Image Entertainment presents
Devil's Island Lovers (Los Amantes de la Isla del Diablo) (1972)
"This is how lack of discipline is punished. And for those who do worse things, I know stronger punishments. We have an extensive repertoire."- Señora Cardel (Rosa Palomares)
Stars: Andres Resino, Genevieve DePoir, Dennis Price
Other Stars: Rosa Palomares, Jossiane Gibert, Danielle Godet, Gogo Rojo, Jean L. Collins, Howard Vernon, Jean Guedes, Luis Barboo, Britt Nichols, Anne Libert
Director: Jess Franco
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, torture)
Run Time: 01h:20m:23s
Release Date: 2005-09-13
Genre: suspense thriller
DVD ReviewWhether or not it's accurate to credit Jess Franco with the Women in Prison genre, it's irrefutable that the success of his 99 Women (1969) sparked a torrent of such pictures, heaping gratuitous sex and violence upon captive populations. It's therefore rather odd that his own followup picture would eschew many of the features that made this twisted subgenre so popular. It's apparent that Franco is using the WIP as a vehicle for political comment rather than seeking titillation.
In an unnamed South American nation, Raymond Franval (Andres Resino) is pursued romantically by his godmother, Emilia de Franval (Danielle Godet). Raymond secretly is a revolutionary, who is operating a printing press in Emilia's home. When Emilia learns the truth, and furthermore that Raymond is in love with young Beatriz Coblan (Genevieve DePoir), she arranges with an old lover, Governor Mendoza (Jean Guedes) for the pair to be framed for murder and imprisoned for life. Their only hope lies in an ineffectual and alcoholic attorney, Lindsay (Dennis Price). But first they must survive their imprisonment.
Given Franco's reputation for self-indulgence and excess, this is a remarkably restrained picture. The violence is generally not dwelt upon, and even the more sadistic notes are brief. Shockingly, there is no hot lesbian sex (though there is plenty of cheesecake amongst the prisoners) and not even a shower scene, but that doesn't prevent Image from misleadingly promoting this as a WIP sexploitation picture. Most who pick it up for that reason are liable to be disappointed.
On the other hand, this is one of Franco's more competently-made pictures. Other than a couple instances of uncontrolled zoom that leads to inexplicable extreme closeups of things like Price's forehead, the camera work has little of the over-the-top qualities that mark his work of the early 1970s. The script is complex in structure, with multiple flashbacks, but it readily makes sense and has a definite logical flow. One suspects that the reason for this may be that Franco has a point to make: he's not talking about South America, but Francisco Franco's Spain and the political repression of the Fascist government. He's essentially making a recruitment film for Amnesty International, asking for clemency for political prisoners. The Spanish censors recognized what he was up to and did interfere to some extent, requiring dialogue changes, but the message remains loud and clear. The lack of budget, on the other hand, results in some unintentionally humorous moments due to sheer cheesiness, such as a pursuit through a forest that is done purely with the sound of dogs; apparently not even stock footage can make its way into the budget.
The cast is particularly good here, with Franco regular Howard Vernon making the most of a small part as the Director of the prison. Resino and DePoir are credible as the young people, though one never gets the sense that Raymond is overly-committed to his revolutionary activities. The real standout is Dennis Price; his other appearances in Franco pictures tend to be like sleepwalking, but he really puts some effort into his portrayal of Lindsay here, and the results show the effect. Simultaneously eager to help but subject to depression over the hopelessness of his task and the appeal of the bottle, he makes Lindsay a most intriguing character. Eurocult figure Britt Nichols also has a memorable role as one of the sympathetic prisoners.
Image misstates the release date as 1974 rather than 1972. On October 4, 2004, Image also released a Spanish-language cover version of this film, but the DVD is apparently identical (the English language version has a menu in Spanish). The date error is corrected on the Spanish version.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Thankfully, Image keeps Franco's 2.35:1 image intact. He uses the entire frame on numerous occasions, so it's particularly welcome that this film doesn't receive the indignities that his pictures usually get. Unfortunately, the film was shot on Eastmancolor stock, which means colors aren't what they should be; at least it hasn't yet faded to pink. The picture is somewhat murky and soft, and lacking in fine detail much of the time, but on the whole it's in reasonably good shape. Some segments (notably those featuring Price) are quite sharp and have plenty of detail, so it's more likely a matter of source materials rather than any issue with the transfer itself.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The original Spanish audio track is presented in 2.0 mono. There's a fair amount of crackle and hiss, but it's endemic in the low budget world of Jess Franco. Bruno Nicolai contributes an excellent score that wouldn't be out of place in a Sergio Leone Western.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 10 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Extras Review: There are no extras. That's too bad, because there is, as usual for Franco, an alternate French language cut with different footage that could have been included as an extra here. Chaptering is a little stingy, and there is no scene access menu. The English subtitle translation appears to be quite accurate.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsAlthough it lacks most of the twisted elements of the WIP subgenre, it's still a compelling political picture that is a grossly underrated entry in the extensive Franco canon. Alas, there are no extras presented here.
Mark Zimmer 2006-02-09