Ann-Marie (Penny Irving) is a young French exchange student who has something of a rowdy reputation for ‘streaking for fashion’, something she made for money and is not entirely proud of. One night she meets a handsome young man (Robert Tayman from Vampire Circus) who lures her into an abandoned prison where a dying judge (Patrick Barr) and nutbag wife (Barbara Markham) are kidnapping women and give them their own idea of justice, based on how God should punish the wicked. They whip, torture, and hang innocent women, but Ann-Marie swears she won’t be one of them, and decides to fight back.
On the surface, this looks like yet another women-in-prison film, and it has a lot of it’s trademarks. After all, it’s famous poster features our lead screaming naked while the circle of the noose surrounds her body. But you have to remember, this movie came out when the last gasps of Christian censorship, challenged by new films like A Clockwork Orange, The Devils and Last Tango In Paris. The storyline of these liberal, sexually-free women being encarcerated in an Inquisition-like building (which works apart from the law) to be put through hell reflects the going-on’s occurring in Britain. The movie was directed by Pete Walker, one of the greatest exploitation filmmakers to come out of England, with titles such as Frightmare, The Comeback and Schizo. This movie is similar to those as it challenges moral codes of the time under the guise of horror and exploitation.
The acting is above par for this kind of movie, at least on most parts. Patrick Barr and Barbara Markham are incredible in their ‘prison leader’ roles, Markham is particularly insane in her role, even making Barr come off as sympathetic, but only a little. I also loved Pete Walker regular Sheila Keith, who’s character’s name is Walker, ironically. She has an imposing, frightening physical appearance and is truly intimidating, playing a mad, possibly lesbian warden. She would go on to play a more psychotic character in Frightmare. Also, Robert Tayman plays the same seductive, sardonic type he played in Vampire Circus, but sadly is not on screen enough. Also sad is Penny Irving, who can’t act to save her life and has the worst French accent I’ve heard in my life. Well, at least she looks good naked.
But still, this is a remarkable exploitation movie that everyone should see. Don’t be turned off by it’s more sleazy elements, and you might find out there’s a movie with a lot of depth and something to say.