Jess Franco probably made more women-in-prison movies than any other director. Sadomania (Hölle der Lust), released in 1981, was one of his later efforts in the genre. A couple of newlyweds are looking for a place to make out, and end up in the grounds of a rather unconventional women’s correctional facility. The groom is released, but the bride finds herself in the clink. The women are put to work breaking rocks, and there are all the usual elements you expect in a WiP movie - lots of lesbians, a sadistic psycho warden, a crazy sex-obsessed prison governor, and lots of nudity. Lots and lots of nudity. Not only are the prisoners always topless (except when they’re completely naked), the guards are as well.
Of course if you’re watching a women-in-prison movie and you’re taking it seriously then you’re spectacularly missing the point. This is high camp comic book territory, inspired by the sexy and outrageous Italian fumetti comics of the 60s and 70s. There’s plenty of violence, but it’s comic-book violence. The plastic crocodile that eats escaping prisoners is supposed to look plastic. If it didn’t look plastic it wouldn’t be fun, it wouldn’t be comic-book stuff. You can’t take a prison seriously where the guards’ uniform consists of hot pants and nothing else, but you’re not supposed to take it seriously.
It’s actually less sleazy than some of Franco’s earlier movies in this genre, such as Ilsa the Wicked Warden and Barbed Wire Dolls. But those movies were very very sleazy indeed, so that’s not saying much! Sadomania is sillier, but it’s definitely fun if you’re in the mood. It’s so silly that it’s impossible to find any of it truly offensive.
The movie’s main claim is that the wicked warden Magda is played by African-American post-operative transexual Ajita Wilson. Wilson spends a good deal of the movie naked. It’s rumoured that some of her co-stars in various movies who performed sex scenes with her had no idea she was born a man. Seeing her naked, it’s not hard to understand why. She’s quite effective in the role, and according to Franco she was an absolutely delightful person.
There’s not a huge amount in the way of extras, but there is a brief interview with Uncle Jess, who proves to be as entertaining and provocative as always.
This is by no means one of Franco’s best movies, but if you have a taste for this particular genre and you enjoy Franco in comic-book mode then it’s an enjoyable exercise in high camp sleaze.