Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DVD Review: Mr. Skin presents Women in Prison Triple Feature (1983-1985)

Mr. Skin Presents
Panik House Entertainment [PH1012] 
Release Date: July 12th 2011

Celebrity skin legend Mr. Skin and Panik House Entertainment have teamed-up to bring you what is considered by many to be the Unholy Trinity of Women in Prison Films: CHAINED HEAD (1983), RED HEAT (1985) and JUNGLE WARRIORS (1984)! It's a triple-threat of 80's behind bars exploitation featuring Linda Blair (THE EXORCIST), Sybil Danning (HOWLING II) and John Vernon (CURTAINS) in three films guaranteed to slap, tickle and titillate those brave enough to bare witness to the depraved depictions of life behind bars 80's style. This triple feature is only available for a limited time so snatch it up while you can.   

Label: Panik House Entertainment
Region Code: All Regions NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 98 mins
Video: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digtal 2.0 Mono
Director: Paul Nicholas
Cast: Linda Blair, Sybil Danning, John Vernon, Henry Silva, Tamara Dobson
Tagline: What these women did to get into prison, is nothing compared to what they'll do to get out!

CHAINED HEAT is considered the ultimate Women in Prison film and I would have to agree, though my experience in the genre is actually quite virginal and relegated to the three films found on this set, so take that as you will. Linda Blair (THE EXORCIST) stars as Carol Henderson, a naive suburban teenager who is sentenced to 18 months in a women's prison for vehicular manslaughter. The "prison virgin" is in for a rather rude awakening to the realities of L.A. prison life. While being matriculated into the prison system Carol befriends a repeat offender meets named Val (Sharon Hughes, THE LAST HORROR FILM) and unfortunately also catches the attentions of the perverted Warden Backman (John Vernon, DIRTY HARRY) who always has an eye for fresh meat. Once settled in on her cell block she has an encounter with Ericka (Sybil Danning, THE HOWLING II), the leader of the white faction who along with Captain Taylor (Stella Stevens, THE MANITOU) are dealing cocaine within the prison walls.

Warden Backman is portrayed with delicious sliminess by the great John Vernon, the guy has a pimp office with a friggin' hot tub which he utilizes when making homemade porn with surveillance cameras. His current inmate playmate is the smokin' hot snitch named Debbie (Monique Gabrielle) whom he not only gives the double-secret penetration to but also enlists to sniff out who's selling the nose candy as it cuts into his own drug peddling activities, of course. Ericka finds out about the snitch and decides that the bitch has to go but this doesn't sit well with Duchess (Tamara Dobson, CLEOPATRA JONES), the empowered leader of the black faction, who fears that the heat will come down on the black inmates given that racial tensions are already at the breaking point. The shit going on on this prison is pretty epic; Captain Stella is smuggling girls outta the prison to pimp them out to L.A.'s sleazy elite, there's a shit ton of double crossing going on and the the coke-addled Warden rapes poor Carol when she comes to him for help, not knowing any better,  which leads to a scheme by which Val plans to seduce the Warden to get the videotape of him raping Carol and expose him to the authorities, but the hot tub seduction is interrupted by Captain Stella and the frightful red-haired guard Paula (Edy Williams, BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS) who drown the Warden and then kill Val by beating her with a billy club. Captain Stella then turns on Ericka and pins the murders on her - I told you this is Shakespearean, well maybe not all that but it is pretty awesome. Carol discovers Val dying and with her last breath she reveals the identities of her killers which transforms Carol from naive rape-victim to vengeful bad ass.  The waring factions join forces and riot in an effort to get the VHS tape which now has the murder of the Warden, Val and Carol's rape which leads to a satisfying finale stuffed with violence, revenge and mayhem.

I've long heard of this film's legend and I gotta say it lives up to the hype on every level, it's a fantastic cavalcade of lesbians in prison stereotypes, tough chicks, sleazy jailers, rampant drug use, rape, revenge and the all important nude shower scenes. The performances from Blair, Danning, Stevens, Dobson and Vernon range from grimly dramatic to pure delicious campiness and it's makes for the perfect balance of sleaziness and good campy fun, it's a great watch and highly recommended.

DVD: According to DVD this marks the films first-time available uncut and remastered in it's original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and I gotta say it looks pretty great, no doubt helped by Mac Ahlberg's great cinematography. Transferred from a clean source print with very minimal print damage of any kind, it's quite hard to pinpoint any issues with the print and the film's grain structure is nicely intact, bonus, the colors are strong and black levels are good. The English language Dolby Digital mono suffices, it's clean and free of hiss, crackle and pop plus Joseph Conlan's droning score sounds pretty sweet. No subtitles are offered.

Special features include an video introduction from Mr.Skin recapping the film's sleazier skintilating highlights, an anamorphic theatrical trailer and video interviews with both Stella Stevens and Sybil Danning

DISC 1 Special Features:
- Introduction for film by the Legendary Mr. Skin
- Captain Taylor Unchained: Interview with Stella Stevens (11:14) 16:9
- Ericka in Heat: Interview with Sybil Danning (11:23) 16:9
- CHAINED HEAT Theatrical Trailer (2:08) 16:9

RED HEAT (1985)

Label: Panik House Entertainment Region Code: All Regions NTSC

Rating: Unrated
Duration: 94 mins
Video: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digtal 2.0 Mono
Director: Robert Collector
Cast: Linda Blair, Sylvia Kristel, Sue Kiel, William Ostrander
Tagline: Only one film could top the intensity of CHAINED HEAT. This is it!

