In an unnamed Central American country a lawyer, Lindsay (Dennis Price), is called to the bedside of the dying prison governor, and soon finds out why. The governor wishes to confess, not to a priest but to the lawyer, because guilt is sitting heavily on his shoulders as he had plotted against a young couple and was responsible for their imprisonment. It was all a plan to get his hands on a large amount of money, along with his lover who was also implicated. They both framed the couple, Raymond (Andrés Resino) and Beatriz (Geneviève Robert), for murder by placing their unconscious bodies by the woman they had stabbed to death and putting the murder weapon in Raymond's hand, so there was no doubt in the authorities' minds who the killers were, despite the protests of innocence - can Lindsay set them free now he knows the truth?
If there was one chap who knew his way around the women in prison genre that enjoyed its heyday in the nineteen-seventies, then he was Jesus Franco, and Devil's Island Lovers settles comfortably into the template. Only here, there are men in prison as well, just not in the same cells as the women, kept as they are in a separate block. Despite this development, the film runs exactly as you would expect even down to the "shock" ending, so if you're an afficionado of this type of thing then you should anticipate any surprises. There are a few innvoations that illustrate Franco's talent: the courtroom scene features the lawyer and prosecutors filmed from below so we get a good look at the high, domed ceiling but not any other part of the courtroom, thus saving money on extras and indeed locations.
That aside, this is just too ordinary to really be absorbing, and even if you see the version with the nudity in it, the film is pretty tame. Once Beatriz enters the prison, she makes friends with Rosa (Josyanne Gibert offers the best performance) who has made herself unpopular with the inmates by sleeping with the staff for preferential treatment, and if Franco had made the film more about her story then he might have had more promising material on his hands. As it is, Rosa believes Beatriz when she says she's innocent, and does her best to reunite the lovers by formulating a scheme that will enable them to escape. But are the two of them up to it after Raymond's stint of hard labour and Beatriz's general exhaustion? Well, what do you think? Those wishing to find thrills in the bleakness of Third World jails may enjoy Devil's Island Lovers, everyone else may struggle. Music by Bruno Nicolai.
Aka: Quartier de Femmes, Los Amantes de la Isla del Diablo
[Tartan have released this on Region 2 DVD on a Franco double bill with Night of the Assassins. Extras for this film, presented in its original aspect ratio, amount to deleted scenes of all the nudity and violence cut out of the version offered here, which isn't especially extensive.]
Legendary director of predominantly sex-and-horror-based material, Spanish-born Jesus Franco had as many as 200 directing credits to his name. Trained initially as a musician before studying film at the Sorbonne in Paris, Franco began directing in the late 50s. By using the same actors, sets and locations on many films, Franco has maintained an astonishing workrate, and while the quality of his work has sometimes suffered because of this, films such as Virgin Amongst the Living dead, Eugenie, Succubus and She Killed in Ecstasy remain distinctive slices of 60s/70s art-trash.
Most of his films have been released in multiple versions with wildly differing titles, while Franco himself has directed under a bewildering number of pseudonyms. Actors who have regularly appeared in his films include Klaus Kinski, Christopher Lee and wife Lina Romay; fans should also look out for his name on the credits of Orson Welles' Chimes of Midnight, on which he worked as assistant director.