Written by: Carroll Jenkins on May 8th, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: USA, May 27th, 1983
Approximate running time: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen
Director: Paul Nicholas
Writers: Aaron Butler, Paul Nicholast
Cinematograper: Mac Ahlberg
Composer: Joseph Conlan
Cast: Linda Blair, John Vernon, Sybil Danning, Tamara Dobson, Stella Stevens, Henry Silva
Synopsis: An innocent young woman winds up in the slammer. It’s a bad place.
Women In Prison films run the gambit from artsy exploitation to sadistic crap. The genre was popularized by Jack Hill (Big Doll House) and then became a staple of low budget exploitation features worldwide. Some of the very best of the genre include Caged (1950), Caged Heat (1974), and Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion (1972).
Chained Heat wins no points for quality dramatics or biting social commentary. It does boast one of the finest scripts of any WIP feature and an all-star cast of exploitation veterans. It does take the basic elements of the genre and add suspense, dark humor, and gore to the standard mix of corruption, sex, drugs, shower scenes, rape, and lesbian assault. But most of all, this is a successful dark comedy with a witty script, (mostly) great performances, fast pacing, atmospheric sets, and sleaze galore. Yes, it is over-the-top but still retains it’s footing in the [alternate] universe presented. If you’re thinking this is in the same league as campy and shoddy eighties product like Reform School Girls, guess again.
Linda Blair was duped into appearing as the protagonist and still maintains that it ruined her career. Perhaps her disdain for the project is what makes her the weak link as she whines her way throughout. It’s a tossup over who chews the scenery with wilder abandon, John Vernon or Stella Stevens, and they’re given solid support by Sybil Danning and Henry Silva. Exploitation regulars Louisa Moritz and Edy Williams appear, as does Richard Kiel in a ‘blink and miss’ cameo as a chaffeur. The standout, though, is Tamara Dobson in her best baddass sista role next to Cleopatra Jones and the Casino Of Gold. Many of the supporting cast are quite memorable and obviously relish their roles, with only a few being memorably bad.
It was announced by Panik House as completely remastered and uncut with sensational unreleased scenes, but never materialized. The region 2 DVD is purportedly shorn of crucial scenes. The Vestron VHS features frequent boom mike shots, presumably due to improper framing.
This is the epitome of the Women In Prison cycle. Seldom has such overt sleaze been presented in such a quality and enthusiastic presentation. Whoever’s currently holding the strings, how’s about commuting the sentence and releasing this upon the public at large?