Bruno Mattei, one of my favorite exploitation directors, made some crazy productions. From the glory years of the 80s when he cranked out horror, action, nunsploitation and Women In Prison films through the sex and softcore 90s you just couldn’t stop him. After a lay off of a few years, Mattei returned to the directors chair in the 00s with a lot of help from Gianni Paolucci, making another genre hopping 15 films. Yes indeed, cannibals and sex and explosive action with cannibals AND commandos going head to head-all fodder for Bruno. And with his passing he left behind some films done late in his life that were as berserk and over the top as anything he had done. Taking the zombie craze and using his flair for action, he practically stepped back in time to when he shot Shocking Dark and Robowar to again strip mine the action favorites and move them in to a horror / science fiction story with Zombies The Beginning and Island of the Living Dead.
But his final Women in Prison film, again starring his lady of choice, Yvette Yzon, THE JAIL has been very very elusive. With Japanese releases of these final films, especially the nasty Cannibal Holocaust:The Beginning, I figured that this must be more like the rather sad sack THE TOMB than the better and nastier films like Cannibal Holocaust:The Beginning.
Was I ever wrong… THE JAIL is probably the sleaziest throwback film of them all. Not only did Mattei dig in to the Women In Prison films he was very good at making for one final go, but he added lots of surprises-nasty gore and twisted sadistic characters abound. If you like Women in Prison films OR Bruno Mattei’s career as a whole, this film will satisfy.
While I will take Land of Death / Cannibals Vs. Commandos (as the Japanese so wonderfully titled it) as my favorite of the late Mattei films, THE JAIL is the sleaziest and trashiest of a trashy bunch!
And I’m still scratching my head at the awesome “Musical Commentary by Bruno Mattei” credit.
To quote the film…”Hurry…TO THE SHOWERS!!!!!!!”
THE JAIL / ANIME PERSE
2006 – La Perla Nera / Film Export Group
Directed by Vincent Dawn (Bruno Mattei)
Starring Yvette Yzon, Jim Gaines, Odette Khan and Mike Monty
“Here comes more occupants for the house of lost souls!”
Bruno Mattei was a master of exploitation cinema, be it a post nuclear killer creature feature, zombie splatfest or a screaming men with guns epic you could rely on him to bring his talent for cheap thrills to bear. During his final years, which he spent making movies for Gianni Paolucci and the La Perla Negra production group, the man crossed aliens and zombies and strippers and snuff traps and cannibals and commandos in to a mash up of genre films that not only reminded me why I love the directors work as a whole, but the very berserk nature of Italian exploitation films that has forged my cinematic experience of the (at least) last 25 years. Most of the final 15 films of Mattei’s career have showed up in different parts of the world, but THE JAIL has remained elusive? At first I feared it was just unreleasable, but that is not the case at all! THE JAIL is a return to Women’s Prison Massacres gone by-and may very well be the roughest and most violent Mattei film of the last 20 years.
I am very fond of the W.I.P. duo VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN’S PRISON and BLADE VIOLENT-Mattei brought along everyone’s favorite Emmanuelle, Laura Gemser, and dipped her in the deep end of the Prison Population with great results. For THE JAIL he very easily pops in his own Gemser like gal and frequent collaborator, Yvette Yzon with excellent results-she takes the best that the director can dish out and makes for an excellent presence that not only pushes the set pieces of the film along, but gives a nice unifying presence to the directors final films. THE JAIL is a worthy return to his early work in the reformation of naughty girls at the hands of an evil Warden cinema. A cinema of women who fight back. A cinema of women who battle for their lives against oppression. A cinema of women taking showers! And shower they do…oh yes.
The film opens as we meet some unlucky ladies on a riverboat heading to the “House of Lost Souls”-which is almost exactly the prison you would expect to see. Included in our core cluster of prisoners is Jennifer (Yzon), a tough girl who isn’t worried in the least. But we know she should be. After a few minutes in the prison camp the audience is worried as well. Not only do the prisoners get punished by the delightfully chubby wardress (Odette Khan), but if they die during these punishments their dead bodies are then flogged in front of the prisoners as an example. That sure makes a point.
After being hosed down and felt up by the creepy doctor the girls are taken into their cell. Yes, intimidation of the sapphic shape takes place and Jennifer is set up as a take no crap woman who definitely appears to be the only character strong enough to survive the rigors of the scenario.
THE JAIL then travels the familiar walks of shame through the various cells of horror…mud fights ensue! Late night burials occur in one of the sharper scenes in the film as Jennifer recoils in horror to be burying her fellows in a mass grave where skeletons seem to pop up with every spoonful of wet earth! It becomes obvious that Jennifer is one tough cookie with a caring streak for her fellow prisoners…a hero. So, the heroine must have a run in with the ever useful corrupt Governor of course. Played to the hilt by the always reliable Jim Gaines this guy is a scumbag that sees our girls usefulness. He turns them out to work parties of goons as they dance and grind for their lives. Jennifer is very good at said grinding-and when guys get grabby she unleashes her yellow bikini fu all over them.
“Hurry…To the showers!!!”
