BR: Escape from Women’s Prison / Le evase – Storie di sesso e di violenze / Violez les otages (1978)

June 10, 2019 | By

Film: Very Good

Transfer: Very Good

Extras: Very Good

Label:  Severin Films / Unobstructed View

Region: All

Released:  April 30, 2019

Genre:  Women in Prison / Sexploitation / Eurosleaze

Synopsis: A quartet of freshly escaped convicts hold a tennis team hostage in a judge’s villa.

Special Features: Italian Version (85 mins.) / Interview with director Giovanni Brusadori “Freedom, Sex & Violence” (33:12) / Italian Trailer.




Reportedly one of the most infamous women in prison (WIP) films, Giovanni Brusadori’s lone feature film is far removed from the U.S. poster art which depicts a prison riot featuring characters that do not exist whatsoever.



Severin’s Blu-ray features a lengthy interview with Brusadori, a character actor and assistant director who gambled on a directorial career by developing a story in which escaped prisoners commandeer a bus of tennis players, and find themselves in a new prison of their own creation. There’s a lot of vicious irony in the script which had contributions by neophyte Bruno Fontana (who also co-produced) and veteran exploitation actor-writer George Eastman, a regular collaborator with Joe D’Amato.

The story begins with convicts Monica (Lilli Carati), Diana (Marina Daunia), Erica (Ada Pometti), and Betty (Artemia Terenziani) literally escaping from an unseen prison (a low-lying castle turret) using a bed sheet, and crashing their getaway car when Monica’s brother is badly wounded by a cop.

A busload of pretty / silly / sexy tennis pros quickly discover their new passengers are wanted felons, and the bus is driven to the villa of a judge (Filippo De Gara), who by good (or bad) luck, had witnessed Monica’s prior sentencing. What begins as a hasty hostage crisis devolves into depraved behaviour, shifting power among the convicts, and a siege when police surround the villa and refuse to meet the group’s demands for money and a getaway car.



Brusadori says he made it clear to the actors the film would contain nudity, and on one level Escape is a thoroughly trashy genre entry. With the exception of masculine Betty, the convicts’ first act of freedom is to raid the closet of the judge’s wife and bicker and trade their clothes for her finery: Daunia wears a sheer blue negligee for the whole film, and Pometti augments her character’s nymphomania by sticking to a cleavage-thrusting bustier.

As the clock ticks towards nighttime, Diana has sights on Claudine (Playboy Centerfold Dirce Funari), the lone tennis pro with medical training who attempts to save Monica’s brother, while sex-starved Betty makes Marco her boy-toy, and Monica engages in less overt powerplay when she has the judge drive them into town for medicine.

The film’s dominant power struggle is between Monica and the judge – a social rebel & murderous terrorist vs. the establishment – and their tense duet devolves when he requests a bathroom break and is told to relieve himself on the spot. When Monica loses control of her gang, she’s tossed into the locked room with the soiled judge, who quickly metes out revenge by brutally raping Monica. Meanwhile, Erica feeds & rapes a fettered Marco, and Diana’s initial rape of Claudine flips to a love scene in the finale that signals the end of the convicts’ short period of freedom.

Had Brusadori stuck to a less mean-spirited and blatantly exploitive script, the story would’ve been a more potent suspense drama about power and recurring prisons; there are enough character details that hint at what could’ve been a deeper, topical nihilistic tale evoking the terrorist antics occurring in Italy (the Red Brigade’s kidnapping and murder of politician Aldo Moro), Spain, and Germany (not to mention Canada’s own FLQ, who kidnapped and murdered Quebec politician Pierre Laporte).



Carati is the star, but the best performance comes from Daunia who plays a less complicated character but is nevertheless more compelling for being ruthless and steel-nerved. The most underwritten convict is Betty, the quartet’s enforcer, who eats when she’s nervous, and has the silliest death spasm in the film.

