SassyFlix | Purgatory


  • NR
  • 1988-10-12
  • 01:29:00
5/ 10
2 votes

Action, Drama, Exploitation

Carly is happily spreading goodness and light as a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa when she and her pal Melanie run afoul of the local, highly corrupt, justice system. Despite numerous bribes by her mother Ruth, the two girls receive an eleven-year sentence on phony charges of drug-peddling. They are sentenced to serve their time at a prison run by a dissolute warden Bledsoe who typically employs his better looking female prisoners as prostitutes. Melanie kills herself after being gang-raped by guards, and Carly, realizing she'll get no help from the U.S. Embassy, has no choice but to escape.


Tanya Roberts stars in this late 80's female prison exploitation flick.

Tanya Roberts tries to break free from her typecast image that stemmed from her infamous one-season stint on the highly successful "CHARLIE'S ANGELS" series and her turn as the title role in the atrociously awful camp classic, "SHEENA, QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE".

In "PURGATORY", Tanya Roberts is Carly. She and her best friend Melanie are vacationing in South Africa and make the fatal mistake of picking up a 'hunky' hitch-hiker in their jeep who turns out to be nothing more than a filthy drug runner. When their jeep is stopped at a military checkpoint run by an outfit of South African army officers, the hitch-hiker tries to make a run for it but is gunned down in a Sunflower field. As a result, his bag is searched by the officers who discover a reasonable amount of drugs and naturally, Carly and Melanie are arrested despite their pleas that they had nothing to do with this.

So into the filthy slammer Carly and Melanie go. As two naive westerners, their case is fed to the dogs and they are sentenced to a life sentence inside a female prison where they are sexually molested by prison guards and treated as outcasts by the 'local' prison inmates. Naturally, Tanya Roberts uses her 'sexuality' to try to get them out of this intense and hopeless situation as she makes moves to seduce the Warden of the female prison in order to buy a ticket out for their freedom.

"PURGATORY" comes off more as a sleazy exploitation flick rather than something dramatically serious that you could actually believe might have happened in real life. From the 'hosing down' sessions within the prison walls to the countless sex scenes we get to witness shared between Tanya Roberts and the Warden, this film finds its place among other cinematic gems such as "THE CONCRETE JUNGLE" and "THE BIG DOLL HOUSE".

While no one can really take this movie seriously, most men will find the eye candy gratuitously supplied by Tanya Roberts enough to suffice their appetites. Women should look elsewhere.

"PURGATORY" is a relatively hard movie to catch sight of these days - but if you do happen to see this on your TV Guide or find a dusty copy on video at your local store, give it a gander... it's actually pretty funny.

My Rating - 6 out of 10

Hard to complain about a women-in-prison flick that features Tanya Roberts in her prime. 

It arrives on the heels of Chained Heat, and the warden here has similar plans for his overheated and undernourished inmates. They're dressed up and pimped out to a local brothel, because as it's explained, this prison mixes capitalism with rehabilitation. He's got a shower/hot tub and a fully stocked bar in his bedroom where he likes to spend extra quality time with the girls. Bit more melodrama than all-out sleaze, but there's an appropriate amount of degrading nonsense and action for us exploitation purists.

Seen It Before

Pick almost any "Women In Prison" movie where some young lovelies are unjustly thrown behind bars and then abused by the warden, the guards, the other prisoners....That's this movie. Still, it has a young, lovely and long-legged Tanya Roberts as one of the hapless prisoners. There's a little bit of nudity here and there, and a lot of explosions at the end. You've seen it before.

John Newland????

This truly crappy women-in-prison flick looks like a leftover from the 1970s. Like so many of that genre, it was shot in the Philippines. One difference; instead of a totally no-name cast, it has Tanya Roberts, the erstwhile Charlie's Angel. Hold your Oscar nominations, please.

Though none exists, this movie could easily be subtitled, "Carly and Melanie Go to Africa and Get Gang Raped." That's pretty much the size of it. Sadly, poor Melanie drops out in the first twenty minutes, so that leaves Carly ( Roberts ) to fend for herself against a bunch of really yucky people. They're yucky, she's plucky. The outcome is predictable.

Lots of people get killed along the way, not that anyone really cares. The biggest question remains: What is John Newland doing in this dreck? Yes, that's right; the same John Newland who hosted the Sci-Fi TV classic from the 1950s, "One Step Beyond". He's dead now, so it's impossible to ask him. One can only imagine that his last wish was to have his name deleted from the credits. That appears to have been granted.

Dreary exploitation junk

Despite the initial set-up (2 American girls in a foreign - here African - country get arrested and sentenced to 11 years in jail for a crime they didn't commit), "Purgatory" is not really a Women-In-Prison film. It almost completely ignores the daily prison life of the women and focuses on one aspect only: their sexual exploitation. The warden has set up a prostitution ring and the prisoners are used to satisfy the needs of many high-paying customers. After 75 minutes of this repellent junk, we finally get to the escape part. "Purgatory" supposedly has serious intentions: there are even title cards telling us what date it is, and at the end another card telling us what happened to the surviving characters, as if this was based on a true story, even though at the end of the credits there is the usual "any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental" disclaimer. But it is technically rough, even amateurish at times, and although Tanya Roberts deserves credit for taking on a role that has her appear completely unglamorous, she's still too limited an actress to carry a movie by herself. (*)

Straight from the clichéd hand-book.

