Stereoscopic Sexploitationer is a Snooze sans the Slammer
DIRECTED BY TOM DISIMONE/1972
BLU-RAY STREET DATE: JUNE 27, 2023/KL STUDIO CLASSICS
When it comes to combining old-school sexploitation with good ol’ anaglyphic 3-D, one might imagine some corny kinks and particularly protruding performances. In actuality, this softcore snooze is more like, “Not tonight- I’ve got a headache.”
Don’t misunderstand, there’s no shortage of exposed flesh (all of it female, none of it explicit. This movie is rated X, but not XXX), it’s just, that is literally all Prison Girls has going for it. If wall to wall naked women engaging in lazily filmed simulated lovemaking in one individual scenario after another isn’t your bag, there’s literally nothing here for you. Even if it is your bag on any level, Prison Girls will try your patience… and, unfortunately, your eyesight.
According to a text disclaimer before the start of the film proper, there were alignment errors with the dual 16mm film that Prison Girls was shot on. Therefore, the registration errors evidenced during the movie are “baked in”, and there’s nothing to be done about it other than to grin and bear it. Or some such issue. The point is that the good people at the 3-D Film Archive, who’ve made it their labor of love to restore and remaster as many 3-D films as possible, did the absolute best they could with this one, but some of Prison Girls’ problems proved insurmountable, even by the foremost experts in vintage 3-D presentation. In this regard the experience isn’t untenable, but the anaglyphic headache people sometimes experience is only going to be more of a guarantee with Prison Girls, no matter how it’s viewed.
Although this KL Studio Classics (pushing the boundaries of the term “Studio Classics” its furthest yet) release goes the distance to include the film in both BD3D polarized and anaglyphic (red/cyan) 3-D versions, only the latter was a possibility for me. It’s great that the Blu-ray comes with a pair of anaglyphic 3-D glasses, which enable the vintage-style stereoscopic experience on most any monitor. Having endured the whole eighty-eight-minute movie with the cardboard glasses, I can attest that it’s at least worth sampling in this format before giving up and either switching to the 2-D version or turning it off. The way it utilizes its 3-D aspect is the cheesiest attempts on this side of Friday the 13th Part III. At one point, a girl wields a garden hoe at the camera, which, in that moment, is the point of view of the attacker. It’s quite similar to a bit in 1982’s 3-D trender Friday the 13th III. Great minds…?
While the impulse of numerous contemporary reviewers for these sorts of films is to spotlight matters of personal grooming compared to then and now, such focus has always wigged me out. That said, this is the early 1970s, and all bodies on display are gloriously unaltered. There’s a fascinating diversity of people’s shapes, sizes, heights, and even weights. In this manner, Prison Girls, by sheer default, is a kind of historical documentation of male-gaze-centric sexuality on film mixed with theatrical exhibition novelty, circa 1972. The cast includes Jacqueline Giroux (To Live and Die in L.A.), Candy Samples (Flesh Gordon), Annik Borel (Werewolf Woman), Tracy Handfuss (A Clockwork Blue), Maria Arnold (Meatcleaver Massacre) and Linda York (A Scream in the Streets) and heralded nudie film queen, Uschi Digard (Supervixens). Some are the titular prison girls; others are just girls in the movie. None seem to have been hired for their acting talents.
The film dresses down thusly: Several inmates at a women’s prison are set to be released for a two-day furlough in a dry run for their possible eventual release in a few months. They are granted the furlough despite a massive bathroom-flooding pile-on fight in the showers right at the beginning. As the Blu-ray’s audio commentators point out, this immediately checks off two vital “women in prison” movie tropes: a shower scene, and a fight. Best get those out of the way up top, as it turns that most of Prison Girls doesn’t take place in prison at all. Once temporarily released, they each go their separate ways, leading to different sexual episodes. The prison counselor, based on her own remembered experiences, strongly encourages this type of “connective therapy” (or whatever she calls it).
There’s a weird phenomenon that can occur when constant nudity wears on, which is, when everyone’s naked, no one’s naked. As the cast of Prison Girls spend the movie more naked than not, the nudity quickly feels matter of fact. Even in the film this is true, as people will run to answer the door naked and the person knocking won’t think much of it. In the moment, we won’t think much of it, as this is such a naked movie. Naked, but not unafraid… although the various prison girls go all in for their ascribed “therapy”, director Tom DiSimone’s staging and pacing retains a last shred of modesty. At times, it’s almost as though this is a censored version of a raunchier movie. Apparently though, this is in fact it.
The deleted scene on the bonus features menu bears out that while Prison Girls could’ve gone on longer, it never did aim to be explicit. We get nearly six more minutes of one “sexy” group scene that, in the cut proper, fades out just as everyone is getting going. The subsequent cut material isn’t exactly scorching, however. It’s just more of the same groping and gasping on the floor with elevator music playing. It’s definitely not the mind-meltingly sexy experience that its hilariously overstating trailer promises. Both the trailer and the deleted scene on the floor are presented only in 2-D. The commentary is by Horror-Fix.com’s James G. Chandler and Ash Hamilton, whose shared credential lead me to briefly wonder if I should expect some blood and gore in this softcore ‘70s romp. Nope. Chandler and Hamilton were simply who KL deemed the guys for the job. And they’re fine as far as being disembodied voices to hang with while the movie drags on. And drag on it does.
While not a prison sentence unto itself (viewing is not mandatory, and you can turn it off at any time), Prison Girls 3-D might bust out at times, but on the whole, it fails to spring from the screen.