In the past months I have reviewed women’s prison movies from Japan, America, Indonesia, and England. As we look this week on the Italian sexploitation film THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A, it seems as if the women’s prison movie is a worldwide phenomenon, only the subtitles change. The subject of forced human incarceration is always a passionate topic as many criminology theorists from around the globe argue amongst themselves about the deeply cultural, moral issues about the nature of crime and punishment including recidivism rates, the use of the death penalty, or whether a prison’s ultimate goal is to reprimand or to rehabilitate. While it is understandably impossible for even the most civilized nations to come up with a single agreed upon way to incarcerate its most unlawful men, cult film directors from around the world have unanimously decided long ago that all attractive female prisoners should be treated to the maximum corporal punishment possible, but that security should be lax enough for them to escape within an hour and a half’s running time. Also, the dress code for all female inmates should be relaxed, if not ignored entirely.
At first this may seem like punishment that is neither swift nor certain, but, considering that most of the female inmate characters in such films are usually completely innocent, perhaps it is only fair that we don’t impose stricter penalties upon these poor condemned women for the sake of mercy and the public good. Such a movie subgenre may seem at first terribly sexist, but considering there are women’s prison films filmed in every country, devout flesh fiends and feminist women’s right advocates of all cultures must agree universally that these films are”captivating” drama indeed for both men and women, even if at times, only in the strangest most literal sense of the word. And don’t get me started on the “stiff sentences” they impose on male fans of this genre…
While not remotely original in premise, THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A ends where most women in prison pictures begin. Margaret Bradley is just being released from an Italian house of corrections after having served her sentence for some petty crime. Thankfully, there are systems put in place to help care for such at-risk former offenders and that’s when a helpful social worker directs her to the boarding house where she rents a room (2A to be exact). Just like that, we have established title, premise, and lead character all in the first five minutes. Of course, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that room 2A was vacant; the floor is covered in a telltale pool of blood from the Edie, the previous tenant, who committed suicide under mysterious circumstances. Desperate for answers and wanting some support, Margaret meets a man named John (who is none other than Edie’s brother) and together they start investigating the secrets behind 2A at their own peril. Murder, skullduggery, and lots of whipping action of bound, naked female captives ensue (though not necessarily in that order). With overtones of witchcraft, conspiracy, and evil antagonists who have a rather unique sense of justice, the viewer is kept guessing up until the very end.
Just last week I reviewed a copy of Cheezy Flicks “HOUSE OF WHIPCORD”; a taut British sexploitation thriller that took place in a creepy house of horrors where aged English evildoers lurked in every corner (and spanks were lavished upon every ass). THE GIRL IN ROOM 2A is very similar to that film except for the following caveats. The people who are making the women disappear forever in this film are a little more severe, cultist, and, needless to say, far less Puritanical in the belief systems behind their abuses and torments of the innocent. The scenes of naked female prisoners being whipped, tortured, and murdered are far more frequent and graphic than those depicted in WHIPCORD. Finally, this film is nowhere near as well written. While Margaret and John do engage on a plot driven, fact finding mission to uncover the fate of his sister, Edie, and, ultimately, discover more victims and dangers than they surely bargained for, personally I have seen more well-paced sleuthing and taut, masterful revealing of plot elements by would-be investigators in an episode of SCOOBY DOO. I suppose the scenes of Unrated violence depicting torture and murder as committed by weirdoes wearing robes as part of a secret society are the most one can expect from a title such as this, and, as such, it does not disappoint as this is the only uncut version to ever appear on DVD and the action is lurid enough for most in the brief scenes it occurs.
I suppose my problem with this film is that while Margaret has the wherewithal and intelligence to realize SOMETHING is dreadfully wrong in her boarding house, she lacks the intelligence to leave immediately and summon the proper authorities (or an Exorcist). This is particularly upsetting to anyone watching who has basic skills of reasoning or has seen the opening scene/read the title screen and pretty much knows that bad things will only continue to happen in 2A. Moreover, the horrible people who are actually behind the satanic shenanigans are dumb in a different way. At one point they knock John out and bind his hands before leaving him in a car where a venomous snake has been placed. Aside from the Biblical “Garden of Eden” significance of such a trap, I dare say you would expect that a murder cult would simply show more dark mastery if not evil efficiency than this when it came to getting rid of people who knew too much. This film knows the conventions of the sexploitation genre and strings them together with an adequate plot that covers all sins (if you will pardon the expression) yet, whether offered as a personal commentary about the protagonist Margaret, or as a detached observation on the film itself, I would like to say “THE GIRL WHO LIVED IN ROOM 2A” suffered perhaps too much from a lack of basic common sense.
In addition to all of the never-before-seen unrated content included in the film, itself, other bonuses include previews of other Mondo Macabro titles, an interview with the film’s female lead, Daniela Giordano (Edie), and the film’s original trailer.