Crime, Drama

99 Women (1969)

Comments Off on 99 Women (1969) 19 January 2017

99 women

Studio: Blue Underground

Theatrical Release: April 23, 1969

Blu Ray Release: December 13, 1969

Director: Jess Franco

Not Rated

Review by James Klein

Blue Underground’s last release of 2016 is an ultimate blu ray package that Jess Franco fans can be excited for. Previously released on DVD by Blue Underground, their new HD upgrade is a three disc special edition that fans will not want to pass up. 

Being the first “modern day” women-in-prison film, 99 Women was made while Franco was just wrapping up The Girl From Rio. Franco, in my opinion, was in his prime during the late 60’s to mid 70’s. His films seemed more fresh, better acted, better directed. Franco was in his prime and 99 Women is one of the better Franco films thanks to a great cast and some superbly gorgeous photography. 

Mercedes McCambridge99 Women begins with a few female prisoners on their way to the Castle of Death, a nickname that has been given by the prisoners to describe the prison which resides on a remote island. Run by superintendent Diaz (Mercedes McCambridge from Justine) the women are told immediately that they now have no names and are called only by their number which brings the total to…99 women. As the ladies are taken away, a deceased prisoner who committed suicide is mentioned much to the dismay of the other women. As the film progresses, it is apparent that the living conditions behind these walls is pure torture as the women are succumbed to a life of Hell which sometimes results in violence and/or death. 

99 WomenIn a nice bit of casting, Herbert Lom (Count Dracula) plays Governor Santos, a man who allows Diaz to run the prison the way she wants as long as he is fed not only food but also women. In a strange rape sequences, Santos seduces one of the prisoners as she is forced to kiss one of the other female inmates. While it is shot and directed very artfully (unlike what Franco would do in his later films) it is apparent what Santos expects and wants from his women. I have always enjoyed Lom’s performances as he has an intense presence about him and having him cast in just about any movie is a plus for me. 

Herbert LomWhen a new superintendent (Leonie Caroll from Superman) is brought in to assist Diaz contrary to Diaz’s tactics, the inmates feel that maybe life in prison will improve. However the new superintendent is ganged up by both Diaz and Santos and the women continue to get the same punishment until a few escape and head into the jungles with the aid of a male prisoner who also escaped from his prison. Needless to say it all ends badly for everyone and 99 Women ends on a somber note. 

Maria SchellRoger Corman must have seen 99 Women before he made films like The Big Bird Cage, The Big Doll House and Women in Cages because 99 Women has a lot of the same aspects as those 70’s Corman features such as lesbianism, a prison surrounded by a jungle, evil wardens and/or guards, and the eventual breakout. While those Corman films are far more entertaining and much more exploitive, it’s Jess Franco who pulls off an arty prison film despite the subject matter. He never goes over the top in the sex and violence and seems to actually care more about characters and plot (the horror!). That being said, 99 Women does seem to drag at times and may bore the viewer looking for a little more T&A. Hard to imagine that I would have liked my Franco a little more…Franco-ian? Is that a real word? Fuck it, it is now. 

I was a little critical on Blue Underground’s Manhattan Baby and The Shape of Things To Come, but they ended 2016 with a bang as 99 Women looks and sounds fantastic! Presented in the original 1:66:1 ratio, this brand new 4K restoration is wonderful and fans can now upgrade from the old DVD. There is talk on some message boards about a filter possibly being used for the image but I did not notice this nor should the general fan notice. Colors looked great and picture was perfectly clear with no DNR issues. The credits were crummy and in poor condition but Blue Underground even mentions this before the film starts. This is the fully uncut director’s cut folks! The 2.0 mono track is great and sounds just fine, no issues at all. 

Jess FrancoPorted over from the old DVD is the interview with old man Jess who discusses the film, admitting it is one of his favorite films. There is an interview with Stephen Thrower, a Franco aficionado who is also the author of Nightmare USA (a must read I might add) and he discusses this film along with other Franco films from the late 60’s and early 70’s. There are several deleted scenes, one clocking in at over 20 minutes (!) which is a strange subplot taken from the Greek version that Franco didn’t even shoot. Rounding out the extras is a booklet and trailers and poster gallery. 

rapeThe second disc is the DVD upgrade and the third and final disc is the soundtrack by Bruno Nicolai which I particularly enjoyed. Now there is also another blu ray version that Blue Underground released where instead of the DVD you get an alternate French version with hardcore sequences that were added in unbeknownst to Franco. Unfortunately I did not get this version to review so cannot comment but I’d go with that one if you can find it. 

The Grandfather of women-in-prison films looks wondrous on blu ray thanks to the folks at Blue Underground. It would be a crime not to pick this one up. 

Movie Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Blu Ray Rating: ★★★★½ 


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