“Le prigioniere dell’isola del diavolo” (1962)
The mere mention of a film inclusive of the women in the spurious genre of prison films usually conjures salacious images of graciously exploitative shower scenes, jailhouse togs strategically rended, if not altogether shredded and discarded, during furious bouts of inter-cell block catfighting and leering, sadistic wardens (or conveniently interchangeable lesbian matrons) abusing the most curvaceous inmates with openly symbolic phallic batons.
Rebuking the entirety of these most predictable genre tropes , “Le prigioniere dell’isola del diavolo” (aka, “Women of Devil’s Island”) dispenses with the lurid tone of this generally disreputable genre by substituting a narrative frustratingly absent of invention (exploitative or otherwise), presented in such a languid fashion as to make the viewer share the sensation of endless confinement.
Political prisoner Martine Foucher (Michèle Mercier) is among dozens of similarly elegantly costumed female murderers, thieves and prostitutes being shipped to the notorious penal colony where the genuine purpose of the ladies’ sentences is in their forced usefulness in panning for gold. Upon arrival, Martine searches for her sister Jeanette (Federica Ranchi) who has preceded her in incarceration but finds her sibling denying her true identity, a mystery which will prove not only short-lived but irrelevant to the one genuine riddle posed by the film: just how do these women who labor in the swamp all day long continue to maintain an impressive level of cosmetic integrity as well as maintaining their often architecturally impressive hairstyles? Perhaps the explanatory subplot concerning a cell block Avon representative had been left on the cutting room floor?
To read the complete review, click the following link to: https://chandlerswainreviews.wordpress.com/cinema-italiano/