Quartier de femmes
- 1h 37min
A lawyer finds out that a young couple convicted of murder was in fact framed for the crime and goes to the prison with the hope of freeing them and learns the events that happened to the tw... Read allA lawyer finds out that a young couple convicted of murder was in fact framed for the crime and goes to the prison with the hope of freeing them and learns the events that happened to the two from a fellow prisoner who helped them escape.A lawyer finds out that a young couple convicted of murder was in fact framed for the crime and goes to the prison with the hope of freeing them and learns the events that happened to the two from a fellow prisoner who helped them escape.
Starting off with a stylish credit sequence montage (similar to the one in Franco's own NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT ), the film is given a real shot in the arm by Bruno Nicolai's outstanding score even if it does seem like the discarded soundtrack of some Spaghetti Western! Surprisingly, the plot incorporates elements of the Marquis De Sade's "Eugenie De Franval" (which Franco himself had filmed some years previously) making for an interesting early section involving the frame-up of two young lovers by their rejected (and much-older) suitors; as in EUGENIE DE SADE (1970), the narrative is then related in flashback to crusading alcoholic lawyer Dennis Price from the deathbed of one of the villains (he learns of the events inside the prison from a female inmate punished for daring to help the lovers escape). The latter is played by sexy Josiane Gibert who, as with Price himself (in his fifth, last and perhaps best role for Franco), gives a good performance.
Gibert's character is interesting in that, when we first see her, she's the prison rat who's infiltrated into the saintly heroine's cell (at the instigation of the sadistic, and obviously lesbian, female director) in order to see what she's really made of. Eventually, however, she's drawn to her plight: as I said, after learning that the girl's lover whom she thought dead is actually locked up in the men's ward of the same prison (conveniently, Gibert lends her sexual services to the guards over there!), she organizes their breakout and suffers the consequences for her actions.
Unfortunately, the other Franco regulars in the cast Howard Vernon, Britt Nichols and Anne Libert are given very little to do, though their presence is always welcome. The handsome leads, on the other hand, prove inadequate to carry the film while the Prison Director is too one-note (merely narrowing her eyes to appear sinister or suggest authority) to create much of an impression; she's certainly no match for the hammy Mercedes McCambridge of 99 WOMEN or Dyanne Thorne's Ilsa (whose character appeared in a series of films and has been turned into something of a minor cult).
Actually, the official version of the film is the French-language cut named QUARTIER DES FEMMES which drops the flashback framework and is decked out with copious nudity. Coming off too much like padding, as well as grossly exploitative, these erotic scenes (which have been included here as a bonus but are sourced from a very poor-quality VHS) merely serve to undermine the seriousness of Franco's intent; I wonder if he preferred the French version himself as in the case of, say, THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (1972; which was also changed considerably in its Spanish variant).
Needless to say, we also find ample evidence here of the trademark Franco sloppiness: the change of heart experienced by both Gibert and the Governor isn't dealt with in any real detail and, therefore, lacks conviction; the frame-up of the lovers is so obvious as to elicit a head-shaking response from this viewer (though, to be fair to Franco, Shakespeare himself used the exact improbable ruse in "Macbeth"!); the quarry scene where the exhausted hero is watched over by a completely inert guard (as if Franco had forgotten to give him any kind of direction!); a cell-door is most irresponsibly left open by another set of obtuse guards, thus enabling the heroine's (short-lived) escape; and what's up with that silly laser gadget (seeing it 'at work' in the deleted scenes is even more hilarious)?!
The film, at least, manages to work its way to a very effective downbeat 'curtain' which comes completely out of left-field but, once again, proves that Franco was aiming higher than usual with this particular effort, and that he had 'something to say' about the current political situation in his own country.
- May 21, 2007