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There are many stories arising from the infamous and nightmarish prison on French Guiana. This film, " I escaped From Devil's Island " is one of them. If one is not too critical, which is easy, then the movie is good entertainment as it's got several ingredients of a plausible and brutal prison scenario. It has harsh treatment, unconscionable deaths and the social turmoil of a savage structure gone wild. Still, it endeavors to please. The star of the film is acclaimed athlete Jim Brown who plays Labras, which is strange as he is listed on the IMDb board as a minor player. He and Christopher George, Richard Ely and James Luisi execute an escape which is desperate and clumsy at best. With Major Marteau (Paul Richards) chasing them from the island to the mainland, makes for exciting pursuit. In addition the pretty sexy local distractions they meet along the way, proves that brief nudity might make up for a lackluster script. As a result and despite the convoluted story which lacks necessary elements, the movie ends up becoming a poor-man's Papillon. Nevertheless, I think it tries hard to entertain and I would give it an 'A' for effort. ***
I saw this at 1 am Saturday on this TV out of Indianapolis and couldn't
tape, tiVO or DVD it, so I stayed up to watch.
I liked the rough, LOW budget Corman style of this movie without the "composition and mannered shots" of the big budget Papillon with McQueen and Hoffman.
You could feel the roughness, smell, and atmosphere of being in prison in the middle of nowhere. The pig skinning was very realistic as was the language and full nudity.
This is not Camp Granada.
James Luisi goes on to become the constipated Lt. Doug Chapman in Rockford Files and Christopher George becomes an action cop on Hawaii five-O.
James Brown is the lead, but absent in the top of credits on IMDb, and Corman utilizes this low budget action star who was in many low budget films to interesting effect.
The guards, the brutality, the hopelessness... are all there in the French prison.
It almost feels like a documentary through the kinetic energy and cutting of the movie.
I really like Corman's attitude of "get 'er done" way before it became a catch phrase.
I Escaped from Devil's Island (1973)
** (out of 4)
This exploitation film from Roger and Gene Corman beat PAPILLON to theaters by a month and features Jim Brown and Christopher George playing prisoners on Devils Island who plan an escape to get away from the sadistic guards. They duo end up on an island with many beautiful women but soon enough the prison guards come calling. I ESCAPED FROM DEVIL'S ISLAND is somewhat entertaining for the fifty-minutes or so but once we're out of the prison things really slow down and the second half of the film is a major chore to sit through. Veteran director William Witney does a pretty good job at making this low-budget film look like it had higher production values than you know it had. The first portion of the film inside the prison features all sorts of silly violence dealing with the prisoners being beaten, thrown in the hot box and various other items that we've seen in countless prison movies. This remains somewhat fun as both Brown and George are such enjoyable actors that you can get caught up with them and this helps the film move a little bit. Fans of the two actors will probably want to sit through this even though the end result isn't as good as you're going to hope. Brown has no problems playing the tough guy and there's plenty of action built around him. George plays a political prisoner who is against violence and the two actors really work well together and build up some nice chemistry. The problem in the second half of the film is simply the fact that nothing entertaining happens. We see the men fight, argue, fight some more and it just grows tiresome after a while. The exploitation level really needed to be pumped up in the second half as did the energy because the film pretty much just runs out of gas.
If they had released this movie in Britain, it would have likely become
one of the infamous video nasties. It has all the elements: low
production costs, natives in various stages of undress, animal abuse,
shark attacks, cannibalism, torture.
It just didn't really cross the line, however. The torture was not overtly explicit, the cannibals were never shown eating their victims, the undress was not excessive.
If it had come out a month later and starred Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, instead of Jim Brown and Christopher George, they might have named it Papillon, and given it an Oscar or Golden Globe nomination. But, this is a Roger Corman production, so it is the R rated version of Papillon.
Paul Richards, as Major Marteau, the head of Devil's Island, gave the best line after they tortured a woman to get information on the escaped prisoners: "She doesn't know any more. Anything else would be lies." He knew even then the uselessness of water-boarding.
This film beat 'Papillon' to the box office by a month: A typical Corman attempt to get a jump on the bigger competition. As for the film, it's a pile of swill stirred by hack William Witney and featuring ever-wooden Jim Brown as one of the four escapees. Lots of beatings and sniggering over homosexuals while in the penal colony, then, after the escape, a required pit stop at the leper village (also featured in 'Papillon') followed by Indian native assaults, some breast baring (even full-frontal) local gals, and a lame finale involving fireworks. Funniest aspect is having Brown stubbornly refusing to continue running because he keeps falling for the first local gal he latches onto. Still, a cheesy, sleazy piece of junk only for the easily entertained.
