Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 25th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: Liechtenstein / Spain / Italy / West Germany / UK, 1969
Director: Jesus Franco
Writers: Xavier Pérez Grobet, Milo G. Cuccia, Carlo Fadda, Jesus Franco
Cast: Maria Schell, Herbert Lom, Mercedes McCambridge, Maria Rohm, Rosalba Neri
BluRay released: December 13th, 2016
Approximate running times: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
BluRay Release: Blue Underground
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $39.98
Synopsis: A young woman named Marie has been sent to a prison on a remote island that is run by a wicked warden. And if being in prison wasn’t hard enough Marie soon finds out that the warden is repaying Governor Santos the warden of the men’s prison which is located on the other side of the island by giving him his choice of the female prisoners. His eyes and libido quickly fix on the prisons latest fresh meat Marie who he arranges a sexual rendezvous with via the warden. Rumors of abuse and misconduct at the prison force the government then to send in Leonie Caroll to investigate the validity of these complaints. Shortly there after Leonie befriends Marie and even promises to look into her case, but when it appears that her promise was for nothing. Marie and two other inmates plan a daring escape through the thick and treacherous jungle.
With 99 Women Jess Franco, would unleash upon the world a more depraved version of WIP films then had ever been seen to that point. And though Franco has often returned to the WIP genre, there is something magical about 99 Women his first foray into this genre.
From a production stand point 99 Women does not disappoint or come up short in area. The film is anchored by a solid premise, the narrative is well constructed and when it comes to pacing this film moves along at a good momentum. The film features a remarkable score from Bruno Nicolai (Marquis de Sade’s Justine, Eugenie… the Story of Her Journey into Perversion) the perfectly captures the mood of the story at hand.
Not to be overlooked are this film’s visuals, which once again are filled with Franco’s usual trademark shots and other artistic flourishes that heighten the what is occurring onscreen. Two of the more memorable moments in this film include the two flashback scenes. With Marie’s flashback scene overflowing with surrealism and Zoie’s flashback scene as a nightclub dancer foreshadowing a similar moment from Vampyros Lesbos.
Though Franco in his post Towers films would work with a core group of actors and actresses throughout the 1970’s. There is no denying Towers ability to draw name actors and actresses to the nine films he made with Franco. With that being said, the performances in 99 Women rank amongst the best to ever appear in a Franco film.
Front and center among these performances are Mercedes McCambridge (All the King’s Men) in the role of the warden and Herbert Lom (A Shot in the Dark) in the role of Governor Santos. Other notable performances include Luciana Paluzzi (A Black Veil for Lisa) in the role of a heroin addict named Natalie, Rosalba Neri (Top Sensation) in the role of Zoie, a former nightclub dancer who was convicted of killing her boss and Maria Rohm (Venus in Furs) in the role of Marie, the young woman who was assaulted by a biker game and during said assault she killed on one of them.
99 Women comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen.For this release a brand new 4k restoration has been created and it is the source for this transfer. Colors look vibrant and accurate, flesh tones look healthy, black levels and shadow detail remain strong throughout, the image looks crisp and there are no issues with compression. Grain is virtually nonexistent and DNR had been applied throughout this transfer. It should be noted that a disclaimer before the film that explains in order to have usable English language opening and closing credits that these two sections had to come from a source that is not a strong as the source used for the rest of the transfer.
This release has one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and included with this release are three subtitle options, English SDH, French and Spanish. There are no issues with distortion or background noise, dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. The films score sounds appropriately robust and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented.
Extras for this release include, a poster & stills gallery, a trailer for the film (1 minute 41 seconds), three deleted & alternate scenes (There is text a text explanation before each one these scenes) – scene #1 Marie’s Flashback (4 minutes 54 seconds), scene #2 Zoie’s Flashback (16 minutes 25 seconds), scene #3 Extended Ending (1 minute 34 seconds), an interview with author Stephen Thrower the author of Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesus Franco (16 minutes 25 seconds, in English) and interview with director Jess Franco titled Jess’ Women (17 minutes 31 seconds, In French with English subtitles).
Topics discussed in the interview with Stephen Thrower include, the origins of Jess Franco and Harry Towers collaboration, The Girl from Rio and how footage shoot on down time from that film lead to 99 Women, how the main castle location used for the prisoner is a location Franco would often return to throughout the 1970’s, Towers ability to convince stars to appear in his films, how 99 Women marked a new kind of WIP film and how Franco’s need for more creative freedom was the cause for ending his partnership with Towers.
Topics discussed in the interview with Jess Franco include, the things he likes the most about 99 Woman, how the project began as a treatment written by Harry Towers, how the initial footage for 99 Women was shot while making The Girl from Rio, the cast and his thoughts about their performances, censorship and why there are multiple versions of 99 Women and audience reaction to the film.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art, a CD that contains the score for the film and a twenty-page book with cast & crew info, a lengthy essay about the film titled Prison Inspection Case #99: Jess Franco written by written by Stephen Thrower and information about the CD that contains the film’s score. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall 99 Women gets a strong release from Blue Underground.