Ten Violent Women (1982)
There are many what-if scenes in movies. "What if they had hired someone who could make a realistic looking digital shark? That would have been one of the best unexpected movie deaths ever!" Instead, Samuel L. Jackson suddenly turns into a bunch of pixels as an effect the makers of Sharknado would have rejected takes him out. What if George Lucas had someone else write the dialogue for the prequels? What if Blake Edwards just accepted the fact the Pink Panther series was over when Peter Sellers died?
And, in this case: what if Ted V. Mikels ever used some of the money he earned from his cheap drive-in films to buy a lighting rig? Yes, the movie is obviously supposed to be run-of-the-mill exploitation, promising some skin and some blood, but that's no excuse for the fact that it is this difficult to actually see the movie while watching it.
Our title characters are working alongside a number of other young women as gold miners when the one man on their crew, who happens to work demolition, almost kills a couple of their number. He gets fed up and tries to rape one of them, which is a bad idea. After beating him to death, the group decide that maybe, instead of digging for gold, they should just try stealing it in its down-the-line form. Maggie (Dixie Lauren), Sam (Sherri Vernon), Beth (Paula Ian) and Sheila (Sally Alice Gamble) take off for a life of crime.
They join up with some other women - Liz (Christina De Cattani), Carol (Kelly Lancaster), Joanie (Sherry Hardin) and Jill (Melodie Bell). With Sheila as an inside woman, Maggie posing as a driver and Sam and Beth as wealthy socialites, the girls manage to rob a jewelry store and lock the owner (Frank Walshe) in the vault while Liz and Carol distract the store's security guard (Jack Dees). They succeed and make heir getaway but, in cleaning out the vault, not only leave with the jeweler's own creations but with jewels belonging to a wealthy sheik (Charles Gorgano), who tasks his man Achim (Michael McClosky) to track down the thieves and retrieve a valuable scarab ring from them.
Sheila suggest the next move is to go to Las Vegas, where she name drops to get an audience with low-level mobster Leo the Fence (Ted V. Mikels) in order to sell the jewels. Leo himself is in financial trouble. He agrees to meet Sheila, but she brings Maggie, Beth and Sam with her, much to his irritation. Still, instead of money, he offers them $1.5 million worth of cocaine. Not wanting the drugs, the girls balk, and he instead decides to keep everything. The ensuing fight results in Beth being shot and Sheila killing Leo and taking the coke.
The girls meet up, and Joanie panics when she sees Beth has been shot. Sheila becomes rather irritated, demanding that Joanie stop crying, while Carol comes to her defense, resulting in a catfight. Maggie takes control of the situation, and Carol and Joanie leave with Beth to get her help. After stealing another car, the remaining girls hide the jewels by a riverbank before going to a restaurant. Sam decides to keep the ring with her.
Throughout, Achim has been following them, and he retrieves the jewels from the hiding place - but is upset that the ring is missing.
At the restaurant, Sheila proceeds to get drunk and high, and decides to try to unload the cocaine on a couple of customers. The customers, of course, turn out to be police, and Sheila is killed when she draws a water gun on them. Sam hides the ring at the foot of a Madonna statue at the restaurant, and the remaining four girls are arrested.
Sentenced to prison, they find themselves in a ward run by Bri Terry (Georgia Morgan) and her religious fanatic sycophant, Madge (Jane Farnsworth). The two make life hell for their prisoners, with Terry demanding sexual favors from the women while Madge sadistically punishes them in the name of "redemption." Samantha quickly runs a afoul of the two, and literally becomes their whipping girl, suffering assaults both from prisoners controlled by Terry and from the guards themselves. Maggie, Beth, Liz and Sam do make friends in the form of Donna (Leigh Reynolds) and Pam (Julie Wakefield), a pair of lesbian burglars whose outside boyfriends are working out a plan to get them out.
Jill discovers a way of escape while fleeing from two other prisoners, realizing that a service corridor can lead them to the outside. Donna and Pam communicate with their boyfriends, and all six girls manage to overpower Madge and Terry and make it outside the prison - an escape that seems easy but, although they do not notice it, appears to have been made easier through the machinations of Achim. Donna and Pam leave with their boyfriends, while Maggie, Sam, Liz and Jill are picked up by Achim, who claims to be looking for women for a traveling show. Sam has him stop by the restaurant from earlier, where she retrieves the ring.
In the hotel, Achim attempts to retrieve the ring, but Sam wakes up before he can remove it from her finger. The next morning, Liz and Jill announce that they are leaving, after informing Maggie and Sam that they heard from Joanie and Carol that Beth had recovered. Achim has bought them an all new wardrobe, and they take off, while Achim himself comes in to tell Maggie and Sam the bad news - their friends spent all his money, and they must earn it back by dancing on a yacht. The whole thing is a set-up, of course, for the Sheik to retrieve his ring.
Ten Violent Women seems to be Ted V. Mikels's attempt to be Russ Meyer, while combining the heist and women in prison genres. It is quite obvious that there is no attempt here to make what would be traditionally a good movie, but there is nothing truly wrong with that. There are many movies from the 1970s that are nothing more than excuses to show off their starlets' assets while inserting a fair amount of the red, red krovy. The difference between those movies and Ten Violent Women (which, despite a 1982 release date, was actually made in 1978) is that, even if the effects are cheap and the directing amateurish, one can at least see what is going on. In fact, this is not too far off from being a movie you might expect Jack Hill to make.
Instead, Mikels decides to cut money the wrong way and film scenes that take place in the dark without even an attempt to light them. A few D batteries and a couple cheap flashlights would have made the film quite a bit easier to watch. I really don't mind the bad acting and the silly plot, but that is no reason to render your film almost unwatchable.
The reason I say almost is because, once the group is pared down, Sherri Vernon and Dixie Lauren have on-screen chemistry (in a non-romantic way) and I could imagine the two becoming a running film duo if they had a better director behind them. Most of the other women are not given much to do except look pretty, scream and occasionally fill in a part of the plot.
Not so for the villains. Georgia Morgan unfortunately only has this movie to her credit, which is a shame as her performance as Miss Terry is miles beyond what the role even calls for. Often walking around in nighties and seeming to live at the prison, she's every evil warden from every girls behind bars flick rolled into one - and she's not even the warden in this case. Jane Farnsworth as the snickering, religion-spouting Madge is also a delight of overacting and the perfect complement to Morgan.
This has all the makings of a cult classic, although it is a confused and silly ball of nonsense. If Mikels had just decided to invest a few hundred more dollars on some light bulbs this would have a lot more respect than it does.
Ten Violent Women (1982)
Time: 97 minutes
Starring: Sherri Vernon, Dixie Lauren, Sally Alice Gamble, Georgia Morgan
Director: Ted V. Mikels