Monday, June 4, 2012

A Charles Band-produced Frankenfilm!

Savage Island (aka "Banished Women" and "Prison Island") (1985)
Starring: Anthony Steffan, Ajita Wilson, Stelio Candelli, Christina Lai, Luciano Rossi, Linda Blair, Leon Askin, and Penn Jillette
Directors: Edoardo Mulargia and Nicholas Beardsley
Producer: Charles Band (as Roger Amante) and Mark Alabiso
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

An escapee from a hellish work camp (Blair), where enslaved women mine emeralds, holds its owner (Askin) at gunpoint while she relates the tale of how her allies (Steffan and Wilson) infiltrated the facility and destroyed it.

"Savage Island" is a Frankenfilm in the grand tradition of so many Godfrey Ho-assembled ninja pictures. It's made with pieces from a pair of commercially-failed South American women-in-jungle-hell-prison movies, "Hotel Paradise" and "Escape From Hell", sandwiched between footage featuring Linda Blair and a vengeful she-demon in a cheap fur coat, and kinda-sorta glued together with narration from Blair.

Unlike many Frankenfilm's this one benefits from the fact that three actors (Anthony Steffan, Ajita Wilson, and Christina Lay) are featuring prominently in both the original films, playing largely similar roles in each. The same is true of several of the supporting cast members. Further, both films were directed by the same man, and set in nearly identical locations, so the "meanwhile, in a different movie" sensation that so often creeps into Frankenfilms--where locations and tone and focus characters change back and forth--this one comes across as, more or less, a unified whole.

That's not to say that whole isn't a mess. To start with, the pieces from which "Savage Island" is assembled came from films with highly illogical plots that feature characters going through the motions to make sure all the standard elements of a "women in jungle prison" exploitation flick get included; character actions are dictated more by plot and genre needs than anything that even comes close to sense. Combining the two films--one about revolutionaries infiltrating a diamond mine worked by enslaved women, and one where the abused prisoner's in a women's prison convince the prison doctor to help them stage an escape-- while adding the third element of Linda Blair "masterminding" a jewel heist didn't improve matters at all.

Further, while it appears characters remain present throughout the film, they only do so with some bizarre continuity glitches. Anthony Steffan switches back and forth between outfits with no apparent rhyme or reason, and Ajita Wilson's hair gets longer and shorter and longer between scenes. I also think the same supporting actress was murdered by angry prisoners twice.

In the end, as Frankenfilms go, this isn't a bad attempt. In fact, it probably ranks among the better of its kind. However, it might not be worth going out of your way for, unless you're a big lover of cheesy jungle films, or a huge fan of Anthony Steffan or Ajita Wilson--although in the case of the latter, you'd be disappointed because her assets are nowhere near as fully on display here as in other films she's been in. Fans of Penn and Teller might also be curious to witness the first film appearance (and on-screen death) of Penn Jillette.

(Full disclosure: This review is based on a screener copy of the film given to me by Full Moon Pictures.)

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