Oh, how I love Italian sci-fi, horror and adventure flicks — in this case, a cross-pollination of pirate and women-in-prison flicks — as women slop around the 19th century island sands and jungles in formal wear; a land where make-up never runs or smudges and nary a bead of sweat drips from their perfectly-shaped brows. Oh, and they’re all (implied) lesbians . . . and nary a breast or triangle-of-death shot, appears. But those French-period military uniforms and gowns are impressive. . . . Did Paul Naschy make this movie? If you’ve seen his works Panic Beats and Horror Rises from the Tomb, you know what we mean.
The star of this slave-woman-panning-for-gold tallywacking is U.S. TV western star Guy Madison who starred as “U.S. Marshall James Butler” for seven seasons on The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok. But B-Movie stalwarts will remember Guy best for his pre-television, early ’50s westerns Massacre River, Drums in the Deep South, and The Charge at Feather River. Then there’s the sci-fi and horror classics (well, they are to me) On the Threshold of Space and The Beast of Hollow Mountain, made during his television series’ hiatuses.
Then, as we’ve discussed many times at B&S About Movies: the actors of the 1950s that we loved — such as Gordon Mitchell and Richard Harrison (Three Men on Fire) — saw their careers cool into the acceptance of European audiences. For Guy Madison, as with Mitchell and Harrison: the sword-and-sandal epics, beckoned. So, after knocking out Slave of Rome and Sword of the Conqueror — and before knocking out films for the Italian film industry in every Neapolitan-ripped off genre imaginable — such as Executioner of Venice from my UHF-TV days — as only the Italians can finance, Guy found himself on a boat (okay, well, he shows up, later, as the camp’s new administrator) transporting scantily-clad women to France’s famed Devil’s Island penal colony off the coast of South America.
If you know your Nazisploitation* films (and we know you do), Third Reich-styled chaos, ensues, — only not as violently or sleazy — with the females forced as mining slave labor under the boot of corrupt commandants and guards. Then in steps Guy’s “new sheriff in town” who’s going to clean up the camp’s corruption. Yeah, he falls in love with a prisoner as he catches a bit of gold fever.
Yeah, Domenico Paolella, who directs — and cranked out 40-plus films between 1940 to 1979 (I’ll always remember his 1977, Death Wish-cum-Dirty Harry romp, Stunt Squad via the VHS ’80s) gets the history all wrong, and the women slopping through dirtless, rubbery swamps — only to remain perpetually stunning throughout — is pretty dumb. Well, at least we have Michèle Mercier who, while getting her start with drek like this, thanks to her leading role in the later, three-film Angélique series, rose to instant stardom and rivaled Bridgette Bardot for our testosterone-beating hearts.
Mill Creek’s copy on the Drive-In Classics set is, needless to say, pretty rough. At least it scratches another (again, G-rated mild) “women in prison” flick off your completists list. During the UHF-TV ’70s, when you’re stuck with braces and acne and couldn’t part with your Molly Hatchet concert shirt, the divine Ms. Mercier — under threat of whippings, molestation, and lechery — was a date for a Friday Night fantasy.
* We ramble and babble about about Nazisploitation and Women-In-Prison films in our reviews of Achtung! The Desert Tigers, The Gestapo’s Last Orgy, the trailblazing Love Camp 7, SS Experiment Camp, and the genre documentary, Fascism on a Thread: The Strange Story of Nazisploitation Cinema (2020).