The Muthers

MUTHERSWord to your Muther.

The Muthers is a plantation shoot-em-up set in the Philippines, whose topography seems endlessly dotted with island prisons (if Cirio Santiago b-movies are any indication).

While this is definitely a WiP production, it’s absent the lingering shower brawls and resentful square-jawed female guard/tormentors. That’s a bit of a bummer, but there’s enough other kinds of action to make up the deficit.

The answer to the question “What are you black beauties doing in a place like this?” is apparently, a rescue mission.

Brigand Kelly* and hash-slinger Angela (that’s the marijuana variety, not potatoes in a diner) are looking for the former’s teen sister, apparently imprisoned on a coffee plantation.

They’ve gone undercover, deep undercover. And to do this, they’re giving up their day jobs as pirates on the high seas, robbing cruise ships and the like.

The plantation prison is run by the sinister Monteiro (Tony Carreon, best known for American Ninja). He’s a marble-mouthed Spanish villain who traipses around in equestrian boots wielding a Tommy gun, who executes far more capably than he um, “elocutes.”

Would-be escapees, when caught, are hung from their ponytails. Male accomplices are beaten down by female inmates after they’re told they’d lose canteen provisions + lunch breaks.

the_muthersThat being said, as far as back-breaking women-in-prison locales go, this plantation isn’t too bad compared with what we’ve seen. The “house negro” Serena (Jayne Kennedy, best known to our readers for Santiago’s Death Force) sneaks preferred inmates smokes and rides around on horseback. But things aren’t too peachy for her as she has to service Monteiro.

When our heroes inevitably escape, it’s fairly unremarkable save for a fantastic gun boat catamaran shoot-out. And what movie is complete without a gun boat catamaran shoot-out?

You can grab a restoration copy at Vinegar Syndrome.

**3/4 (out of 5)

*The role of Kelly is played by the always amusing Jeannie Bell (she of the hugely entertaining, and very inept martial arts caper, TNT Jackson)

The Big Doll House

Big_doll_houseWhen Pam Grier says, “I like being on top,” you listen; and you’re just grateful to be around.

Unless of course, you’re one of her cellmates in The Big Doll House, a Roger Corman cheapie shot in the Philippines to capitalize on the ever-popular women-in-prison, AKA, WiP genre.

By way of introduction, a lazy flute-fuelled 12-bar blues warbled by Grier herself, finds us in an Asian prison, with shockingly preternaturally attractive women (“You don’t look like a hardened criminal!”). No Big Bertha cellies here.

We’re introduced to prison naming conventions (last names only please) so we get homonym Grier as Grear (for some reason),  Collier, Alcott Harry, Harrad and the tough-nosed leader of the crew, Bodine who has we guess you could say, a take-no-prisoners attitude.

This has to be the most poorly policed prison in the Filipino penal system as guards turn a blind eye to everything:  there are cats roaming free, easily accessible syringes for Harrad the cell junkie, and even a butch guard who can be bribed with mountain moonshine.

No women-in-prison movie is complete without a villain/warden so here we have the late nude Mannheim-born model Christiane Schmidtmer as Dietrich (a name inspired by a shyster Swiss producer with whom director Jack Hill and Roger Corman worked but had a falling out).

Of course, violence is an everyday occurrence (“another perfectly good piece of ass gone to waste” opines one of the deliverymen, B-movie icon Sid Haig as Harry) as are showers, nude frisks, whippings, mud wrestling — all the necessary genre staples.

Collier is the cell newbie, another gorgeous ginger to replace the ailing junkie Harrad as Grear’s girlfriend. She regales the assembled with tales about her ex husband, an eye-patch wearing philanderer who made it with the (male) help, so she offed him.

big-doll-house_stillSoon, Bodine is strung up in a bamboo cage for insubordination involving contraband mail and a power struggle ensues as the inmates plot their escape.

“All men are filthy,” one of the inmates suggests, but not so filthy that they’re not exchanging favors with them in exchange for jailhouse perks.

No planetary observatory required to spot Pam Grier’s star power. She’s a total knockout and The Big Doll House put her on the map. Jack Hill cast her in her first role here (to be followed by Coffy) and nearly three decades later she reunited with Sid Haig for the underrated Tarantino production, Jackie Brown.

Languidly paced but lots of eye candy to keep us interested.

*** (out of 5)

INTO WOMEN-IN-PRISON FLICKS? CHECK OUT OUR BIG DOLL HOUSE PODCAST