Friday, 22 August 2014

Women of Devil's Island (1962)

I was excited to sit down for this movie.  Not because I expected it to be good (and I would have been disappointed if I had), but because it was the last film in this particular 50-pack.  It feels like quite an achievement to get through the whole thing.

This Italian film is 13 minutes longer in its original release than in the version on this disc.  It's also apparently a colour film, though you'd be hard pressed to tell it here.  Everything is basically sepia-toned, presumably the result of multiple bad transfers.

Heavy-handed exposition establishes that a group of women are being sent to prison on Devil's Island and that Our Heroine is a political prisoner, not a common criminal like the others.  There's admiring mention of her being noble born, so since the characters are supposed to be French I guess this is pre-Revolution.

Conditions on the island are predictably terrible, with abusive guards running a 'sex for favours' racket, and the women beaten to make them work harder (there's alluvial gold on the island, and it's their job to get it).  The sex is intimated rather than shown; I've seen more skin on a trip to the shops than I did in this film.

Things improve on the island when a new commandant arrives, as he threatens to hang any man who abuses the prisoners, but how long can he remain in control of the resentful officer he has replaced, and what will happen to the women if he does lose his position?  Honestly, it's hard to care very much. The movie does try to deliver a few twists and turns and is a little more inventive than the average 'women in prison' film (possibly because the formula wasn't established yet) but it's simply not very well executed.

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