Jennifer is approached to work a “special party” by The Governor-and she refuses with all spunky spitfire anger one could hope for in a heroine. Well, she should have thought twice, because her punishment has her drawing a random slip of paper that ends her up as a chained captive forced to watch an intensely sleazy sequence of a bound woman being “snaked” in great Big Doll House form. The Governor gloats over Jennifer while Mike Monty fans stare slack jawed at his cameo until finally Jennifer relents.
“MOTHERFUCKER…save her and in exchange I’ll do….ANYTHING!”
Well, that doesn’t work out for the woman being infiltrated by a snake, but it does show just how far Jennifer will have to go to win out over her captors.
Dumped back in to the prison the film essentially repeats itself, now with the trash factor jacked up and we see not only a CHUCK NORRIS APPROVED P.O.W. CAGE ™ sequence, but the spectacle of bloated and broken prisoners body hung out over the dinner table. Jennifer decides to take up the Governors offer, which amuses him to no end. After the pair seal the deal with a little fluid swapping and we know each is playing the other he gives us this immortal line. “You know-you really are a big whore.” Jennifer smiles and replies with a classic one liner. “I know.”
“I’m tired of living in that shit house of a penitentiary.”
After leading her girls in to an orgy scenario that would make later day Jess Franco proud, Jennifer and the girls just sneak out in to the jungle. But after about one minute of screen time we all realize what is next. The girls have been set up to as The Most Dangerous Game If They Can Figure Out How To Not Continually Circle Back Through The Same Part Of The Jungle of course. The Governor reminds his hunters that there are no rules at all, and one by one the girls fall in some of Mattei’s most brutal sequences in his entire filmography. Being shot multiple times and raped is getting off light in this scenario…because this is when I fall to my knees and thank not only the brilliant Bruno looking down from his seat in European Trash Cinema glory on my television, but also Gianni Paolucci.
Some hunting parties have dogs. Some have an indian guide. Nope, these Filipino Fraggers have CANNIBALS. Yes you read it right…CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST : THE BEGINNING was just the start. Spike traps, drum banging, bad make-up, breast hacking and more (yes, more) are all on show for the last 30 minutes of THE JAIL. Wow.
“Let’s get ready to rumble!”
I’m not going to spoil the ending even though you have probably seen it all before (minus the cannibal tribe of course), but being shot in The Philippines can only mean one thing. WATERFALL. Jennifer shines in the final moments becoming an action hero that could have given the warbly mumbly megabot of ROBOWAR a good thumping.
I felt light headed when THE END popped up…once more, Mattei satisfies!
“Get out of the way…shit head!”
THE JAIL is a great example of exploitation cinema, not just because it delivers a solid 90 minutes that never once bothers to take downtime, even if it simply repeats scenes in the script by setting up a second cycle of prison fights, nude dancing, fight the power, prisoner punishment sequences, but because it simply exists. A splatter drenched Italian exploitation film that not only follows the rules of the genre it is using, but goes beyond it as the glory gory years of the 70s and 80s were so good at doing. Cannibals? Really! THE JAIL is like the Zombie Holocaust of W.I.P. prison movies, coming from a producer and director working during very uncertain times. I’m unaware of any major commercial release of this film, the copy I watched was available in English and Czech language (!), but like all of Mattei’s final films they are obviously looking to capitalize on fans of Italian shockers-if they could only reach them. For almost all of the films, which I’ve imported on DVD from Japan, Russia, Germany and Italy, this has been challenging. Not even the Japanese grabbed THE JAIL-which is a shame.
Like the other La Perla Negra films, THE JAIL is shot on hi-def digital with the very experienced Luigi Ciccarese working as cinematographer. While it is sometimes jarringly clear, the film never looks like a Shot On Video cheapjack production. Mattei and his crew over come the technical issues and create scenes that equal the 80s films in both look and grungy feel. The music is well chosen and suitably doom doom da doom laden and Bruno has the oddball credit of “Musical Commentary” to go with it.
The cast deserves special notice. The evil warden is played by Odette Khan and she seems to be having fun, and it is always great to see Jim Gaines acting evil in the Philippines. The secondary stars, Amelie Pontailler and Diana Croystan are both good, but Yvette Yzon is great. She worked quite a few times with Bruno Mattei during this part of his career and goes all out. She has done the action gal role well, but Women In Prison movies need to have a strong Final Girl and she pulls out all the stops. While the character of Jennifer really doesn’t make a lot of sense in that she is an amalgam of several of the usual WIPpers roled up into a sexy wrap of survivor. She is tough and goes to jail for doing “all that…and worse.” Yet she also is sympathetic and ready to help. She is horrified. And then she takes daring leaps from massive heights. Complex woman or Character Shortcuts? You decide! It doesn’t matter, because Yzon is up to the task for each and every bit of the role.
And let me just say that she not only has perfect teeth…everything else is exactly where it should be as well!
A worthy entry not only in to the later days of Italian Exploitation Cinema, but the filmography of Bruno Mattei-a titan of trash-THE JAIL kept me captivated and hungry for more meaty entries in the La Perla Negra catalog. DVD companies, get on these films…
Little Extra Bonus Shot…my oversized note sheets show a lot of enthusiasm while watching the film! Click to view full size.