BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: The Jail: The Women’s Hell (2006)

When most Italian men get to be 75 years of age, they become kindly older men, their rough edges filed down and replaced with good humor and happiness. Bruno Mattei was not one of those men, because if you think his return to the women in prison genre would start pulling punches, you don’t know Vincent Dawn. Or David Hunt. Or Werner Knox.

The first moment in this movie would be the roughest in anyone else’s film. The warden of the prison hell on an Adian island asks for a woman to be released from the hole that she’s been in for a month. When the guards take her out, she’s already dead. She orders her to take twenty lashes anyway to the shock of everyone, even the hardened people guarding the prisoners. In another director’s hands, this would be enough. But we’re in the world of Mr. Mattei and that means we have to watch a dead body literally get the deceased horse treatment.

Three new fish — prisoners 50-52 — are coming to this jungle hell. They’re Carol, who killed her pimp. Lisa, who was part of the wrong crowd. And finally, our heroine Jennifer (Yvette Yzon, who was in two other late Mattei films, Island of the Living Dead and Zombies: The Beginning), who we know won’t crack under pressure. Or high pressure hoses. Or whatever other horrifying things the mind of Mattei can bring.

Jim Gaines — who shows up in plenty of Mattei movies like Zombies: The BeginningIsland of the Living DeadRoboWar, both Strike Commando movies — plays the Governor of the island who runs a strip club, because I guess that’s the kind of business that thrives in a hellhole, and uses the girls as talent. If you don’t play along, they make you stand in a bamboo cage filled with corpses, so most of the ladies get on the pole.

During a huge party at the Governor’s club, the girls make a break for it, turning the film into The Most Dangerous Game slasher territory, yet it’s somehow some of the best-lensed stuff Bruno did. Life’s funny that way. Somehow, the Philippines were just made for the director.

That said — this movie is 100% not for anyone. Really, it’s filled with such repellant imagery that it goes into near parody territory. The House of the Lost Souls is not a place that anyone wants to go to and the film shows you all of it.

Somehow, someway, Bruno didn’t rip anything off in this other than every women in prison movie ever.

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