|Feb 7 2024
The lawless of the jungle.
The curious and certainly never-to-reappear style of movies referred today as women-in-prison, or WIP, is a subgenre of sexploitation cinema that came about for one reason: it used settings in which women were helpless. Well, in theory. The dramatic thrust of the plots always derived from attempts to retain dignity and to escape captivity. The protagonist was usually an odd woman out—an unjustly imprisoned victim or an undercover operative—surrounded by a mix of prisoners who were hopeless, cruel, sexually predatory, and complicit, plus the abusive guards, one of whom nearly always was a sadistic woman.
Hotel Paradis stars Anthony Steffen, Ajita Wilson, and the slinky Cristina Lay, sometimes referred to as Cristina Lai. There are numerous posters for it, but we like the above Danish effort featuring a fight to the death. Its text notes: This film is banned in many countries because of its strong scenes.... it's shown in Denmark in uncut version. Indeed. Interracial lesbian sex might be to blame for the banning. There are other possible reasons too. We won't waste our time trying to figure it out. As an aside, the movie was filmed concurrently with the WIP flick Femmine infernali using the same cast, director, and sets. So consider this a write-up of that movie too, since the pair are basically identical.
Plotwise, a group of women are being transported to a jungle hellhole prison where forced labor is used to dig for emeralds. When their guards are ambushed and killed by patriot soldiers seeking to steal the emeralds to fund a nebulous revolt, the women agree to continue posingas prisoners in order to aid the infiltration of the camp. Behind bars is one inmate—Wilson—who has the shining or something, and keeps telling the others that violence, death, and freedom are coming. Also coming are WIP staples such as the evil wardenness, languorous shower scenes, whippings, baroque tortures, and sexual assault. It all ends pro forma with a climactic shootout.
Obviously, you have to go into these types of movies with a sense of humor if you can. When Lay first meets Wilson in the camp, she says, “My name's Maria. I'm frightened.” Why, oh why, didn't Wilson respond, “I'm Ajita. I'm a virgo”? Too bad we didn't write the script. Lay then helps herself to Wilson's pipe—which Wilson just a bit earlier had used to masturbate. If she can obtain a pipe you'd think she could get a dildo, but whatever, in prison you have to find your pleasures where you can. And in women-in-prison movies the same holds true—we thought the scene was hilarious. It was merely one of many.
It should be noted that while Wilson is the female lead, and we've shared a couple of racy images of her and highlighted her importance as a trans trailblazer, Lay is the audience draw here. She's unusually beautiful, and director Edoardo Mulargia and the movie's producers know it quite well. She gets the most loving camera work, the wettest shower scene, a nice interlude with Wilson, and goes through the entire final shootout obviously naked beneath her tattered prison tunic and with the top of it hanging wide open. It's not quite Frauen für Zellenblock 9, in which Karine Gambier and company perform their long escape sequence completely starkers, but it's notable just the same.
Hotel Paradis is obviously sexist and exploitative. As we've said before, in the same way blaxploitation movies usually show a racist power structure before the hero shatters it, sexploitation movies sometimes do the same with sexism. Sometimes. Not here. There are additional flaws. Compared to better WIP efforts it lacks the winking sense of humor, the empowerment undercurrent, and the sense of actors having fun while making something they know is ridiculous. There's a hardcore cut of this film with explicit scenes spliced in. It merely amplifies the aforementioned issues, so we suggest you avoid that version. But really, if you avoid Hotel Paradis entirely you'll probably be a better person for it. It premiered in Italy as Orinoco: Prigioniere del sesso in the autumn of 1980, and in Denmark today in 1983.
DenmarkItalyHotel ParadisOrinoco: Prigioniere del sessoAnthony SteffenAjita WilsonCristina LayCristina LaiStelio CandelliGuia LauriEdoardo Mulargiaposter artcinemasexploitationlgbtnuditywomen in prisonxxxmovie review