99 Women (1969)
“Now you can see it for the first time! As it really is! In all its raw realism!”
99 Women (1969)
Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Maria Schell, Luciana Paluzzi, Mercedes McCambridge
Synopsis: Warden Thelma and a governor mistreat inmates at his-and-hers prisons.
Considering 99 Women is an exploitation film about women in prison written and directed by sleaze-meister Jess Franco, it is incredibly, incredibly tedious. Maria Rohm plays prisoner no. 99, a new inmate to an island prison whose hopes of release are raised when a government inspector (Maria Schell) decides that the sadistic governor (Mercedes McCambridge – Touch of Evil, The Exorcist) is too much of a disciplinarian. However, the governor conspires with her counterpart in charge of the men’s prison on the other side of the island (Herbert Lom – Assignment to Kill, A Shot in the Dark) to ensure the inspector is not successful in usurping her.
That’s right – Schell, McCambridge and Lom in a Jess Franco film. Who’d have believed it? Not me. Why are they there? Who knows? Franco’s ambitions were a little higher back in ’69 than they would be subsequently, but even so, actors of this calibre must have seen how poorly conceived and written 99 Women was. Maybe they just needed the money – everybody’s got to eat, after all.
The version I saw was the sanitised version with only brief nudity, shot on occasion with apparent aspirations of artistry. I wasn’t disappointed. The French can keep their hardcore version, that’s what I say. The print did keep switching to French on occasion, meaning that, as I’m only equipped with failed O-level standard, plot points went flying over mon tête. Strangely enough though, it didn’t stop me understanding exactly what was going on.
(Reviewed 9th March 2012)