From the epic archives of the Nikkatsu Roman Porno Collection comes TRUE STORY OF A WOMAN IN JAIL: SEX HELL. And from the title, sensational as it is, you have a fair idea of what to expect. Especially from 1970's-era Japan...
Mournful Japanese pop music plays as city scenes pass by, seen from above the shackled hands of passengers riding inside a bus. You can tell before the song is even over that this is going to be an unusual picture, as when one of the prisoners has to urinate and is removed from the van and led out into a field to squat, the decadent pastoral quality of her urine dripping from the reeds is heightened by the tracking shot of the tether leading to the grip of her handler. Yes, she is a woman...and she is going to jail! The bus rolls on, and eventually the high iron gates of Women's Juvenile Hall close behind it.
In short order the ladies are unloaded and read the rules, issued their uniforms ("You get two pairs of panties... you won't get any replacements" – this one will cause problems in the foreseeable future), given their gynos, and locked up in what will soon become Sex Hell (at least we hope, right?).
Finding herself alone in a holding cell, our protagonist Houjou Mayumi (Kozue Hitomi) flashes back to the attentions of her doctor lover back home in the first of a series of unpleasant memories of the events leading to what may be an unjust incarceration.
After that, it's straight into general population. New arrivals Mayumi, Matsunaga Harumi and Ishii Kazue are dumped into a cell already holding a number of other women, including Hiromi (Seri Kaori), who seems to be queen bitch of the cell block. Right away the torments begin, as after the initial interrogation Mayumi is accused of thinking she's too good for the rest of the bunch and subjected to the "Juvenile Hall" (held down and pissed in the face) and the "Plucked Chicken" (pubic hairs plucked out one by one). The brief catfight that follows is put on hold by the guards, and it's back to doing time as usual.
Inside the walls relationships develop and fall apart, time is passed in ways one might expect, and there are, of course, moments of unpleasantness. Slowly an escape plan develops, and the soft-spoken Mayumi decides to cut herself in for a piece of that action. In the process she decides to take over as boss when Hiromi gets thrown into solitary confinement. Her first defining act is to forcibly give another inmate, Rie, an abortion by kneeing her repeatedly in the stomach. For this Mayumi is dropped into solitary as well.
When a guard makes the mistake of unshackling Hiromi for sex she manages to escape with his keys and, knowing that Mayumi has been placed in a nearby cell (because of a surprising change in alliance), release her as well. The two convicts decide that together they will complete the original escape plan and find their way back to the world, each with her own violent agenda: Hiromi to pursue the course that put her away in the first place, and Mayumi to take care of some unfinished business...
Several additional scenes play out of course, including a memorable last caress, but that would entail spoilers aplenty.
And there you have it, everything a horny salaryman might want: items smuggled inside vaginas, catfights, tales of past misdeeds, lesbian bathplay, pissing, lesbian nipple frottage, vaginal-looking surgical wounds, more catfights, glory hole sodomy by the guards, improvised sex toys, testicle twisting... All of this, and remember, it's only Juvenile Hall!
But while 35 years ago this would have seemed rather extreme, especially in the States, in the current climate of ultimate perversion, wherein it seems every title attempts to outdo the last, it's really rather tame on the scales of both sex and violence. (The softcore sex scenes, which can be sensual or cold, rely heavily on T&A, as in keeping with Japanese cinematic tradition there isn't a pubic hair to be seen [in situ, at least] and absolutely no visible penetration.)
It's still extremely watchable however, for can any story fail to be intriguing when it features all of the classic elements of sex & violence (further episodes of which are enacted during flashback sequences), escape, and revenge, wrapped up in the by-now-well-known 'women in prison' package? And many surrounding elements, such as the use of snow to both emphasize the cold, harsh nature of the situation as well as to liken the imagery to Japanese printing and painting, on top of the love stories that develop and disintegrate within and outside the bars, are quite well handled. There are some amusing lines ("I'll make her look like a panda – she'll be pitch black around the eyes!"; Q: "What are you doing?" A: "Making a rice penis.") and even a bit of fairly funky Japanese porno soundtrack. Altogether it's almost like the seedy Asian exploitation equivalent of the spaghetti western; a fine entry into a genre that just won't die.
Just don't be expecting any super hardcore foreign XXX action – even if it is from the Caligula-esque sounding Roman Porno Collection.
SEX HELL also features Hiromi Maya, Aoki Machiko, Mizusawa Rie and Misuzu Emi. Tattoos by Kawano Kouyou – a hallmark of quality right there when this is observed in the opening credits.
Special features include liner notes by Jason Sharp (author of The Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema) and "Newly translated removable English subtitles." – Crites
TRUE STORY OF A WOMAN IN JAIL: SEX HELL is available from Amazon.
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