Wednesday, July 14, 2010

PRISON HEAT (1993) - the WIP film that has the guts to use shower scenes as a metaphor for human rights violations

Here is the U.S. theatrical poster for Prison Heat. To think that as late as 1993, you could see a trashy woman in prison movie in a theater. Boy, those were the days (the nineties).


Four sprightly American girls, more sympathetic than some of the dumb bimbos you typically come across in these women in prison films, are thoroughly enjoying their European vacation together; an independently strong group of broads looking to broaden their horizons. They currently find themselves in Greece, enjoying the unibrows on the locals, when the lead girl suggests, out of the blue, that they should drive to Turkey, which I guess is the Euro equivalent to driving to Florida. The long drive is made tolerable by an all girl rendition of “Oh Susannah” (or intolerable, if you’re the audience), as when a movie has to scrape the public domain barrel for a song, the options are pretty limited.

Of course, the girls are immediately arrested upon crossing the border, and tossed into one of those Turkish prisons made famous in Midnight Express. I guess in Turkey they have the right to beat the shit out of you before imprisoning you for no reason. The lead girl pleads with the officials that she has rights and whatever as an American citizen, habeas corpus and what have you, but they just smack them around and demand a strip search. The warden even takes a knife to one of the girl’s bras (played by the ample Lori Jo Hendrix), in case she might be smuggling subversive material between her tits. The prison is already filled with mostly hot young Turkish stuff, who apparently were sentenced to prison just so they could take showers while the guards pantingly watch on (and the audience, of course). I don’t know who enacted the “you can arrest hot chicks for no reason” law, but I think it’s probably an outdated remnant from a patriarchal society. Not that I’m complaining.

So the rest of the film is mostly a regular woman in prison film, the main difference being that the girls are wearing their street clothes instead of blue jumpsuits (or lingerie), and the interior of the prison has some exotic Turkish touches, not as cold and streamlined as the American counterpart. There are the typical power struggles with the guards and the powerful lifer inmates, along with some good old fashioned cat fights. Oh yeah…shower scenes. Lots of those.

The girls run afoul of a prowling lesbian heavy played by Toni Naples (of Sorority House Massacre II and Deathstalker II), who is curiously also an American. You’d think they would find common ground, but no, Toni just wants to molest the girls and smack them around. She manages to grab a hold of Lori, easily accessing her breasts (remember, her bra was conveniently ripped apart earlier in the week), grabbing her crotch likes she’s kneading bread. Lori is also raped soon after by the warden. I don’t know why she’s the one to get repeatedly sexually abused out of all of the women, but I think it may have something to do with Lori’s willingness to do nudity. Afterwards, she takes one of those “rape after” showers that chicks always seem to do (shoehorning in another shower scene). She also vomits in disgust, which admittedly cuts into the eroticism factor.

The lead girl comes up with a brilliant plan, and tries to seduce Toni the lesbo, inviting her to join her in the shower and help her clean her breasts. The lead girl sticks a razor to her throat, impolitely asking her to leave her girl group the fuck alone. The scene starts off as another seemingly gratuitous shower scene, but alas, no, what with the important plot points involved. The warden decides to rape Lori again, this time in the shower. Rather than continuing to alternate shower scenes and rape scenes, this segment innovatively combines the two, keeping the audience on its toes. All of this rape seems to be taking a toll on her, so she grabs a mirror shard and slits her wrist (but thankfully survives).

The girls have really had enough at this point, and so begins their escape plan, skirting with suspense (somewhat) along the way. Their plan seems to revolve around showing their supple bodies to the dumb, horny guards. I’m surprised any women’s prison that employs male guards doesn’t have daily escapes. Lori also helps out by being raped once again, but this time she’s armed with a knife, turning her sorrow outward and sticking her sharp implement where it belongs. Not to give it away, but they do eventually escape intact, celebrating on the way out the same way they came in, warbling “Oh Susannah” with an accompanying synth, molesting my earhole one final time.

While we may consider the film to be an attack on the Turkish government and their historical disregard for human rights, I think a bigger inspiration was that they wanted to film an American style WIP flick in Israel (subbing for Turkey) to save money. However, whether intended or not, the film reminds me of stuff like the hundreds of human rights activists that were mysteriously assassinated during this time period. Not only did Turkey regularly disregard the international community, spitting on the United Nations, but they also paid off local Hezbollah to murder (supposedly) prominent Turkish citizens who asked that their government maintain a minimum standard of human rights. Not to mention their outdated prison system, where American girls can be imprisoned just for being bodaciously stacked.

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