Escape would’ve also benefitted by having less tennis bunnies, since they’re just a mass of caricatures restricted to the cellar, although Terry (Ines Pellegrini) stands out due to her sympathy for Monica, albeit for reasons never fully detailed. Sort-of co-star Zora Kerova has little material to develop Anna, although in spite of her total rejection of Monica’s rigid and political stances, there’s a palpable respect between captor and prisoner.

In spite of these flaws, Escape isn’t a disappointment, because it’s a peculiar hybrid of topical references and above-average generic sleaze. How much of the unique additions came from Eastman isn’t known, but the prolific actor-writer also co-penned Enzo Castellari’s spaghetti western classic Keoma (1976), and Sesso nero / Exotic Malice (1980), ostensibly D’Amato’s first foray into hardcore porn, but also a weirdly compelling drama about cancer-ridden stud going for one final fuckfest vacation.

Escape was released uncut on VHS in North America, and although edited down for a DVD double-bill with Sweet Sugar (1972), the scene-trimming did not sacrifice any of the sleaze. Severin’s Blu features the 85 min. Italian version plus a new transfer of the U.S. release with the standard goofy English dubbing and credits (copyrighted 1984). Although a dupe negative was used for the sharp HD transfer, the U.S. cut has harsh contrasts, weak colours, severe grain, substantial surface abrasions, and a slightly sped-up image; its Blu-ray-only inclusion is purely for completists.

The Italian source print is softer, but has a cleaner image and deeper colours. The cinematography by Sebastiano Celeste (The Octopus, La piovra) and editing by Pierluigi Leonardi (la piovra) is a bit loose & crude in the opening getaway and bus scenes, but the villa material is pretty solid, and features excellent camera movements that exploit the increasingly claustrophobic location.

Giuseppe (Pippo) Caruso’s score is better-recorded in the Italian dub, and his approach ranges from orchestral stabs to over-iterated suspense motifs, and lush thematic material that sometimes misses the mark entirely, seemingly scoring character conflict and sexual assault as soothing romance. The two main vocal tracks feature exceptionally moronic lyrics (“I was blind, but now I see…”), but it is pity there wasn’t a bonus CD of the score, which Severin’s done on a few prior limited releases.

The trailer introduces the convicts with narration that covers their respective criminal activities, but it’s also packed with heavy spoilers, spanning action, outrageous graphic nudity, and the quick close-up of what may be an uncredited cameo by Eastman as a cop who breaks into the villa and is quickly shot by Erica.

The main extra is a standout interview with Brusadori, who covers the film’s entire genesis, production, release, and reflections on its creative team, plus the reason for using the Germanic pseudonym Conrad Brueghel.

Zora Kerova also appeared in the Eastman-scripted Saturday Night Fever rip-off American Fever (1978), and would co-star with him in D’Amato’s infamous Anthropophagus (1980), and Umberto Lenzi’s infamous Cannibal Ferox (1981). Star Lili Carati had previously co-starred in Avere vent’anni / To Be Twenty (1978) with Gloria Guida, who’d been Brusadori’s original choice for Monica. Carati also co-starred with Laura Gemser in D’Amato’s L’alcova / The Alcove (1985).

Marina Daunia’s career was surprisingly brief (1976-1980), and her best-known work are Bruno Mattei’s two naziploitation sleazefests, Casa private per le SS  and Women’s Camp 119 (both 1977). Dirce Funari’s filmography is similarly compact (1976-1983), co-starring with Eastman in several of his scripted D’Amato shockers, including Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (1980), Hard Sensation (1980), and Porno Holocaust (1981), and she also appeared (as Patrizia Funari) with Brusadori in Alberto Cavallone’s assaultive Blue Movie (1978).

The final sleaze element is prolific American co-producer Dick Randall, whose provocative filmography also includes Mario Bava’s underrated sex comedy Four Times That Night (1971), Juan Piquer Simon’s gory Pieces (1982), and Living Doll (1990).



© 2019 Mark R. Hasan





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