Sugar Boxx (2009)

Quentin Tarantino has never quite achieved again the brilliant of Pulp Fiction (1994), but he has definitely helped sustain and even rekindle interest in 1970s exploitation films. This has even led to various efforts to recapture the vibe of those films. Tarantino himself along with Robert Rodriguez teamed up on Grindhouse (2007), and we’ve seen various unfortunate remakes including of I Spit on Your Grave (1978/2010), The Hills Have Eyes (1977/2006), and Straw Dogs (1971/2011). The most interest of these homage films is actually a neo-exploitation gem Run! Bitch Run! (2009) which is both a loving tribute and itself a rousing 70s style exploitation flick.

Sugar Boxx is in that same genre, though rather than plumbing the rape-revenge genre, it is a slightly updated take on the the women in prison theme. The updating is genuinely subtle. In many ways, the movie is a straight 70s actioner. Continue reading

Female Prisoner #701 — Scorpion (1972)

Starring: Meiko Kaji, Yayoi Watanabe, Rie Yokoyama, Isao Natsuyagi, Fumio Watanabe, Yôko Mihara, Akemi Negishi, and Hideo Murota

Directed by: Shunya Ito

Rating: handcuffs.gifhandcuffs.gifhandcuffs.gifhandcuffs.gif(4 out of 5)

Matsu as the dark angel of vengeanceWhen I started this site, I assumed that the most interesting movies would be the serious dramas, and the most fun would be the women in prison exploitation pictures. As it turns out the WiP flicks are often the most fun, but they have also proven to be the most interesting in various ways. Most notably, while basically many of these films contain the usual straight-forward exploitation elements — shower scenes, catfights, etc. — there are a handful that clearly aspire to more and that manage to be surprisingly thought-provoking. Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion is one of those. I really wish I understood more about the relationship between feminism and politics in 1970s Japan. I could gleen a fair amount just from watching this movie, but really, I think FP701 could support a much more extended and detailed analysis than I am able to provide.

Anyway, the movie begins in a prison in Japan. The warden, Goda (Fumio Watanabe) is being presented with a proclamation honoring his 27 years of service. The movie was made in 1972. The 27 years mentioned is no accident, of course. In the middle of the ceremony, the alarms ring. The guards scatter to deal with an escape in progress, and the proclamation itself gets trampled under their feet. We cut to a scene outside the prison as two women run through a marsh, chased by armed men. The escaping prisoners are Matsu (Meiko Kaji) and Yuki (Yayoi Watanabe). Matsu is definitely in charge. Yuki lags behind and Matsu goes back to help her. Yuki is doubled over, and we get a shot of blood running down her legs. Matsu tell her not to worry, that it is just her period, which had apparently stopped while locked up. I perked up right there. I mean, yeah, that could be just a throw-away bit, but it strikes as pretty obvious that the movie is laying the groundwork here for a recurring theme about Japanese society, political power, and either misogyny or at least subordination of women. Continue reading

Prison-A-Go-Go! (2003)

Rating:(0 out of 5)

Starring: Rhonda Shear, Mary Woronov, Laurie Walton, Traiv Willingham, Lauren Graham, Mike Wiebe, Louisa Lawless, Ilram Choi, and Lloyd Kaufman.

Directed by: Barak Epstein

Mud wrestling and the shower time on the lower right.Unwatchable. I don’t say that often about a movie, but there you go. It is unfunny, badly paced, poor acted. There are a couple of bare boobs, but in this age of ubiquitous internet porn, that just isn’t enough. Heck, if I turn off my spam filter for half an hour, my inbox will fill up with bare boobs — as well a get-rich-quick offers (much needed, since I am as poor as a church mouse) and penile enlargement ads (not at all needed, since I am hung like a horse) — and I won’t have to sit through bad attempts at humor as an added benefit.

I actually hate giving this movie a bad review. I really, really wanted to like it. I am absolutely, 100% the target audience. This is actually the kind of movie I’d probably end up making it I ever tried, and I can see how much effort went into it, but I can also see how it went horribly wrong. Continue reading

Reform School Girls (1986)

Rating: (2.5 out of 5)

Starring: Wendy O. Williams, Pat Ast, Linda Carol, and Sybil Danning.

Directed by: Tom DeSimone.

rsggirlsfight.jpgReform School Girls followed a revival of the women in prison genre in the early 1980s. Well, at least a revival in the American market – the genre basically was going strong in Italy and elsewhere throughout the 1970s. But in the United States, after a spate of exploitation WiP movies following the release of The Big Doll House in 1971, the genre sort of petered out after 1974′s Caged Heat. Then in 1982, Tom DeSimone made The Concrete Jungle and the following year saw Chained Heat released. Hellhole came in the 1985. By the early 1980s, drive ins were definitely on the way out, but these movies got theatrical releases. The genre then faded out before again being revived for the DTV market. The early 1970s cycle was generally light and campy; it played off the melodramatic tone of the 1950s and 1960s “girls in trouble” and juvenile delinquent movies. The 1980s cycle was much darker and harder-edged, much closer to the Euro-sleaze version of the genre made by folks like Jess Franco. Reform School Girls is both part of that darker 1980s cycle and a satire of the genre. It works, on the whole, but is definitely too grim in parts to sustain the satirical elements. Continue reading