BRUNO MATTEI WEEK: Violence in a Women’s Prison (1982)

The seventh film in the Black Emanuelle series — and the first to be directed by Bruno Mattei — finds our heroine, still played by Laura Gemser, investigating the Santa Catarina Women’s Penitentiary for Amnesty International.

Wow. You might think that’s pretty woke for an Italian exploitation film. I am here to assure you — or upset you — and reveal that it’s the very last woke or progressive thing that will happen in this movie.

Released as Caged Women in the U.S., this film has Emanuelle pretending to be a drug dealer as she learns all about the horrific conditions within the prison, which consist of all the tropes of the women in prison genre as filtered through the demented minds of husband and wife writing dup Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi.

Of course, our heroine falls for a kindly prison doctor — it’s her husband in real life, Gabriele Tinti — who is there because he euthanized his cancer-stricken wife. What you may not expect are catfights atop mounds of feces or a traumatic scene where Gemser is attacked by numerous rats. If this was an SAT answer it would be: Bruno Mattei is to rats with red glowing eyes as Lucio Fulci is to eyeballs.

Obviously, this movie used the Italian filmmaking trick of shooting two similar films at the same time on the same set with the same crew and actors. The other one would be Women’s Prison Massacre, which is just as demented.

Lorraine De Selle plays the brutal warden. If you’re like me, you’ll recognize her from The House on the Edge of the Park and Cannibal Ferox. Other recognizable performers include Maria Romano (Thor the ConquerorThe Final Executioner) and Franca Stoppi (The Other Hell).

I can’t believe that this actually played U.S. theaters and drive-ins, while being unable to fathom the feeling people had when they wandered into the wrong theater and were confronted by the excesses of Bruno Mattei. One doubts they ever could eat popcorn again.

You can get this from Severin, who really can be depended on for releasing the best-looking versions of movies that most people would wish would just go away. I love them with all my heart.

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