgia for that era (whether you experienced it or not). I don't know if I'd want to watch this movie again, but at least I didn't feel like running for the shower when it was over. If you want to see a Franco a WIP flick this is a good place to start (and also to stop).
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