|Image from IMDB|
Director: Domenico Paolella
Writer: Domenico Paolella
Women exiled to a French prison island and forced to mine for gold try to both survive and escape their venal captors. Salvation seems to come with the arrival of a compassionate captain, but his motives are unsure.This movie’s curious just on a physical level, before we even get to any of the content of the movie. The version I have is from American International Pictures’ television distributors so this is the TV cut. That’s fine, but this not only clearly a bad VHS rip—tracking errors are still present—it’s taken from an original print so old and worn that all the color has been leeched away. This movie isn’t in black and white, it’s all in sun-bleached sepia tones, which was not the intention. On top of all that, there isn’t even a title card. There’s never a moment on my copy where the actual title of the movie appears. I have other movies from these sets where that happens, but I’ve never had the distributor’s logo pop up and then cut directly to the movie. The opening credits were actively removed at some point which is just strange.
We open with a group of women being taken to the titular Devi’s Island to serve out prison sentences for various crimes—thievery, sex work, etc. Among them is Martine Foucher who’s been sentenced to live on the island, seemingly for political reasons. Her father was a bureaucrat who fell out of favor, he sister was previously exiled to this island, and now it’s her turn.
They arrive and are introduced to the evil Lt. Lefèvre who’s intent on working them to death. Martine finds her sister posing as Jeanette, a woman sentenced for sex work but who died on the way over. Jeanette is working on a plan to escape with several other women and brings Martine in. However, they don’t invite another prisoner to join them and she rats them out. All the escapees are captured and Jeanette is shot in the back.
The “Old Testament logic” I’ve mentioned before on this blog is kind of in play here. Jeanette sleeps with Lefèvre to facilitate the escape and get access to the island’s gold. Despite being one of the good guys, in terms of movies as moral spaces, she dies for having sinned. Likewise, at the end of the movie, the rat dies as well. It’s a noble death, but she’s sinned so the movie has to punish her.
Anyway, a French ship arrives early and Captain Vallière arrives, taking control of operations from Lefèvre. The captain’s first orders are that the escapees be released from torture and that the women not be abused or sexually assaulted by the guards. He starts falling in love with Martine, but it turns out he’s a pirate posing as a French officer and steals all the gold.
He’s not a bad pirate, though. He’s stealing to fund the revolution and so goes back to the island to save Martine and one of his comrades that got left behind. His boat crashes on the island, he’s found by the rat who protects his secret, and Martine accidentally leads the guards to his hiding space. As he’s about to be hung, the rat grabs a torch, admits to what she’s done, and sets fire to several barrels of gunpowder.
The captain arms the women, they start fighting the French guards, and the pirates arrive on the shore. Martine kills Lefèvre, the guards are all killed by the women and pirates, and the survivors all leave on the ship to join the revolution. THE END.
The movie’s a little odd structurally. The plot of a woman being exiled to a prison island, finding her sister there, and then participating in an escape plan should be enough to carry a movie on its own, but that’s just the first thirty minutes here. The sister’s dead a little under halfway through (the TV cut is very short, by the way. IMDB says this is 86 minutes long. My copy was 73) and then Martine kind of becomes a supporting character. The movie becomes the captain’s story, and even that runs through several iterations before the movie ends.
In the end, the whole thing’s just kind of weird. I don’t know what they were aiming for story-wise, the print is really messed up, and it’s never really that interesting. It’s not bad, but that means it’s not funny-bad either. As a whole, it’s pretty mediocre and I don’t recommend it to anyone.