There are some already unpleasant things in this world that somehow sound worse with an Asian prefix before them. From Chinese Water torture to Japanese Beetles all the way to Taiwanese sex tourism, the ways of many Asian countries are part of a rich colorful heritage that is often one of extremity incarnate that somehow transcends language or geographical borders. When I was offered the chance to receive some “Indonesian Exploitation” from a little company called Mondo Macabro, I figured, at the very least, I would have something else to add to the list of all things exotic, eastern and evil. With a name like “VIRGINS FROM HELL” I felt that I had discovered the universal language that is the woman in prison feature; one I speak most fluently.
As the Indonesians might say:
Saya masih semua film penjara perempuan. Nikmati.
Such a beautiful language this is, it’s hard to believe I just said:
“I am still the warden of women’s prison films, enjoy!”
VIRGINS FROM HELL has an intricate plot, so make sure you read very closely, or the nuances of this quiet, delicate film could be lost. Shelia is the head of an all-girl gang who is obsessed with revenge toward a bad man named Mr. Tiger; a flamboyantly evil man who seems like kind of a costumed rival from an early James Bond film, only more bizarre and senselessly melodramatic. Despite his cutesy nickname, which seems more befitting of a character on a children’s cartoon show, it seems “Mr Tiger” is no pussycat; not only did he murder Shelia’s parents in cold blood when they refused to sell their giant house to him (the flashback of this scene raises as many questions as it answers), but is also involved in all sorts of organized crime from gambling and prostitution to drug trafficking. Even if it takes Shelia her entire life, she will make Mr. Tiger’s existence as difficult as possible with continual raids and armed robberies upon all of his criminal operations. Yet, in a daring daytime raid, she and her entire female fighting force gets captured, and that’s when this thing gets kind of inexplicable.
It seems Mr. Tiger is not just a drug Kingpin; apparently he sees himself as a potential Nobel Peace Prize nominee. With a now limitless supply of captive girls, he is able to put the final test run on his ultimate creation; an aphrodisiac drug which will allow him to take over the world. That is once he smuggles enough of the drug (hidden inside of coconuts which the female prisoners also collect) down river. Understandably, Shelia is not content to be a farm hand, a comfort woman, nor a guinea pig for the man who murdered her parents, enslaved all her friends, and set up a drug lab in her family home, so she bides her time preparing for the moment she will make her escape and avenge the hellacious (if not hilarious) torments suffered at the hands of her lifelong foe and lifelong foe, Mr. Tiger.
In case you haven’t figured out by now, this is a rather bizarre film, but it is amusing even if most of the entertainment value of this seems to occur accidentally. Just when you eventually accept the fact that a bunch of petite women dressed in brightly colored satin body suits can knock over a casino run by an evil Asian crime syndicate, VIRGINS just keeps piling on the goofy until you quickly abandon all hope of making sense of this, and give up on “watching” this movie so much as simply staring at it in disbelief.
While the plot, itself, isn’t the worst I have seen, VIRGINS FROM HELL is a bizarre mix of several classic cult film archetypes. It’s got the women’s prison movie motif, but, as there isn’t a single instance of nudity in this film, it ends up somehow making s Mr. Tiger seem more fetishistic than evil, like he actually would rather bathe with two women in nightgowns rather than having them be completely naked. It has all the staples of a nice old Kung-Fu movie, where all characters seem to have a certain degree of martial arts skill, but the fact that deadly gunfights erupt every ten minutes in this film somehow makes all the elaborate physical fight scenes end up looking like the short duel between Indiana Jones and the Cairo Swordsman. Even the soundtrack is schizophrenic. At the most inappropriate times in the story I heard a song by the Moody Blues and, later, bits of the scores from DUNE and RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART 2. The film is a simple, vibrant, and aggressive spectacle devoid of all meaning, yet, somehow, captivating in its randomness; the cinematic equivalent of watching colorful clothes spin in a coin operated dryer.
I have to deduct some points for not including any nudity for a film such as this, especially for a film that didn’t even try to artfully or teasingly admit that there was anything particularly peculiar whatsoever about female prisoners who simply cannot disrobe, even for purposes of basic bathing rituals. Coupled with that oddness was the fact that death was so arbitrary in this compared to most sexploitation works from all other countries in which threats are used almost constantly as the prime method of conversation if not persuasion. In VIRGINS it was more commonplace to see characters machine gunned to death for the slightest offense or to be thrown into a stupid, brutal, and oftentimes silly torture devices seemingly inspired by a Road Runner cartoon. It seems I may add Indonesian Exploitation films to my list of scary sounding evil Asian things, and, yet, in this particular case I can’t say it was ultimately a “bad” thing.
Special Features include a second disk full of 70 minutes of trailers, an informative documentary about the nuances of Indonesian Cult cinema that, admittedly, actually did lend some sense to the proceedings.