• Sadomania




    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: 1/27/2004
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Ajita Wilson, Ursula Fellner, Robert Foster, Gina Jansen, Andrea Guzzon
    Year: 1981
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    The Movie:

    Jess Franco, the most prolific director in the Eurocult world, has helmed a few women in prison epics in his time. Love Camp, Women In Cellblock 9, Women Behind Bars, Ilsa The Wicked Warden and Barbed Wire Dolls all stand out as solid entries in one of the sleaziest sub-genres of exploitation filmmaking. And then there’s Sadomania.

    There’s nothing here we haven’t seen time and time again in regards to the actual storyline. It’s pretty standard ‘chicks in chains’ stuff. Olga (the lovely Uta Koepke) and her beau, Michael, are out for a drive one sunny day in Spain, and after making a wrong turn, end up in captivity courtesy of a Warden named Magda Urtado (the Nude Princess herself, Ajita Wilson). She detains them for trespassing and Michael manages to get free, she throws Olga in the slammer along with a host of other inmates, all women wearing nothing but cut off jean shorts.

    While in jail, Olga finds that Governor Mendoz (a very mustachioed Robert Foster) is selecting the odd inmate to come back to his place so that his wife can get it on with her in hopes that the Governor will become aroused enough to get it up and impregnate his wife who desperately wants a baby. Once his wife is done with them, she sells them to a slave trader (played in the most cliché way one can possibly play a homosexual man by the director himself, Jess Franco) who runs a whorehouse and allows his women to be abused and mistreated in any way his paying customers choose.

    Eventually, Michael busts back in and tries to save his beloved Olga, but it’s not going to be as easy as he thinks and he ends up on the wrong side of the Warden, who subjects him to her own special kind of punishment.

    The flimsy plot is held together by a succession of depraved scenes of sex, violence, sexual violence, bestiality, lesbianism, rape, torture, and all around nastiness. It’s almost as if the storyline exists simply to propel the more base aspects of the film and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the film was simply constructed around these scenes.

    Franco has said that his inspiration for the film was the infamous Italian comic books (which featured much more extreme violent and sexual situations than your average Marvel or DC superhero comic), and he does do a good job of bringing that ‘feel’ to life on the screen. If you’re at all familiar with the Fumetti that inspired him, you’ll know that everything is highly exaggerated, especially the exploitative elements that are so prevalent in the film.

    The presence of the enigmatic Ajita Wilson (a transsexual adult film star supposedly born George Wilson who died in a car wreck in 1987) adds an otherworldly feel to the film and she plays her part of the evil warden very well. Her bright eyes sparkle with glee when she gets into character and is convincing in her role as someone who enjoys the pain that she inflicts on others.

    The rest of the cast are more or less eye candy and the majority of people we actually see on screen are naked, or nearly naked, women. The inmates are never fully clothed even when swinging a pick axe or working in the sun.

    Overall, if you’re looking for a women in prison film with a slightly meaner spirit and some honestly shocking scenes of depravity and don’t mind the fact that there’s really not much of a story, Sadomania is your bag. If you’re looking for the visual poetry Franco has conjured up in some of his more cerebral works such as Doriana Grey or Eugenie, well you won’t really find much of that here. It’s simply an exploitation picture, albeit a good one.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Blue Underground presents Sadomania in decent transfer with mixed results. The good news: The 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer (complied from many sources to give us the longest version possible)is quite clean and only suffers from very minor print damage. The level of detail is quite high and aside from some minor and natural looking grain, the clarity is dead on.

    The bad news: There is a very noticeable downside to the transfer though in that a couple of ‘day for night’ scenes that were tinted properly in other releases (most notably the Dutch Film Works PAL release) are presented here without any tint and appear as day time scenes. The most obvious scene where this occurs is when they crew are escaping with the Governor’s wife as a hostage and she gets out of the car and the guard addresses her by saying ‘Good Evening!’ despite the fact that this occurs in broad daylight. In the Dutch release, this scene is much darker and because of that, makes a lot more sense. Aside from this, some of the colors are slightly washed out, resulting in a considerably paler color scheme than what we’ve seen on previous releases of the film, which does take away from the comic book aesthetic that the film tries to create.

    Sadomania is presented here in its English dub with select scenes (which were never dubbed into English in the first place) presented in Spanish with removable English subtitles. The English dubbing can and does result in some unintentionally funny scenes that, had they not been dubbed in such a goofy manner, might have played a bit more straight. The dubbing used for Franco as the slave trader is a perfect example, as he’s given such a cliché sounding effeminate voice that it’s next to impossible to take his appearance seriously (whether or not you’re supposed to or not is debatable, I suppose). Dubbing aside, the track is pretty clear and there aren’t any problems following the dialogue. It does sound like it’s properly balanced, as the background music never once gets in the way of the discourse between characters. It’s hardly a remarkable track but it is clean, clear and easily comprehensible and although it’s regrettable that the Spanish track wasn’t included (seeing as it was filmed in Spain it’s probably safe to assume that most the cast would have spoken Spanish) the quality on the English dub is fine. It is possible that the licensor would have wanted more money for the rights to a second audio track and if that is the case, it’s at least understandable from a business standpoint why it wasn’t included.

    The most remarkable extra feature on this release is an eighteen-minute long interview with Franco that is conducted in French with English subtitles. The director speaks candidly about working with the enigmatic Ajita Wilson and how he felt she was perfect for the role of ‘an evil Ilsa.’ Also, and I found this part quite interesting, he touches on the political climate of Spain at the time he was filming the movie there. After the death of Generalisimo Franco in 1975 filmmakers were able to get away with a lot more than they were while the dictator was in power. Franco took advantage of this when he made this movie and some of the stories he tells in this regard are quite fascinating. The Fumetti influence is also touched upon a fair bit here as Franco talks about how he would buy up all the comic books he can when he was in Italy. The influence of those comics is obvious when watching the film and it’s fun to get the director’s thoughts on them here.

    Aside from the interview, a theatrical trailer is included in addition to some text biographies for Ajita Wilson and Jess Franco. A very nice still gallery gives us a look at previous home video releases, theatrical posters, promotional stills, and a complete reproduction of a pressbook. The whole presentation is wrapped up nicely in some fun animated menus.

    The Final Word:

    The inclusion of footage not seen on the Dutch DVD, Sadomania makes a nice addition to the WIP/Franco collector in your home. While it would have been nice to have seen the audio and video handled a little better, Blue Underground has presented some nice extra features and a more complete version of the film than what was previously readily available.