*** Out of 5
Release Date- March 27th, 1981
Running Time- 103-Minutes
Screenplay- Jesùs Franco & Gunter Ebert
Director- Jesùs Franco
Starring- Ajita Wilson, Andrea Guzzon, Ursula Fellner, Robert Foster, Uta Koepke, Gina Jansen
Released in 1981 Sadomania, which also goes under the title Hellhole Women is a WIP (Women in Prison) film from exploitation filmmaker Jesùs Franco and while I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Franco as I’ve stated in other reviews he is a filmmaker that really intrigues me even if I find the good bulk of his work a bit below average. When it comes to the WIP film, while not the first it was the Roger Corman produced films that set the formula for these films to follow and while the Corman productions had a little sleaze the ones that followed upped the ante in terms of sexual content and violence. The Corman produced WIP films weren’t tame, but other filmmakers such as Franco added a lot more sleaze and graphic nudity. However Jess Franco can also be seen as the filmmaker that shaped the WIP film with his 1969 release 99 Women, but I’d stand by my comment of the Corman produced WIP films that had the bigger impact. The 70s is when the WIP film was most profitable and perhaps the very early 80s, but as home video started to grow the days of the Grindhouse cinemas and drive-ins were fading, but as a whole the exploitation film was starting to die out despite the best efforts of a few filmmakers and the WIP film weren’t produced at a very high rate and the more into the 80s we got and by a certain time they were pretty much a thing of the past.
As I mentioned Jess Franco really intrigues me even if I find the bulk of his work that I’ve seen subpar and even the films I liked by him I would rate a little above average. However I think somewhere in Franco there was a decent filmmaker, but perhaps there was more money and work for that matter in his low budget exploitation films. My favorite Franco film was The Awful Dr. Orlof, which while a bit rough around the edges was an excellent horror film that showed potential. I enjoyed Orlof far more than I ever expected to and wish he would have done more work like that. A Virgin Among the Living Dead while in many ways the typical Franco film of the 70s also had legit atmosphere and even Bloody Moon, which Franco was more or less a director for hire actually had some decent suspense at times even if the film as a whole was average. It’s films like Sadomania that Jess Franco is best remembered for and again I suppose films like this might have been more profitable and also got him far more work, but I do find it a bit frustrating how he can make such a solid film like Awful Dr. Orlof and while again the typical Franco film with A Virgin Among the Living Dead, but it had such great atmosphere to make up for some of the flaws. Like I said I wish he would have done more work like Orlof or even A Virgin Among the Living Dead (atmosphere wise).
Sadomania is just off the wall insane, Jess Franco just goes all out and after viewing this film I can now say I’ve seen it all. Sadomania was banned in the UK and highly censored in the States until Blue-Underground released it uncut on DVD and later reissued it with 4 other films called Bad Girls Behind Bars Collection. Sadomania is one of the most twisted films I’ve seen, but hey it’s a Jess Franco film so nothing is offensive or disturbing cause its such a hack job. The prisoners are topless throughout the film, the prison guards are also topless, but where the film gets bizarre is a girl is tied up and a dog is sent in and I don’t think I need to tell you what happened next and even Jess Franco appears in the film playing a flamboyant gay character named Lucas. One of the stars was Ajita Wilson who was a transsexual and Wilson appears later in the film with a fake mustache and has a sex scene with Jess Franco. Sadomania has it all and really the only thing missing is the lovely Lina Romay who was married to Jess Franco.
The screenplay by Jesùs Franco & Gunter Ebert has no real plot and is poorly written, but its also a lot of fun as its filled with silly, but hysterical dialogue and some insane out of this world scenes. I don’t think anyone cares about the writing in a film like this because I sure don’t, but the script is often really funny and I have to assume Franco & Ebert had those exact intentions.
Director Jesùs Franco crafts one fun film and at 103-minutes, Sadomania is a little overly long, but pacing is fairly strong due to how absurd the film is. There is nudity throughout to go with some violence and wild over the top scenes that always keep Sadomania a lot of fun. There are a couple of girl on girl scenes, which is awesome, but they aren’t very erotic due to how they were shot and the same goes for any of the sex scenes. At times due to how it was shot you really can’t see much and other times the camera was a little out of focus, which is common in Jess Franco films and I’m not sure if that was intentional or not or maybe at times it was, but seeing as out of focus shots are common in Jess Franco films I have to assume it was a weird creative choice. However the girl on girl scenes are still hot even if not fully erotic. Basically, Franco throws in twisted scene after twisted scene, but it really isn’t disturbing due to how absurd and campy things are. Even in the films I liked by him they were a little rough around the edges, and even Franco has admitted he wasn’t exactly the best filmmaker, but he found a style that worked and while some might knock his films as hack jobs there is a reason why Jess Franco had 199 directing credits prior to his death in April of 2013 and why his films are still sought out.
The women are all smoking hot and topless throughout and they all kinda lookalike, which makes it difficult to tell them a part, but who cares they’re all naked. Ajita Wilson is wonderful as Madga the cruel warden. Sadly Ajita died in 1987 in an automobile accident. And in case you’re wondering Ajita was a post-op transsexual, which is sort of made clear by her full frontal nudity in Sadomania.
Overall Sadomania is quite a twisted film, but as I stated its such a campy hack job nothing here is offensive. Jess Franco continues to intrigue me and as long as they’re released I’ll continue to seek out his work. Fans of exploitation cinema should love this as it has everything you could want in a low budget trashy exploitation film. While not as good as the Corman WIP films I’d still rate Sadomania as one of my favorites. It’s silly, campy and trashy and I’m sure it turned out exactly as Jesùs Franco intended it to be.