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Saturday, 9 January 2016

Gonzo Film reviews: Prison Island Massacre: Angel of Death 2: Women Behind Bars / Frauengefengnis 4

How many titles can you find in THIS opening sequence?
Now this was a real interesting find.

We recently discovered the work of German sexgorehardcorehorror director Andreas Bethmann, thanks to a footnote in the rather neat Jess Franco photographic tribute book Pornodelic Pleasures (review of that coming up soon).

Debasement in de basement.
This is the first of his we'd seen. It's so good we watched it twice – once in the 85 minute 'safe' softcore version (which very obviously displays its hefty cuts to the action), and again in the full-on gore/hardcore 105 min version. The extended version we viewed was in German audio with French subtitles (released on the Euro Uncut Movies DVD label and ordered cheerfully from Amazon.fr, if anyone's interested, as the Amazon US edition is currently unavailable) – now while our German sucks, our French is pretty good, and we were able to fill in all the gaps in the movie we wondered about first time around in the short, German-only edition (like, why run off into the wild jungle on foot, rather than drive off in the jeep you just hijacked at gunpoint?)

Step away from the vee-hickle, ma'am.
We have to admit some of the photography is pretty neat, with a lot of the early exterior scenes being airborne. Being shot entirely in an exotic island location helps, and is usual in these movies, we're treated to a menagerie of local flora and fauna as well just to prove the crew really went somewhere far-flung: lizards, big beetles, and big, big freakin' spiders. But no animals were harmed in the making of this jungle epic, thankfully.

'I'm sure I left my clothes out here somewhere...'
Like ol' Jess, Andreas is pretty clumsy when it comes to handling violence and action, although he digs in deep for the gore set pieces and there's some pretty stomach-clenching moments in the final act. We won't spoil it for ya but let's say, if there's ladies watching this one who get pissed at all that horrible violence being handed out to cute young (and older) women – there's a couple of scenes that may even up the balance in that respect (and one of which did bring to mind an old Cannibal Corpse tune, I Cum Blood) – including a couple of scenes of hard gay sex, which weren't exactly expected either. 

'Bubba? Who the hell is Bubba?!'
Some reviewers have complained about the general roughness of a lot of Andreas' female performers – well, who but full-time (or aspiring) adult industry actors are going to end up in movies as cruel and explicit as this? Gypsy Euro music chick Manoush does look rather fetching in a black bra, however (although she doesn't get it off, if you're wondering). And speaking of guest appearances – we're treated to a supporting performance from none other than Lina Romay, and her long-term paramour ol' Jess Franco himself (RIP).

'Yes, I'd like to order another dozen nubile Euro porn starlets, please. The last batch you sent got shot whilst trying to escape.'
Lina is basically just Lina, doing what Dyanne Thorne did to her so well in Wicked Warden (and her assistant sure looks like a black-haired version of Ilsa to boot)a wickedly deviant and sexually sadistic commandant whose perversions are well in keeping with de Sade. Jess turns up as a wandered warden himself, bewitched by the sight of some chick playing with her tits, and it's real nice to see the master in a work by one of his many apprentices. The usual lack of logic and character development for movies of this type is still very much in evidenceBethmann hasn't gone all post-modern and clever-ironic on us, but instead hands us a big thick slab of something that could have been conceived back in about 1976, packed with uber-gratuitous sex, snuff, BDSM, violence, and more sex; a rudimentary story, nihilistic immorality, some sweet revenge, and lots of labia to lap up. 
'I haff told you ein millionen times, bitch...don't be a lesbian!'
We like Andreas a lot, not because he's a whizzkid auteur – he has nothing on Jess, who had a good eye for interesting colour schemes, lush set and costume design and the occasional flash of real artistic inspiration - but because his heart is firmly planted back in the old-school of sexploitation revenge and horror flicks, and he pulls no punches, either. The gore effects actually ain't half bad, and this uncut French disk shows the application of some of the special makeup in a silent (!) behind-the-scenes feature, confirming that Bethmann lashes around more of the red stuff in this one movie than Jess probably did in his entire career.

Put it in the curry...
 As it turns out, fellow Teutonic nutcase, Olaf Ittenbach, contributed the splatter and gore effects in this movie, which has served as a nice introduction to the work of that individual (Burning Moon, which Olaf directed as well as did the SFX for, is now on order, and will be reviewed as soon as we've viewed it). He also provided the eye-poppingly gross and indecent carnage at the finale of the (visually and thematically very similar) other Bethmann WIP effort K3: Prison of Hell, which seems to have been Andreas' reboot of this very movie and is possibly even filmed in the same prison island location (and more of that one to come soon in our movie reviews section, too).

Well, he did ask for a close shave...
The difference between the 85 minute cut of Prison Island Massacre and the 105 version is considerable. I don't think there's any way the longer cut would ever hope to get an official UK release of any sort, while the shorter edit really strips away the prolonged scenes of flesh and blood, and presents us with a completely different (and rather pedestrian) opening sequence to boot. The longer cut announces its hardcore credentials within the first 5 minutes, by comparison, in a brutal oral scene which helps to explain the presence of one of the inmates seen later in the movie.

'How come the tall bitch gets a stripy shirt, and I don't?'
As an additional footnote, another luminary of the German underground splatter scene, Andreas Schnaas (director of Violent Shit and others), turns up on the other side of the camera as the psychopathic torturer responsible for the climactic bravura gorefest. Now we're intrigued to see what the 130 minute 'workprint' version contains – if we can track one down. As it stands, the 105 minute version of this flick is one of the most startling 21st century entries in the sexploitation genre that we've seen to date. 5 stars. A definite 'woof'!

Is this really necessary for a broken arm, Doctor...?
Other DVD features: Again, we're reviewing the superior French uncut edition here, rather than the inferior mainstream 85-min German-only release. In addition to the on-set Ittenbach/special effects feature, we get interviews with Lina, Olaf, a number of trailers for the film and a selection of equally hard and weird movies available on the Uncut Movies catalogue...a few of which we'll be checking out in future...

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