99 Women Film and BluRay Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Review of 99 Women Director's Cut BluRay (Blue Underground).
Marie (Maria Rohm) and a few other female delinquents are being sent to a prison island that is known as the island of death and is located in a medieval castle. Director Thelma Diaz (Mercedes McCambridge) reigns brutally over the now 99 female prisoners of the island. Nearby, governor Santos (Herbert Lom) acts as Diaz’ protege. He gets his fun with some of the girls while providing political cover for her, as the number of inmates who return home in bodybags increases. While Marie and the other newcomers try to make friends, among others with Zoie (Rosalba Neri), some of them are hatching escape plans. Suspicious about the latest deaths, the justice ministry sends Leonie Carola (Maria Schell) to the island as a special investigator. Unable to quite curtail the governor’s evil plots, she has to witness a prison breakout that results in many deaths and she eventually leaves the island without being able to prevent the brutal punishment that awaits the young girls….
It's Jess Franco's first real foray into the women-in-prison genre, and it certainly wasn’t his last. Powered by some stellar headline performances, this little sleaze classic was to become quite successful - surprisingly so, according to some of the interviews contained on the BluRay. 99 Women boasts a catchy title song and some good tunes by Bruno Nicolai, some interesting vistas (the jungle scenes were filmed in Brazil, the rest in Alicante and in studios in Barcelona) and an interesting story with no happy end (at least not in the director’s cut version, the Spanish cut offers a glimpse of hope).
It’s a rather tame women-in-prison film. Most of the sex and rape are merely insinuated, the movie is mainly an artsy play with light and lingerie, it’s a teaser of a film, with a hint of nudity wrapped in a controversial setting at the most. A lot of the films that came after this one went to greater lengths depicting these prisoners’ fates in more graphic detail. There was, as with many other movies of the time, however an attempt to sell this already sleazy material by that time’s standards, to an even more lurid audience, and so there exists an x-rated French version with some pornographic inserts shot by someone else. It’s included by Blue Underground in the limited edition.
Overall, 99 Women is a captivating and atmospheric film of its time, with some stellar performances and genre-defining features. It’s not particularly exciting, brutal or sexy, but it’s a fun little exploitation camper that tries to be more than just a sleazy captivity film.
I had seen the movie before, some ten years ago, on an older Blue Underground DVD, this time however they went back to the restoration process and scanned from a variety of sources in 4K to provide the best possible viewing experience. Aside from a few scenes the movie looks really amazing now. Rich vibrant Colors, great contrasts and a sharp image. The sound is also quite great.
You get an English DTS-HD mono track with English SDH, French or Spanish subtitles. For those getting the limited edition, the French X-rated version exists in French with subtitles (on an additional BluRay). The release comes with the soundtrack by Bruno Nicolai on CD and the movie as an additional DVD low res version for whatever reason.
There's a number of great extras on it as well. Aside from the informative collectible booklet, you get an interview with Jess Franco himself (18mins), in which he tells a few interesting stories about the making of the film and the actors and actresses - and the different versions of it. Then there's an interview with Stephen Thrower, Author of “Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco” (16min), calling the film the most mainstream of francos WIP movies, among other things. He's quite an authority on the man's work, so definitely check that out. Interestingly, there are some deleted and alternate scenes (5m, 16 and 2 mins). The first is a slightly extended flashback sequence with Marie, without sound sourced from a German print. The second is a longer and weird alternate version of the flashback of Zoie, taken from a Greek videotape, and shot without Rosalba Neri or Jess Franco as filler material. The third is the longer, positive ending of the Spanish version, recorded from a 13th Street channel TV broadcast, fortunately subtitled. Then there's the theatrical trailer as well as a poster and still gallery.
Sebastian, co-founder and admin of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb). He also started The Spaghetti Western Database (SWDb), The Quentin Tarantino Archives, The Robert Rodriguez Archives, Nischenkino and Furious Cinema. Outside of movies, he works on the intersection of technology and policy. He lives in Berlin, Germany.