Cult Movie Retrospective: Women’s Prison Massacre


Back in 1974, classy director Just Jaeckin gave the world Emmanuelle – a tasteful soft core classic for the ages. It remains one of France’s most successful film exports. There were many official sequels but in Italy, the land of ripping off other films, the concept of Black Emanuelle (Emanuelle Nera) came into existence.

In short, the character is a globe trotting, uninhibited, sexually liberated photojournalist who gets into sexy capers wherever she goes. Black Emanuelle was played by the exquisite Indonesian Laura Gemser who always injected a touch of carefree classiness into the role. She was just perfect.

Directed by Bruno Mattei, the last of these films was 1983’s Women’s Prison Massacre (aka Emanuelle Escapes From Hell). This time around Emanuelle is back in the hot seat when she goes up against a large scale drug dealing operation. Her investigation lands her in prison on trumped-up charges by the powerful District Attorney Robinson.

Women's Prison Massacre Fight Scene

Women's Prison Massacre Knife

The film opens to Emanuelle and her fellow cellmates in a prison play in which they attempt to express their womanhood and feelings of alienation through poetry. Not everybody appreciates the play and the inmate bigwig, Albina, crashes the play and smashes a veggie in Emanuelle’s face. Naturally, a rumble breaks out and Emanuelle and Albina become mortal enemies.

After a few incidents involving Albina, the guards begin to really crack down on Emmanuelle which leads her to believe the pressure is coming from Warden Colleen. Good guess. The Warden is indeed being manipulated by the evil D.A. Robinson.

Meanwhile, a crazed band of psychos lead by “Crazy Boy” (played by Gemser’s real life husband Gabriele Tinti) are being transported to the very same women’s prison to be held until they can be tried and sentenced to death. Though, soon enough, all hell breaks loose as the men escape their confines and begin to cause absolute mayhem. The convicts proceed to rape, mutilate, and torture the female inmates (involving a sick game of Russian roulette). District Attorney Robinson doesn’t plan to let these criminals (or Emanuelle) out of the prison alive.

Movies like this don’t really get made anymore these days. And even worse, if someone does try to make one it’s usually so watered down you don’t even want to count it. This movie has a strong lead, a good story, and while it is quite over the top (intentionally so), it’s a great movie in it’s own right, for what it is. If you are a fan of just about any exploitation film from the old-school grindhouse days, you’ll no doubt find more than a few things to enjoy with this flick. It looks the part, it’s filled with the type of stuff you love about those movies, and it’s certainly never boring.

Women's Prison Massacre Guards

Women's Prison Massacre Emanuelle

The film is packed with familiar faces. From Franca Stoppi of Buio Omega to Lorraine De Selle of The House On The Edge Of The Park, exploitation and horror fans will have some great fun identifying actors. Obviously, the true star of this film though is Laura Gemser, she’s beautiful and delicate – it’s always a delight to watch her onscreen. She’s a competent actor as well as a smoking hottie.

Bruno Mattei films, in their uncut and pure format, are always fun to watch. Generally, many of them are the Italian rip-off to other films and ideas, but that’s the whole draw and appeal to them. Let’s watch a director rip off a well-done film and see how he improvises with the meager budget and talent that he possesses. Also, they generally have lots of violence, gore, and pointless nudity to keep viewers interested. Look Mattei up on IMDb. The man has about twenty different aliases. He can change his name up but his films all have his signature on them. Women’s Prison Massacre is no different.

In the end, this is a movie that really thrashes to its own beat, and is a ball from beginning to end. Just one piece of advice: be sure to find an uncut version of the film if you’re able to. You won’t be disappointed.

Share your thoughts on this filthy gem of Italian exploitation in the comment section below.

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