Peace Corps Carly and Melanie are leaving the African country Umlanga, but when they're pulled over by the authorities. The hitcher-hiker they picked up, happened to be carrying drugs. The two ladies are falsely convicted of smuggling drugs too. So the judge, sentences the pair to eleven years to the penitentiary known as Purgatory. When they get there, Carly soon discovers that showing fear and aggression is a big mistake and only backfires. The abuse going on behind the scenes sticks to the warden and the guards taking advantage of the inmates sexually. After their first encounter, Melanie cracks insistently. Carly becomes the warden's favourite and is forced to work in a brothel. While, her mother is doing her best to get her daughter out, despite finding it hard getting help from the American embassy.

Tanya Roberts (who's basically wasted) is the main draw card to this highly dank, lewd and by-the-numbers women-in-prison exploitation fodder. Well there's plenty of leering shots on Tanya Roberts (who wears some skimpy outfits and naively whimpers a lot over her innocence), but it really does utilize the lustful sexual attraction that's brewing. However, while it's sordidly suggested, it falls mostly into the implied bracket. It's pretty weak and tame in what you see and there's very little sleaze and flesh. Too much jilted dialogues involving whining or long-winded speeches with political interference has a certain seriousness about it, which just drowns out the fun that could've been and only aggravates. It doesn't quite ignite until the last fifteen minutes, but even then the action is amateurishly staged and the final big bang (the usual break out with some explosions and sweet revenge) lacks zing. Obvious plotting in the material doesn't help the stuffy pacing either. The look of the film comes across like a jagged TV episode, but it cooks up a gritty, dour and harsh atmosphere despite not entirely illustrating it. Director Ami Artzi does an systematic job, but can succumb to lazy touches, just like the conclusion. Free-willed camera-work can get murky with one or two unusual handled POV shots and the broodingly over dramatic music score is totally mishandled. The voluptuously stunning Roberts has trouble holding the film together in the lead role, but however it's a gusty performance. Clare Marshall provides much added spark as the mother Ruth Arnold. The performances aren't terrible, just extremely plain and shell-like.

A visually enticing Roberts and couple of unintentional chuckles can be found in this free-risk, below-average cheapjack "WIP" exploitation staple. Tanya Roberts' fans will eat it up, but I don't know about others.

Requires Viewers to Use Their Imagination

"Carly Arnold" (Tanya Roberts) and her good friend "Melanie" (Julie Pop) are serving in the Peace Corp somewhere in Africa. As they are heading to the airport en route to the United States they happen to pick up a hitchhiker who says he is also headed in that direction. Unfortunately, they encounter a roadblock and during an inspection of their baggage a bag of heroin is found in the hitchhiker's belongings. When the hitchhiker tries to run he is shot and killed leaving the two young ladies without the main person who might vouch for their innocence. After a quick trial with a preordained guilty verdict they are both sentenced to 11 years in a prison known as "Purgatory". While there they are raped and abused with neither of them having much chance of acquittal or escape. Anyway, for a women-in-prison movie this particular film requires viewers to use their imagination a bit as there aren't too many scenes which capture the anguish or violence normally seen in movies of this type. Along with that, except for Tanya Roberts, the rest of the cast suffers badly from a lack of character development. Additionally, while Tanya Roberts certainly performed well enough she simply wasn't able to carry the movie all by herself. Slightly below average.

Absolute B-grade Gold

Starting off this *is* the writing of an oft-favoured 1980's B-grade fan, so I am in no way writing this to compete with previous reviewers or take some imagined review 'injustice' into my own hands.

I appreciate the plot line as a particularly classic one and with its means to expand on whatever drama or storyline unfolds the end result is what you get. Its the whole 'put in an overseas jail' thing. Yes, 'purgatory'. So my comments are really relative to people who like me who enjoy a little cheesiness. No you wouldn't see Meryl Streep in a movie like this one and thats what gives its character.

Take bits and pieces from the movie. For me they are dazzling scenes occurring by the minute. No matter what they say it all seems to wind up funny to me. No matter what the musical soundtrack is, it always manages to impress vintage cheese upon me. I am about to write up some quotes so check them out. Thy might give you an idea of what you're in for.

Yes. The 80's were this bad. Awesome


I guess it's no-brainer as far as eye-candy goes (Tanya Roberts) but let's not forget Rufus Swart!!! I recall seeing this in 2006 (whilst pregnant) and actually getting out of bed to google Rufus. Gorgeous! Born in South Africa, he had a beautiful accent and was earnest and compelling to watch.

You can imagine my creeped-out-ness when I discovered he had died in real life - close to 10 years prior.

Anyway, upon finding that out, I went about attempting to buy up his catalogue. Not a great film, but being a fan of the ANGELS I thought I'd check it out. Worth it for Rufus alone...