Nikkatsu’s TRUE STORY OF A WOMAN IN JAIL: SEX HELL (1975) does come equipped with the usual women-in-prison catalog of girl-on-girl abuse and the parade of cruel, horny guards. But, and this is a real but, it’s outrageous and transgressive ways that seem the special province of Japanese cult cinema. Another but, just as real: SEX HELL spends some time in flashback mode, which would normally irritate the shit out of me, but in this case it works very well to build mystery as truths are parceled out tantalizingly to the viewer. This demonstrates considerably more interest in storytelling than is typical, in my experience, of the WIP subgenre. So the viewer gets not only the expected sadistic prison sex, etc., but gets them in somewhat amped up form, with SEX HELL going some ugly places that surprised me, even for a WIP flick. And the attention to back story threatens to make SEX HELL, dare we say it, at least a little compelling. No prison flick would be quite complete without an escape attempt and, yes, indeed, SEX HELL boasts a jailbreak scenario, which features one of the film’s ickiest scenes when the gals have to get creative to hide a key. To boost, a revenge plot is woven into this tapestry of transgression, rounding things out pretty satisfactorily. I’m tickled to be able to go on with more praise, this time of a simultaneously artistic and technical nature. The camera work in TRUE STORY OF A WOMAN IN JAIL: SEX HELL is fresh and invigorating. Somehow, this movie manages to out-shock a lot of other WIP films while at the same time being oddly less trashy. No small feat.
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