99 Women (1969)

Director
Jesús Franco

Main cast
Maria Schell; Herbert Lom; Mercedes McCambridge; Maria Rohm; Rosalba Neri

Genres
Thriller, Drama

Description
Jesus Franco's campy women's prison film is worthwhile for genre devotees primarily due to an outstanding cast. Mercedes McCambridge is unintentionally hilarious as sadistic lesbian warden Thelma Diaz, spitting tacky dialogue with exuberant venom in a performance so overbearing that it verges on classic. The plot is standard for the genre, as three women (Maria Rohm, Elisa Montes, Luciana Paluzzi) are sentenced to an island prison off the Panamanian coast, only to encounter torture, rape, and lesbianism. When sympathetic Warden Caroll (Maria Schell) replaces Diaz, the prisoners assume that conditions will improve, but their agony only worsens until they decide to escape. Rosalba Neri co-stars, and Herbert Lom runs the corrupt men's prison nearby. 99 Mujeres was heavily censored in various prints, with versions running anywhere between 70 and 108 minutes. Edits running 84, 86, and 94 minutes are most commonly available.


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In the final decades of the 20th century, the Philippines was a country where low-budget exploitation-film producers were free to make nearly any kind of movie they wanted, any way they pleased. It was a country with extremely lax labor regulations and a very permissive attitude towards cultural expression. As a result, it became a hotbed for the production of cheapie movies. Their history and the genre itself are detailed in this breezy, nostalgic documentary.

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