Women in Prison, Part IV: Le evase (1978)

June 10, 2019 | By

Whereas the hell of brutal penal colonies for men were used by filmmakers for social commentary (Les Miseables, Birdman of Alcatraz) and action-suspense dramas (Escape from Alcatraz, Brubaker) – the plight of incarcerated women received less intellectual treatment, especially in the B movie realm.

Certainly by the early 1970s, the women in prison (WIP) genre came into its own via Jess Franco’s 99 Women (1969), and the Roger Corman-produced The Big Doll House (1971), the latter a subset that had women trapped in tropical hells purely to dress actresses with less clothes (or none), and perverted screws plotting nastiness with inmates. Wardens were perverts and manipulators, escapes ended in failure and cruel punishment, and favoritism offered limited protection from fellow inmates, especially if there was a hint of betrayal.

During its heyday in the 1970s and early 1980s, WIP from Europe were specially packaged to offer sleazy behaviour and offensive actions to meet the demands of the market, sometimes offering different cuts with tailored wrongness for the European market, as with Red Heat (1985).

Although titled Escape from Women’s Prison / Le evase (1978), Giovanni Brusadori’s drama is really a kind of home invasion-hostage crisis thriller – disappointing to genre connoisseurs wanting pure formulaic sequences, but a welcome surprise to those tired of the repetitive cliches which ultimately led in part to the genre’s gradual fade.

References to political crises makes Escape a time capsule of sorts, but Brusadori didn’t shy away from depicting wrong behaviour, which is preserved in both the Italian and English versions packed onto Severin’sBlu-ray edition. The conflicts among captor-prisoner and sex-starved convicts leads to outrageous sequences which ensure this mid-period genre entry will not be confused with a serious expose of human rights violations and severe persecution of political prisoners.

Coming next: two lesser-known film noirs from the 1950s – Allan Dwan’s Slightly Scarlet (1956), adapted from a James M. Cain novel and released on DVD by VCI; and Nunnaly Johnson’s Black Widow (1954), new on Blu from Twilight Time .

Thanks for reading,



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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