I saw this way back in 1983 when it was shown late one night on television
and I`m talking network televison in those days you didn`t have satillite
or cable at least not in Britain where we were confined to a total of 4
channels. And the most shocking thing was that it contained very strong
language , back then very very few films shown on television had swearing
left intact but here it was untouched which was amazing when nearly every
sentence contains the word " F*** " though much of the gore and gay sex
seems to have been edited ( And badly edited at that ) for transmission
especially a shark attack scene where it cuts to a shark fin then cuts to
man waving his bloody stump at the camera then cuts to a couple of fingers
floating about the water , very strange and I ESCAPED FROM DEVILS ISLAND
also has that low budget production value feel seen so often in video
nasties that I can`t help feel that it in unedited form it would would be
classed as a video nasty .
Despite its flaws it`s a lot of fun , I can put my hand on heart and say I enjoyed it far more than PAPILLION and we get to see a sadistic guard who calls homosexuals bad names while twisting their nipples . Can`t get more sadistic than that
Superstar athlete Jim Brown plays Le Bras, one of many inmates at the
notorious prison fortress Devil's Island in French Guiana in the early
20th century. He butts heads with pacifistic convict Davert
(Christopher George) while also trying to deal with nasty and sadistic
guards. When he gets the chance to make a break for it, he takes it,
along with fellow prisoners Jo-Jo (Richard Ely), Dazzas (James Luisi),
and a reluctant Davert. The four men make it to the mainland, with
prison personnel, led by Major Marteau (Paul Richards), in hot pursuit.
From then on, things get rather episodic as Le Bras and his comrades encounter lepers and Indians (not to mention a shark), and when they make it to a colourful community, Le Bras decides that he rather likes it there.
Directed by veteran filmmaker William Witney for the Corman brothers, Roger and Gene, and filmed in Mexico, "I Escaped from Devil's Island" is passable entertainment. It's not strong on story; in fact, this story starts to get more incoherent as the movie goes on, but in terms of delivering exploitation, it does its job. There's gore aplenty as well as the requisite female nudity. There's some socio-political subtext, but it never gets in the way of the admittedly lurid thrills. The photography, by Rosalio Solano, is just gorgeous, and Les Baxter composes a flavourful and fun music score. The acting is decent from our principals; Brown is commanding as usual, he and George act well together, and Richards and especially Richard Rust make for a very effective pair of thoroughly disagreeable villains.
Overall this is pretty easy to forget but it kills time in an entertaining enough manner.
Six out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nothing quite oozes pure undiluted machismo like a down'n'dirty low-budget guys in prison picture. Jim Brown hits it out of the ballpark with his resolutely rugged portrayal of the tough and determined Le Bras, who concocts a desperate plan to escape from the hellish penal colony Devil's Island. Christopher George likewise registers strongly as outspoken pacifist inmate Davert. Director William Whitney and writer Richard DeLong Adams bring an admittedly crude, yet undeniably effective and entertaining kitchen sink pulpy trash sensibility to the gripping premise: Besides the graphic and unflinching depiction of the brutal conditions of life in prison, we also have lots of rough'n'ready violence, a satisfying serving of tasty bare female skin, and more than enough deliciously cheap thrills that include sharks, lepers, a run-in with a tribe of savage natives (Brown even gets it on with a hot native gal!), and relentless pursuit from the police led by the vicious Major Marteau (a nicely slimy turn by Paul Richards). Richard Rust makes for a perfectly hateful villain as sadistic guard Sergeant Zamora while Richard Ely amuses as fey gay thief Jo-Jo. Rosalio Solano's proficient cinematography vividly captures the beautiful scenery. Les Baxter's robust score does the rousing trick. Sure, it's pretty raw and anything but subtle, yet it covers all the pleasingly scrappy dimestore drive-in cinema bases just the same.
Not a totally wretched film, as I had expected, but pretty boring
nonetheless. Should actually be "We escaped..." since its Jim
Christopher George, and a couple others that do escape [no spoiler, it
happens, without incident in the first 30 minutes]. And what I really mean
by that is that its difficult to tell [until the bitter end] who the focal
character was. Has some interesting
Marxist/Communist subplot, that gets buried under the rug after they
Let's see...you also get a really disappointing Shark attack, a leper
cameo, Jim Brown falls in love[!] and an exotica Les Baxter score! Looks
like it was filmed in Mexico by the Cormans.
So basically, the title gives it all away. Interestingly enough, check out director William Witney's career! Geez! and Darktown Stutters!!! Well, why couldnt he have made this that fun?? I escaped from Colonel Sander's Chicken Fryer?!?!
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