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Case Number 06979

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Prison-A-Go-Go!

Ventura Distribution // 2003 // 84 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 10th, 2005

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson live about two miles from the New Hampshire state women's prison. And that's the end of that anecdote.

The Charge

Crap-a-go-go? Ro no-no?

Opening Statement

Courtesy of Shock-a-Rama Cinema comes this gag-heavy homage to the "women-in-prison" movies. Prison-A-Go-Go! features B-movie queens, gratuitous shower sequences, superfluous ninja attacks, and zombies. Hello Academy Award!

Facts of the Case

When a young veterinarian is captured by a mad doctor and hauled away to women's prison in the Philippines, her sister Janie (Laurie Walton) pledges to do anything she can to rescue her. After a few unsuccessful attempts at getting arrested, she opts for the obvious route—brutally murdering a street bum—and ends up being shipped to prison.

There she meets Jackpot (Rhonda Shear, USA's Up All Night), a horny inmate infamous for raping the male prison guards. Meanwhile, a new warden has taken over at the prison. Assigned by Department of Corrections big shot Dyann Slutface (Mary Woronov, Frog-g-g!), the young, apathetic Wilbur Thorn (Mike Weibe) begins his tenure at the prison in time for all Hell to break loose.

After several shower scenes and a random ninja attack, Thorn, Jackpot, and Janie must now deal with full-scale chaos, as the inmates, said ninjas, and bloodthirsty zombies all try to make a break for it.

The Evidence

What to say about a movie called Prison-A-Go-Go!? For one, it has the look and feel of a Troma movie (the cameo presence of Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman certainly adds to that). Thankfully, it boasts significantly more wit than most Troma flicks.

This movie is primarily a slapstick, gross-out, joke-a-minute comedy, much in the same mold as an old-school Zuckers flick. And like those semi-automatic-gag movies, Prison-A-Go-Go! is hit and miss. There are some authentically funny moments but mostly some really lame ones.

Here's what worked for me:

• Mark Weibe. This guy was definitely the funniest part of this movie. His character—inexplicably chosen as warden—is a drugged-out loser who acts many times as the deadpan straight man to most of the jokes, but when he gets some good lines, he owns them.

• The film doesn't try to be anything more than a goofy spoof. Props to writer-producer-director Barak Epstein, a former (and maybe current?) video store worker, who chose a ripe genre to lampoon. From the running SHOWER SCENE clock at the bottom corner of the screen, which counts down the minutes to the next foray of random, sudsy nudity, to the director's semi-funny cameo pitching Jolt! cola, Epstein crafted a flick that he obviously enjoyed making, and that shows.

• Ninjas. Okay, this completely came out of left field, but I can picture Epstein and his cronies talking about what was going to be in the movie and one of them saying: "Ninjas are cool! Let's add ninjas!" Also, the gags at the ninja hideout are some of the funniest.

Unfortunately, the majority of the flick, while sophomoric as all get-out, just wasn't that funny. I think Epstein has some talent, and from the commentary track and the interviews in the extra features he comes across as a cool guy and a fan of cult flicks, but this outing was too uneven to catapult it beyond the realm of forgettable low-budget spoof pics.

On the plus side, the film looks great. Epstein shot on 35mm, and it pays off. Though substantively the movie lacks somewhat, Prison-A-Go-Go! looks slick. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen holds up fine, and the transfer is clean. The blood does look like V-8 carrot juice cocktail, though. Two audio tracks are available—Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. I actually preferred the stereo mix because, while the 5.1 does use some of the discrete channels, the overall sound is much more subdued than the 2.0.

Shock-a-Rama knows how to do a DVD. This disc is loaded with extras. Epstein and a few cast members offer a light-hearted, self-deprecating commentary track (Epstein believes the opening credits are the best part of the film, and he didn't even put them together). As mentioned before, the director's interview is interesting and fun, documenting Epstein's binge on women-in-prison movies and painstakingly noting common elements that he wanted to parody in his film.

A robust set of features is centered around the Prison-A-Go-Go! premiere at the B-movie festival, "Shock-a-Go-Go," and features documentary footage of the premiere, interviews with attendees, and a question-and-answer session with genre heavy hitters Roger Corman, Mary Woronov, and David Friedman. A handful of deleted scenes, some behind-the-scenes and audition footage, and trailers round out the set.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Just a heads up for all you women-in-prison junkies hoping for some titillation: look elsewhere. This is a comedy, not an exploitation flick, and the nudity is limited to a few fairly attractive women standing under a shower head.

Closing Statement

Prison-A-Go-Go! is about 35% funny and 65% stupid.

The Verdict

The accused is sent to a women's prison and…er…ah, screw it, it's too easy.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 80
Extras: 90
Acting: 60
Story: 60
Judgment: 68

Perp Profile

Studio: Ventura Distribution
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genres:
• Comedy
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Director's Commentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Auditions
• Making-of Footage
• "Shock-a-Go-Go": Premiere Footage
• Director's Interview
• Q&A with Roger Corman, Mary Woronov, David Friedman
• Trailers

Accomplices

• IMDb








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