E1 Entertainment // 2009 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // March 14th, 2011
Prisoners. Hookers. Machetes...Revenge!
"C'mon Sheriff, you've seen more pricks than a porcupine!"
Having heard rumors of prostitution and killings at the Sugar State Women's Prison, investigative reporter Valerie March (Geneviere Anderson) goes undercover in an attempt to bring down the corrupt warden (Linda Dona) responsible for the sleazy goings-on. Once inside, Valerie teams up with the fast-talking Loretta Sims (Thela Brown), and quickly learns the corruption goes all the way up to local government. Realizing that they can't beat the system by fair means, Valerie leads the inmates in a violent uprising against the crooked authorities in a bloody showdown.
As an homage to the sexploitation films of director Jack Hill, it's hard to argue that Sugar Boxx doesn't hit most, if not all, of its targets. Within the opening 20 minutes we get to witness an undercover cop receiving fellatio from an unwitting prostitute, a little girl-on-girl action, tied up women being whipped, and men to whom the idea of sexual equality is anathema. Yep, basically what we have here is a 15-year old boy's perfect movie. What does Sugar Boxx offer to the rest of us (i.e., those of us who have seen a naked woman without her having staples in the midriff)?
Well, those looking for a deep meditation on the injustices suffered by women in a male-dominated world need not apply. While Sugar Boxx features any number of women who can hold their own against the chauvinist males who populate the film, it's hard to disagree that ultimately these very same women are only there to titillate male viewers with their tendencies to disrobe. Likewise, the story of an undercover reporter looking to bring down a corrupt penal system is hardly engaging. No, Sugar Boxx is a film to be enjoyed based on the strengths of its characters and its dialogue. While hardly Oscar-worthy, the screenplay is littered with humorous dialogue ("I'm here to help you liberate some ass!") and situations that will keep fans of genre cinema entertained (one character is blown away saving a girl's life, then -- in a showing of gratitude -- given the "$100 special," which sees him climax just as he breathes his last breath).
All the prerequisites of a "women in prison" movie are here, with writer/director Cody Jarrett showing both a deep affection and understanding of his subject. Cementing this are appearances from genre favorites Tura Satana (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) and Kitten Natividad (Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens), not to mention Jack Hill himself in a small cameo. Jarrett shows little interest in creating anything new; instead his motivation seems to be bringing new audiences to the wonderful world of exploitation, something he may just achieve with Sugar Boxx. With a budget that wouldn't stretch to cover the cost of an average family's Christmas dinner, Jarrett and his crew show themselves to be a resourceful bunch, and never allow the constraints of their finances to hinder their vision. Okay, so this isn't a film reliant on special effects, neither is it a film dependent on insightful dialogue and rich characters. Instead, Sugar Boxx has one task: entertain. This is a film for the gut, not the head; and for those with a taste for it, there's no reason why Sugar Boxx shouldn't become a Friday night favorite.
Picture quality is solid, with a clean 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. In fact, with the exception of the scuffed up opening titles, it's arguable that the picture quality is too good, and loses the film some of its authenticity. Colors are natural, with good black levels. The 5.1 soundtrack is workmanlike, with neither any glaring flaws nor spectacular highs. Dialogue is clear throughout, while the score (which is hit and miss in terms of quality) is easily discernable from the rest of the mix.
The bonus materials are spearheaded by an enthusiastic audio commentary. Jarrett makes for an interesting guide to his film, discussing both the processes used, and influences behind his work. Joined by members of the cast, the commentary throws up plenty of laughs, and affirms the belief that all involved had fun on set. A short "making of" has interviews with various members of the cast and crew, which sees them discuss the budget and nudity aspect of the film for the most part. There's also a short piece consisting of Tura Satana using her skills to smash things.
I'd rather not labor the point, having already raised the issue, but Sugar Boxx isn't an original film in the slightest. As such, fans of Chained Heat and The Big Doll House, as well as the films of Jack Hill and Russ Meyer will likely find much familiarity in Jarrett's work. Lacking some of the grittiness of these earlier works, Sugar Boxx arguably suffers in comparison. After all, those films were the real deal; Sugar Boxx is a love letter to the genre, nothing more.
Despite my initial concerns, Sugar Boxx turned out to be a fun diversion. There's nothing new here, but nevertheless I was entertained. After all, isn't that one of the primary goals of film? This is a solid rental for fans of exploitation cinema.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: E1 Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Official Site