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Review by: 
Hölle der Lust
Release Date: 
Blue Underground
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Jess Franco
Ajita Wilson
Ursula Fellner
Robert Foster
Andrea Guzon
Bottom Line: 

 A newly married couple are driving through a remote and desolate part of Spain. After ignoring a "No Trespass" sign, the newlyweds find themselves held at gunpoint by two topless female guards! They are taken back to an all-female prison which is run by sadistic warden, Magda Urtado (Ajita Wilson). She lets the groom go, but imprisons the female alongside the rest of her inmates (which consist entirely of naked, blonde, lesbian beauties). What follows are a series of depraved incidents instigated by Warden Magda, the prison's impotent governor (Antonia Mayans billed as Robert Foster), and his lesbian wife; the threesome use and abuse the women prisoners in various ways for their own sick pleasure and amusement (that's when the inmates aren't using and abusing each other for their own sick pleasure and amusement). Meanwhile, the husband tries to organise an escape bid for his wife -- but when he is again captured by some of the topless totty that guard the place, he finds himself forced into "servicing" the insatiable lusts of warden Magda!
This is an amusing exploitation romp from Jess Franco with very few redeeming qualities! The strange, poetic ambience of the director's best work is nowhere to be seen. Instead, dear viewer -- you will be treated to 102 minutes of pure, but good-spirited, filth: with no real artistic merit apparent at all!
Thank Gibson for that!!
As you will already have gathered, this is an entry in the "Women In Prison" (W.I.P.) genre -- a sub-genre of exploitation flicks which Franco pioneered. The director made many W.I.P. flicks over the course of his career, probably because they offered endless opportunities for the sex and sadism scenarios he loves! This particular film seems to consist of little else but sex and sadism, with the wafer-thin story simply a means of connecting one lesbian sex-romp with another! Although it contains several infamous sequences (which we'll come to in a moment), it isn't really particularly disturbing or even hugely distasteful. Modern movies such as "Visitor Q" outdo it by a country mile when it comes to the portrayal of shocking scenes of excess. Really, "Sadomania" just comes across as a sly piece of camp sleaze -- in poor taste but lots of fun! Franco was trying to emulate the style of the sexually graphic Italian comic-books known as 'fumetti", which surely explains the light-hearted approach, the over-the-top characters, and ridiculous situations. The whole idea of a prison camp run by naked female guards with machine-guns is a preposterous conceit to begin with, and the film is full of deliberately daft ideas like this: the women guards use toy guns, and escapees are eaten by a plastic crocodile! Things reach a fever pitch of silliness when we get to Franco's role as a gay slave trader! Franco, game for anything as always, treats us to his first ever (and only) gay sex scene! Although his "partner" in the scene is really the film's star, Italian sex-symbol, Ajita Wilson -- with her hair slicked back and sporting a fake moustache! It's a typical Franco irony to use a transsexual (who's womanly appearance is completely persuasive) to play a man!
Wilson is the reason for the film's existence, since Franco's producers wanted to make a Greta/Isla style film with her in the lead role. In fact, she provides most of the on-screen entertainment with her performance -- which is full of gleeful menace and sadistic delight. Whether enthusiastically taking part in some extremely frank sex-scenes, or enjoying inflicting suffering on her sex-bomb charges (sticking needles in nipples for instance!) - hers is always a compelling presence; she joins a small army of starlets who have emboldened Franco's cinema with their slightly tarnished screen auras.
"Sadomania" was Franco's response to the end of Generalissimo Franco's conservative rule in Spain. With the death of his namesake, Franco was able to return to his homeland; film with a cast of fifty naked women; and watch, with satisfaction, the authorities who were now powerless to stop him! Perhaps some of the more outrageous scenes were also a mischievous thumbing of the nose to conservative censorship in Spain; in particular the bizarre bestiality scene in which a naked woman is strapped to a chair and forced to copulate with an extremely enthusiastic Alsatian! No need for PETA to get excited though: it's obviously faked, although the dog is definitely one of the more convincing actors in the film!
Blue Underground's new disc of this sleaze classic has become their most controversial release to date. The main reason for this is down to the fact that there is a massive blunder concerning the film's transfer: the final part of the film is very obviously meant to take place at night. Franco filmed using day for night filtering but, somehow, the filtering was left off when BU came to create their transfer, which means all of the night-time exteriors take place in broad daylight on this disc! This becomes particularly apparent when the night-time interiors are inter-cut with the daylight exterior scenes. However, Franco scholars have also taken exception to the transfer as a whole, since they feel that the original aesthetic of the film has been lost during BU's digital cleanup and colour correction -- and that this has resulted in the film's look being "standardised". I have never seen the film before so I can't really comment on this other than to say that, in terms of clarity and quality of image, this looks well up to BU's usual standard. There is a Dutch release which is said to retain the original look of the film, although without BU's clean crisp image. It's up to the buyer to make their own decision on this -- personally, I find the BU disc quite acceptable. This is not the end of the story though. The BU disc contains the atrocious English audio dub while a couple of scenes that were cut from the English speaking release are included with the much better Spanish audio track and English subtitles. The Spanish audio in these scenes really peps up the film, and gives us a taste of the original adult comic-book feel Franco was trying to create instead of the tacky kitsch feel one gets from the English audio. Also, the soundtrack score of the original Spanish version was quite different from the one included on this English audio track.
The original Spanish audio would obviously have been a better option for this release; the small audience that this disc will attract would obviously prefer that. In fact, as a recent German release of one of Franco's early seventies film's has just revealed, the more soundtrack options one can make available for a Franco film the better -- as they often seem to be quite radically different from each other. The end result is often akin to watching several, entirely different films!
When it comes to extras though, BU are well up to their usual standard. The highlight is an eighteen minute interview with Jess Franco: "Sadomaniac". Franco remembers his admiration of Ajita Wilson and, among other things, discusses his own personal morality. An extensive gallery of poster art and production stills; several fine biographical sketches of Franco and Ajita Wilson; and International and Spanish trailers round off the collection.
It is up to the consumer to decide what to make of this flawed release; in many ways, it is as good as anything BU have done before. I suspect that recent Euro-sleaze fans, who have never seen the film before, will have no real problem with it, while more seasoned veterans of the genre will be sticking to their prized, blurry VHS Spanish dubbed versions on principle for the time being! 

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