Women's Prison Massacre (1983)

5.0 out of 10
Using a stylistic device often associated with Jess Franco, Women's Prison Massacre opens to what is clearly supposed to be a close-up of a stage play. Here we see three women, seated, looking downward. They take it in turns to face forward. They do this in order to recite monologues. These concern the nature of incarceration, female sexuality and so on. The third of this trio of players is Emanuelle. Yet again, Emanuelle, not to be confused with Just Jaeckin's similarly named Emmanuelle, is portrayed by Laura Gemser. Indeed, Women's Prison Massacre is the final instalment of the successful Black Emanuelle series of erotic films. This series, of course, began with Bitto Albertini's Black Emanuelle. That would star Gemser. This would be followed by The New Black Emanuelle starring Shulamith Lasri as the jet-setting journalist. Then Joe D'amato would pick up the baton. He would then cast Laura Gemser in a series of sleazy, and notorious, misadventures. When a prisoner, Albina, begins to heckle Emanuelle, the illusion is broken. The captive audience, all women wearing uniforms, reveal this film to be yet another women-in-prison flick. Thus the alternative title. Women's Prison Massacre is sometimes known as Emanuelle in Prison. Albina, who is played by Ursula Flores, is top dog at the prison. With a shocking blonde wig, a Baseball Fury manic stare and teeth clench, she rules the Big House. The guards and the warder are aware of this. Indeed, for the sake of peace and order they, too, are complicit in maintaining Albina's grip on power. However, she clearly sees the bookish and eloquent Emanuelle as threat. So, unsurprisingly, a power struggle ensues. In practice this means that, between nude shower scenes and other women-in-prison fare, the pair bitch at one another, arm-wrestle over dinner, catfight and knife-fight. Ultimately, Emanuelle gets the upper hand. Albina ends up in the prison hospital. However, this is a movie with yet another surprise up its sleeve. You see, despite the fact that the Albina vs Black Emanuelle rivalry is interesting enough, this storyline gets quickly sidelined.The film then embarks on a completely different course altogether. Despite the title, Emanuelle in Prison, director Bruno Mattei and writer Claudio Fragasso seem to show little interest in making something that fits easily within the whole franchise. Indeed it appears that, despite Laura Gemser's high profile billing, the Snuff Trap and Strike Commando director was more interested in the potential for action scenes than for the presence of Emanuelle herself. So, say hello to Crazy Boy. Played by Laura Gemser's real life partner and frequent collaborator Gabrielle Tinti, Crazy Boy is the leader of a band of criminals. Having failed to escape from the back of a police van, he and his gang end up being transported to the women's prison. It is here that they are to be housed temporarily. However, they easily manage to overpower the guards. The gang take control of the prison. At this point that we discover the real intent of the movie. Because, instead of enjoying a typical women's prison film we, instead, find ourselves within Last House on the Beach territory. You see, Women's Prison Massacre is, in reality, a house invasion film. Except, in this case, it is set in a prison. Besides the unexpected plotting shift, what is notable about this entry into the Black Emanuelle series is the tone of the feature. You see, under the stewardship of director Joe D'amato, the films were characterised by a mixture of often bizarre sex and violence. This gave the whole Black Emanulle series an especially sleazy feel. D'amato would bring a particular appetite for on-screen sex, violence, dog fondling and faux-snuff that would prove to be unrivalled. At their most excessive the Black Emanuelle movies simply feel wrong. Indeed, director Bruno Mattei and writer Claudio Fragrasso have clearly attempted to continue in this same vein. However, Women's Prison Massacre simply feels like a completely different beast altogether. This is largely down to a greater emphasis on action and over-the-top characterisation. Not only this, but the limited amount of simulated sexual contact is restrained and fairly unconvincing. So, instead of hose-downs, hair pulling and extended shower scenes, we get a Zombie Creeping Flesh style S.W.A.T siege, a blistering car chase and more gun-play than one would typically expect to find within the genre. Also, since the villains of the piece are little more than childish, gurning morons, their actions seem all the less plausible. These fellas are more Three Stooges than the nasties of Fight For Your Life or Rabid Dogs. However, their presence means that there is a certainly levity to proceedings that otherwise would not be present. Indeed, all this indicates that Mattei had decided to forgo many of the crude excesses of his predecessor in favour of something with far greater crossover appeal. Of course, being a Bruno Mattei film, there is still going to be no shortage of head-scratching moments in this. So those expecting the usual Bruno “whatthefuckery?” are unlikely to be too disappointed. For example, patients in the prison hospital wing are left alone with a bottle of chloroform. This is, strangely, stored within reach, in an unlocked glass medicine cabinet! More leftfield still, we meet undersexed inmates who are able to get off, unnoticed, with a well endowed, inflatable, male sex doll. Aside from all the nonsense, horror fans are fairly well catered for in this. There are, after all, some decent gore scenes. Most noteworthy is an I Spit On Your Grave style razor castration. Also, Iris from Beyond the Darkness, Franca Stoppi, gets her throat chomped. Besides, there are also plenty of faces that should be familiar to fans of Italian horror cinema. So, we get Carlo De Mejo, who had briefly become a fixture in Lucio Fulci splatter movies. He gets shot. Also, Lorraine De Selle from Cannibal Ferox is in this. She plays the warden and gets to strip down to her standard, prison issue, stockings and suspenders.