Linda Blair returns to the women in prison sub genre just two years later with RED HEAT as red-headed American college student Christine Carlson who comes to West Germany to visit her fiance, Mike, a serviceman in the US Army stationed in Germany. After an argument over dinner Christine goes for a walk when she stumbles upon abduction of a suspected spy by the East German Staasi who in turn kidnap her as a CIA accomplice. She's interrogated and deprived of sleep until exhausted she breaks down and confesses to the accusations. She is sentenced to imprisoned in an East German prison where she encounters the East German version of Ericka from CHAINED HEAT, Sofia (Sylvia Kristel, EMMANUELLE), who is the sadistic lesbian-rapist lover of the warden Einbeck (Elizabeth Volkmann, VERONIKA VOSS). Her fiance Mike at first assumes she's left him following the argument but when her passport is discovered in the parking lot outside he realizes something terrible has happened. Not getting satisfaction through regular channels Mike enlists the help of his military buds and stages a daring prison bust to free Christine. Sounds exciting, huh? Well, it's not as great as it could have been, the prison break-out is pretty anti-climactic but like I said, it's a good watch it's just not CHAINED HEAT.

It lacks that proper balance of sleaziness and camp that made the former so much fun, I think we needed John Vernon here to alleviate some of the oppressive atmosphere. This is a very dark film, it's not easy to digest the sleazier WIP elements when they aren't offset by some campier shenanigans, at least in my experience.  

DVD: Presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen with English language Dolby Digital Mono, no subtitles offered. Not a bad looking print but it's a dark and grainy affair, the film seems a bit underlit. Not sure if the film was going for a dark look or if the production couldn't afford decent lighting, either way it's a drab film but it suits the film's grim tone. The Dolby Digital mono handles the dialogue, effects and Tangerine Dream's kind of bland score pretty well. Special features include a fullscreen trailer and a Mr. Skin introduction for the film.


Label: Panik House Entertainment
Region Code: All Regions NTSC

Rating: Unrated
Duration: 95 mins
Video: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Audio: Dolby Digtal 2.0 Mono
Director: Ernst R. Von Theumer
Cast: Sybil Danning, John Vernon, Paul L. Smith, Nina Van Pallandt, Marjoe Gortner, Kai Wulff 

Interestingly the third feature is not really a women in prison film at all. JUNGLE WARRIORS is in fact a jungle/action film with some minor WIP elements. That's kind of cheating but since it brings both Sybil Danning and John Vernon from CHAINED HEAT back together I'll allow it.

This time out five gorgeous American models along with pretentious art director Larry (Marjoe Gortner, THE FOOD OF THE GODS) and photographer Joanna (Nina Van Pallandt, THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER) charter a plane piloted by Ben (Kai Wulff, ASSASSINS) to fly them to some exotic jungle locations in South America for a sexy fashion photo shoot.
Enter the always entertaining John Vernon (ANIMAL HOUSE) whom appears as the American drug lord Mastranga who along with his second in command Spilotro (Alex Cord, THE DEAD ARE ALIVE) have arrived to trade 50 million in gold for cocaine with drug lord Cesar Santiago. Whiler scouting for some scenic locations the plane encroaches on the drug lord's compound and is shot down. After escaping the crash unscathed the group are left to fend off pythons, cayman and the drug lord's mercenaries who are in pursuit. When the soldiers of fortune catch-up to them the usually uppity Larry momentarily turns bad ass and takes out a few mercs until he is impaled by a nasty trap. After being captured the group are taken to Cesar Santiago (Paul L. Smith, PIECES, POPEYE) doing what he does best, being awesomely odd, his delivery is quite weird but always fun. He invites them to dinner were he introduces his half-sister Angel (Sybil Danning, CHAINED HEAT). During the uncomfortable meal things go awry and Ben is decapitated and the girls are imprisoned in a dungeon. Hanging by chains from the ceiling the girls  are interrogated by Angel who gives 'em the once over and a nice titty squeeze for good measure and then throws them to the typically savage mercenaries who squeeze, grope and rape the women though what we see onscreen is pretty tame. Later the models escape from the dungeon with the help of a sympathetic elderly woman, they arm themselves and make a break for it. Hot babes with guns in the jungle, it's not quite WIP but I'm not gonna complain, this is a fun watch. At about the same time Santiago double crosses Mastranga and everything goes south with the three armed-to-the-teeth factions engaging in an intense gun battle as the CIA moves in further complicating matters. The remainder of the film climaxes as an 80's jungle-action flick and in the end it's all a bit slightly goofy but still a pretty damn entertaining action flick. It's not on the same level as CHAINED HEAT but I prefer it's trashiness to RED HEAT's rather grim aesthetic. If you enjoyed Brian Trenchard-Smith's CUT AND RUN I think this will be a fun watch. Plenty of violence and a tiny smattering of the WIP tropes.

DVD: Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with English language Dolby Digital mono with no subtitles. Of the three films on this set it's the softest looking image of the bunch, but despite some lack of fine detail, heavy grain, truly poor black levels and some super-hazy cinematography it does come from a clean source print and is quite watchable. The special features include a 16x9 enhanced trailer and a Mr. Skin introduction for the film.  

DISC 2 Special Features:
- Introduction for each film by the Legendary Mr. Skin

- RED HEAT Theatrical Trailer (2:08) 4:3
- JUNGLE WARRIOR Theatrical Trailer (1:37) 16:9

Verdict: As my introduction to WIP films I think this was a great set that I would recommend to devotees of the subgenre as well as newbies like myself. Good sleazy slammer exploitation nastiness, chock full of nude babes, vile jailers and every other stereotype you could hope for with an exploitation flick. When it comes to WIP films I can tell that for my own enjoyment I need a certain amount cheesiness, camp, kitch or whatever you wanna call it to offset the the heinous rape scenarios.  

CHAINED HEAT 4 outta 5
RED HEAT 2.75 outta 5


RED HEAT Screen Caps


No comments:

Post a Comment