The film was rejected for a DVD certificate in February 2004 in the United Kingdom by the BBFC over sexual violence being eroticized, and indecent images of an under-eighteen (in Britain, indecent images of children are illegal). The BBFC website has this to say regarding the film: This work was rejected. Dubbed,Widescreen,Under the Video Recordings Act 1984,the Board is required to consider any harmful effect that a video work may have upon potential viewers or,through their behaviour,to society by the manner in which it deals with (amongst other things) violent behaviour,horrific behaviour and human sexual activity. Women in Cellblock 9 contains many sequences depicting the abuse,torture and humiliation of naked women. These sequences were found to be in conflict with the Board's published classification guidelines,which prohibit scenes that eroticise or endorse sexual assault. The Board's strict stance on titillatory sexual violence is supported both by public opinion and by a large body of media effects research. In addition,The Protection of Children Act,as amended by the Sexual Offences Act 2003,makes the distribution and showing of indecent photographs of a child under the age of 18 a criminal offence. One of the lead actresses in Women in Cellblock 9 was just over 16 at the time the film was made. The Board was in no doubt that many of the sexualised scenes involving her would therefore be illegal. Although the amendment will not take effect until May 2004,the BBFC cannot classify material which would be in circulation in breach of the Act. The Board considered the option of cutting the work. However,the quantity of scenes involving eroticised sexual violence,combined with the indecent photographs of a person under 18,meant that cuts were not a viable option. See more »
The reputation of explo-surrealist Jess Franco's penchant for sadism and cruelty largely rests on the four Women In Prison films he made almost back to back in the late '70s. Far from the 'intellectual' flaunting of 'Succubus' or the dream-like aura of 'Vampyros Lesbos', Franco's works like 'Ilsa: Absolute Power', 'Barbed Wire Dolls', '99 Women' and this film, reveal his fascination with unabashed sadism and humiliation without distraction.
Granted a couple of other filmmakers have far surpassed this film in terms of hyper-shocking violence (Guinea Pig anyone?), but the latent nihilism and hatred of Franco's entire oeuvre comes out in spades in 'Cell Block 9'.
Granted, it's highly inartistic, very cheap and mainly a smörgåsbord of cruel scenarios depicting a woman's political prison in the jungle and the cruel warden who rules it with an iron fist. There is a message in the sense that you can feel Franco's outrage regarding prisoners of conscience, but there's no unifying statement here, political or otherwise.
For those who like Franco's skewed view of human sexuality but can do without the heady surrealism, this is a pretty good film to watch, especially if you're curious about what happens when the Master takes his gloves off and gets dirty. Also, for you hardcore Franco fans, if you thought 99 Women and Barbed-Wire Dolls was a little 'soft', you'll be redeemed here. Recommended for Franco fans.
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