Bad movies are like anchovies - they´re an acquired taste. Both are readily available and seldom cost much to get, but few people actually like either. In fact, most people find them virtually impossible to swallow. Just mention either the salty little fish or the title of a really awful film in any crowd and watch the virtually identical cringes you get in response. But for the handful of individuals who have been exposed to the distinctive flavor of either repeatedly, due either to curiosity or some mild form of masochism, both can become delectable treats to be sought after and savored. If bad movies are indeed the anchovies of the cinematic world, Ted V. Mikels´ 10 VIOLENT WOMEN is a mouth-watering extra large deluxe, with toppings all the way to the edge.
A group of comely female miners are nearly killed when their callous male foreman dynamites the mineshaft they are working in while they are inside. The girls berate the jerk, who responds by bemoaning his lack of pay and trying to rape one of them right there on the spot. After dispatching this charming fellow, the ladies decide they´ve had enough of menial labor and hatch a plot to rob a jewelry store. The elaborate heist goes off without a hitch, but one of them is fatally shot by a sleazy fence after they refuse his offered payment of three bags of cocaine for the hot jewels. The de facto leader of the girl gang, a hopeless drunk, kills the offending hoodlum and lights off with both the blow and the jewelry, only to get herself killed when she tries to sell the coke to two undercover cops. The other girls are arrested and sent to a women´s prison, where they are tortured and tormented after one of them rebukes the lecherous advances of the sadistic lesbian warden. With the help of two other inmates, they eventually make a daring escape, but are disheartened to learn that the stolen jewels are not where they hid them. All but two of the women depart to make new lives for themselves, the remaining pair forced to accept an offer to work on an Arab sheik´s pleasure yacht to pay for the hotel room where they have been holed up. While working on the boat as belly dancers, they learn that their employer has lured them onboard purposefully to recover the last of the stolen jewels - a sacred scarab ring he was storing at the jewelry shop.
I know, I know... By now, your head is spinning from all of the insane, absurd plot twists detailed above, and it should be. 10 VIOLENT WOMEN plays like a dizzying combination of Ed Wood´s THE VIOLENT YEARS, Roger Corman´s SWAMP DIAMONDS, and Jack Hill´s THE BIG DOLLHOUSE, with some Russ Meyer-esque subtitles, a healthy dose of post-feminist empowerment, and even a hint of blaxploitation thrown in for good measure. And if that isn´t enough for you, the first act and the hokey finale are actually played for laughs, as though this violent tale brimming with murder, rape, and sadism were really just a frothy, light-hearted farce! To call this a "women in prison" film or a "crime caper" or a "jiggle fest" is to sell it short. This is a greasy celluloid stew with so many ingredients (chief among them cheese) that it almost defies description.
Any film, good or bad, is defined by its most memorable moments, and this movie has more than can be listed in a single review. The aforementioned attempted rape outside the mineshaft, the water pistol/white blouse shootout, the death by stiletto heel, the drunken drug bust, the accosting of a male motorist for his car, the clothes-ripping catfight, the warden´s cruel seduction, the clumsy shower fight, the ludicrous "harem girl" resolution... the list goes on and on. In the prison portion alone, we are subjected to everything from a girl-on-girl rape scene to a torture bit involving a riding crop and a metal trashcan to a jaw-dropping sequence in which the warden (in a white silk robe and lacy bra, and wielding a club) and her hag-like, religious zealot matron make one of the ladies kneel down and pray to Jesus for forgiveness! Not one cliche of any of the exploitation subgenres covered here was missed by writer-director Mikels (who also essays the repugnant fence with great gusto), and a few new ones were probably created along the way.
Of course, the primary purpose of cinema is to entertain, so the case could be made that any film that achieves that goal, no matter how salacious or amateurish, cannot fairly be labeled "bad". If one has a taste for the trashy, 10 VIOLENT WOMEN is sure as hell entertaining. Anyone who´s ever read THE GOLDEN TURKEY AWARDS or stayed up late to catch MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 will find enough giggles and "Did I just see that?" moments here for ten movies. That said, it would be virtually impossible as a critic to recommend the film to any viewer who isn´t already completely prepared for what they are about to see the moment they hear the title (or the name Ted V. Mikels, for that matter!). This isn´t THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION or GIRL, INTERRUPTED. It isn´t even Jonathan Demme´s giddily self-aware CAGED HEAT. This is unapologetic grindhouse sleaze that wallows in its own excesses, revels in its inherent cheapness, and dares the viewer to come down off of his or her high horse to join in the debauchery. It´s like a Wood film with a higher budget and more coherent dialogue, or a Meyer movie without the technical skill or over-inflated mammaries. It is, in every legitimately critical sense of the word, bad. Fortunately for this lover of the occasional cinematic anchovy, that lack of artistic value never gets in the way of it being a tasteless good time.