Monday, August 23, 2010

99 WOMEN (Island of Despair)

Director:Jesus Franco
Writers: Anya Corvin (German dialogue)
Milo G. Cuccia (screenplay)
Milo G. Cuccia (story)
Release Date: 23 April 1969 (USA)
Genre: Action,Drama,Horror
Tagline: 99 WOMEN... behind bars -- without men!

User Reviews (Review this title)
Worth A Slack-Jawed Look, 8 June 2010
Author: ferbs54 from United States
Anyone at all familiar with the work of director Jess Franco knows that choosing a rental from his gigantic oeuvre of 190+ films (!) is a crapshoot at best. "99 Women," from 1969, is fairly typical Franco: cheaply made, often sleazy, and featuring an overdependence on the ol' zoom lens. This early WIP (women in prison) flick transpires at an unnamed island locale, although the press kit for the film states that it takes place off the coast of Panama. Here, the 99 female inmates of the title are sadistically looked after by a superintendent played by Mercedes McCambridge, in heavily accented monster mode; on the other side of the island, Herbert Lom (born that name!) wards over the 500 male prisoners, using Mercedes' girls as his own private brothel. The film boasts a very impressive cast, including Luciana Paluzzi, Rosalba Neri and Maria Rohm--three of the hottest Eurobabes of the time--as prisoners, and Maria Schell as a kindly prison investigator. Unfortunately, the great Paluzzi is shockingly underused in this film, her role limited to a mere seven words of dialogue and barely 10 minutes of screen time. Worse, a seemingly obligatory soft-core lesbian scene between Rosalba and Rohm is somehow made quite dull by Franco; don't know how he managed that with two such smoking beauties! On the plus side, "99 Women" features some fairly decent acting (especially by the old pros McCambridge and Lom), scenic outdoor locales (on one of this Blue Underground DVD's copious extras, Franco reveals that the film was largely shot at an ancient fortress in Alicante, Spain, on the Mediterranean coast), and a nicely downbeat ending. The movie, apparently, was quite a hit in its day, and with its many exploitative elements--nudity, lesbianism, prison escape, prison riot, whippings, drug and prostitution references--it is easy to see why. Today, the film strikes the viewer as entertaining shlock, but at least it IS entertaining, and certainly worth a slack-jawed look....

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