Director - Jess Franco (Snakewoman, Helter Skelter)
Starring - Karine Gambier (European Sex Vacation, Private Nurse), Howard Vernon (Zombie Lake, Blood on My Shoes), and Susan Hemingway (Love Letters of a Portuguese Man, Elles Font Tout)
Release Date - 1978
Genre - Drama
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (Screener)
Rating (out of 5):
Women in prison flicks have never been a favorite of mine. I know a lot of horror fans enjoy these flicks but they tend to be boring to me. In my opinion, they are essentially torture porns set to the backdrop of World War II or some other conflict that involves mass prisons. With that being said, I have seen a few that I really enjoyed but they were very story rich in a historical sense and was able to really hold my attention. Sometime ago Full Moon started releasing some of the films of Jess Franco. One of the films that was sent my way to review was the 1978 flick Women in Cell Block 9, or more known as Tropical Inferno. I knew that I typically didn't care for this type of films but I really wanted to check out a Jess Franco flick that I had yet to see. Thanks Full Moon for sending this one my way!
The film begins with a truck carrying fruit that is stopped by the military in South America. They investigate the cargo and find that the truck is smuggling women. Six in total and three are suspected as working for the resistance. The troops rape and murder the three not working for the resistance and take the three they suspect are back to the prison where they are slowly tortured for information.
I was afraid that Women in Cell Block 9 was going to be as boring as the other women in prison flicks I had seen in the past. Sadly, it was. In fact, it was a chore just to finish it. Jess Franco is one of those filmmakers that is hit or miss with me. This was a miss. The acting in this one is a little rough. The film's main characters are solid. They do a decent enough job for the most part but they struggle to convince the viewer they are in peril. They overreact and make it almost laughable when they are being tortured. The supporting cast has no on screen experience and should not have any dialogue. Anytime they do it is clearly evident that they are inexperienced. The story for this one is just like all the other films from the time period. We find pretty, young women who are forced to be nude most of the film and are degraded physically, mentally, and sexually. The story is one tracked and leaves very little for the viewer to grab hold of. The film moves as a snails pace and the dialogue is very tedious. Finally, if you are looking for blood you will find it but it is not that impressive. The blood we get is the bright 3M blood made famous in Romero's Dawn of the Dead but there is no real gore or practical effects aside from some camera work and tricks. Overall, Women in Cell Block 9 is not the type of film I would typically go for. The women are beautiful but the film lacks story. This is one of the few Franco flicks I would skip.