*** Out of 5
Tagline- 99 Women Behind Bars Without Men!
Release Date- April 23rd, 1969
Running Time- 90-Minutes
Screenplay- Peter Welbeck
Director- Jesùs Franco
Starring- Maria Schell, Mercedes McCambridge, Luciana Paluzzi, Maria Rohn, Rosalba Neri, Eliza Montes and Herbert Lom
With this movie being directed by Jess Franco and being a women in prison film you’re probably expecting it to be loaded with nudity, sex and violence right? Well you’d be wrong actually. Released in 1969, 99 Women was the first WIP film directed by Jess Franco and its nothing like you would expect from a Jess Franco film. While the film does have some nudity, sex and violence it isn’t very exploitive and is nothing you wouldn’t see in a standard R-rated movie. 99 Women was perhaps the first of the new era of WIP films however I would say it was the Roger Corman productions such as Women in Cages, the Big Bird Cage and the Big Doll House that influenced these films for years to come even if 99 Women had a couple of years jump on them. That isn’t meant to discredit Jess Franco since 99 Women has all the elements we would see in the WIP film, but I still go with the Corman productions as the ones that really kick started the genre.
99 Women isn’t exactly a forgotten film as it is overlooked and its a film that even among Franco fans isn’t often talked about. I think a lot of people probably went into this expecting something totally different as I stated it isn’t filled with what we normally would see in a Jess Franco film and I suppose the film is rather tame. While I gave 99 Women 3-stars it is a light 3-star rating and even though I felt the film was alright I really don’t have much a desire to see it again anytime soon. 99 Women was a nice attempt and while the film is low budget and its very much obvious it is however decently made and not as shoddy as some of Franco’s later films. Even some of his better films that followed were a little rougher looking than this film. But while decently made it also sort of lacks and I suppose could even be a bit boring in spots so I understand why its overlooked and while I can’t say it deserves more attention than it gets, but it is a bit better than its reputation, which again I think stems from people expecting an all out exploitation film. If you read the plot description on the IMDb you’d be expecting an all out exploitation film, but as I mentioned everything seen here is the standard R-rated film.
With the people running the prison being quite cruel 3 women stage a breakout and after they escape they end up being chased by male inmates that also just happened to escape.
On the IMDb Milo G. Cuccia, Carlo Fadda, Jesùs Franco & Javier Peres Grober are listed as the writers with a few more listed for other langue versions. However the film credits list Peter Welbeck who is listed on the IMDb as the writer of the English version and posters I’ve seen also credit Welback. Also according to IMDb Welbeck is Harry Alan Towers. Since the credits list Peter Welback I’ll credit him as the writer. The screenplay is fairly decent in spots, but characters lack depth and for the most part aren’t that interesting, which wouldn’t be a problem with more action, but Welbeck seems to wanna focus more on characters, but 99 Women isn’t strong enough to rely on being a more character driven movie.
As director Jess Franco gets the film off to a fairly solid start, but than the film gets a bit sluggish in terms of pacing and it isn’t really until the final act it begins to pick up, but even the final act lacks excitement. I’ve mentioned this before, but even in the Franco films I liked I often found pacing to be an issue except the Awful Dr. Orlof and despite 99 Women running at only 90-minutes it does feel a little overly long, but based on the writing even a shorter running time wouldn’t really solve the pacing issues. Jess Franco if anything makes more of a drama and while a nice try and to some degree a little successful things are brought down by a subpar script. Any sex scenes aren’t very erotic and while the film does contain rape the way it was shot doesn’t really allow it to make any emotional impact on the viewer. In typical Franco fashion we have out of focus shots, which is quite a bizarre creative choice and for those who may have read past Franco reviews I’ve written I wasn’t totally sure if that was intentional, but now I’m certain it was. Also certain scenes are shot so close up we can’t make anything out, which was another odd creative choice. While decently made 99 Women has its moments and Franco delivers a decent film, but it just didn’t fully work.
After the film was shot hardcore footage was inserted, which I haven’t seen. But from what I can gather these hardcore scenes were shot by Bruno Mattei, but I have no idea if that’s true. I haven’t looked into it since I have little desire to see the hardcore footage since it wasn’t done by Franco nor does it feature any of the cast members.
Overall 99 Women was a decent effort by Franco, but it just doesn’t fully work. I suppose its worth viewing at least once, but the main reason to see it is for the start of a new trend in the WIP film even though I still credit Roger Corman with being the producer who kick started these kind of films.