Mondo Macabro // 1987 // 91 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Corupe (Retired) // January 31st, 2006
They have known every pleasure but the touch of a man's hand!
Mondo Macabro, the premier purveyors of weird and wonderful cult cinema from around the world already have one Bali-wood DVD release under their belt, Lady Terminator, but this time they've served up the definitive introduction to the wild world of Indonesian exploitation films. Packaged with an incredible array of extras, Virgins From Hell is a release to watch out for -- an action-packed, women-in-prison shocker that offers an intoxicating mix of blazing machine guns, bewildering martial arts and a healthy dose of all-around sleazy fun.
After they witness the murder of their parents by Mr. Tiger's evil syndicate, Karen and her sister Sheila train a crack team of lady bikers to help them exact their revenge. They lead a series of tactical strikes on Tiger's gambling dens, but when they try to hit his main hideout, the plucky gals are caught and imprisoned. Some are tortured and raped, others are forced to work the land, and a select few are used as test subjects for a new, irresistible aphrodisiac the gangsters are cooking up in their basement lab. This new love potion is the work of kidnapped scientist Larry, but once he's thrown in the dungeon with the girls, he puts his brains to work coming up with a gun-blazing escape plan that will bring down Tiger and his evil plans once and for all.
Virgins From Hell is far from the most extreme Indonesian exploitation film you'll ever run across, but it's pretty solid anyway -- a fun, gung-ho action adventure flick that often plays out like a sadistic G.I. Joe cartoon. Taking cues from a variety of Western B-films, the story is refreshingly straightforward, if a little simplistic, cheerfully bounding from one plot point to the next with comic book aplomb. Although the low-budget effects are mostly limited to heavy gunfire and the occasional vehicle crashing through a wall, the film considerably beefs up its appeal with squirm-inducing exploitation silliness like a girl being cooked alive on a spit, a surgery-performing snake, alligator wrestling, and an unlucky guard who is dowsed with chemicals, causing blood-filled balloons taped to his face to explode. Sure Virgins From Hell is a brainless B-film, but it's still a well-made one, with reasonably dynamic action sequences, above average cinematography and a fun, light tone that makes for a campy, but immensely enjoyable 90 minutes.
Like many Indonesian films, Virgins From Hell even manages to squeeze some semblance of a political subtext between all those bloody shoot-outs and scenes of wildlife stock footage. With Indonesian women very much subjugated during the 1980s, the film offers a very distinct underlying message about empowerment, as the starring team of liberated females (who apparently are neither virgins, nor from hell) smash back hard against their oppressors, proving themselves as equals not only to their fellow captive Larry, but also to Mr. Tiger. Though one could argue that the constant scenes of torture and girl-on-girl wrestling tend to undermine any feminist intentions, this is a clear reversal of most American-produced women-in-prison films, which tend to titillate rather than teach. Also unique to the genre, Virgins From Hell features not even one peek of nudity, as it was forbidden by local censors. This direct order to constantly cover up is taken to ridiculous extremes, as girls have to shower, bathe, and even make love while almost fully clothed, making this slice of Indonesian cheese seem positively quaint.
If there's any real flaw with the film, it's that the heroic females aren't defined much past the bright colors of their satin shorts, but what the ladies lack in personality is more than made up for in the film's suave villain, the scintillating Mr. Tiger. Dressed like a Sergio Leone bandito and carrying a whip, Tiger has decorated his bad guy pad with plush pink carpeting on each wall, accented with airbrushed portraits of tigers and horses that wouldn't be out of place on the side of a van owned by a 17-year-old Dungeons & Dragons fan. When he's not revealing all aspects of his plan in self-conscious, exposition-filled dialogue scenes, the guy reveals himself as one evil dude -- pulling hair, pouring wine on his concubines and whipping girls in slow-motion to the ominous sounds of thunder outside his swanky evil lair. Clearly, Tiger and his impressive collection of ruffled shirts deserve whatever fiery, motorcycle-leaping, kung fu death match punishment Larry and the girls can mete out.
Though Virgins From Hell is less than 20 years old, Mondo Macabro have still done a fantastic job with this release, which features a bright, clean 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer that probably looks better than the day it was shot. The soundtrack, always presented clearly, is a stereo English dub track, which adds much to the films campiness -- "You can kill me, but you can't kill the truth!" Where this release really shines, however, is in the extras. On the first disc, you'll find a trailer, Mondo Macabro's promo reel and an essay on the history of women-in-prison films, while the second disc -- called "Destination: Jakarta" -- kicks off with a great, 30-minute documentary about the Indonesian exploitation film industry, featuring interviews with stars, writers, directors and special effects artists. It's an excellent introduction well worth watching before the main feature to provide some much-needed context. Afterward, check out the main attraction: 70 minutes of insane film trailers from Indonesian trash outfit Rapi Films, including The Snake Queen, The Devil's Sword, The Warrior, The Warrior and the Ninja, The Warrior Against the Blind Swordsman, Hell Riders, Tiger Commandos, Freedom Force, Satan's Slave, Revenge of the Ninja, Violent Killer, Bloody Vengeance, Daredevil Commandos, The Terrorists, Final Score, Escape from Hell Hole, Blazing Battle, Primitif, and one of the most infamous Indonesian flicks, Mystics from Bali. Running about 3-4 minutes apiece, these previews offer brief flashes of mysticism, political dissent, and rampant dismemberment -- as all good cinema should.
After following up their last two essential releases, the Philippines mind-blower For Your Height Only/Challenge of the Tiger and the Turkish delights of Deathless Devil/Tarkan Versus the Vikings with yet another must-own title, Mondo Macabro is fast becoming the most interesting cult DVD company in the market today. Virgins From Hell is another highly recommended release that really does give neophyte viewers an essential primer to all the pleasures and horrors of Indonesian B-filmmaking -- here's hoping that they haven't finished raiding the vaults!
Review content copyright © 2006 Paul Corupe; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Mondo Macabro
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Indonesian Trailers
* Documentary on Indonesian Exploitation
* Essay on Women-in-prison films