The women in prison genre is an inherently downbeat one. Since Caged, the dominant theme in this genre have been how an inherently flawed and easily corrupted system winds up creating the predators it is supposedly trying to cure. There is no escape in the grim, Darwinian world these films present: you either become an animal or an animal’s prey. The story might offer the nudity, violence and sleaze exploitation fans tune in for but they are likely to delivered with equal helpings of gloom and nihilism.
True Story Of A Woman In Jail: Continues is a perfect example of this kind of women in prison film, taking the darkness of this series’ introductory installment and pushing the envelope in multiple directions. Once again, the main heroine is Mayumi (Kozue Hitomi) but she no longer has dreams of escape. Instead, she is resigned to the casual cruelty of prison life. She saves the last bit of decency she has left to aid a young prisoner who is a target of the prison’s Queen Bee, helping her to get by until she is paroled.
Unfortunately, things don’t work out well for prisoners in a movie like this. The young prisoner soon discovers there are as many predators outside the prison as there are inside – and her travails awaken Mayumi to the existence of a criminal ring that incorporates the help of the prison’s guards and inmates. To make matters worse, she becomes aware that her own mother is prey to similar corruption beyond the gates. It’s only a matter of time until the pressure building up in Mayumi lets loose – and the gritty finale offers both catharsis and further gloom.
Simply put, this isn’t light viewing – and True Story Of A Woman In Jail: Continues is totally committed to the dark philosophy of prison life that its storyline espouses. Koyu Ohara, who directed the previous installment of the series, returns and brings the same grimy yet stylized aesthetic to the proceedings. Like any Nikkatsu roman porno director, he packs in the exploitable content and brings his fetishistic scenario in at a tidy 70 minutes. He really seems to love his work, particularly the kinky sex scenes stuffed in at every opportunity. As befits a film where the story is driven by issues of dominance, these sweaty coupling look as much like wrestling matches as they resemble sex.
However, Ohara places equal importance on establishing a doomy atmosphere that grows darker as the film progresses and piles on the melodramatic elements. When the story reaches its bleak finale, he orchestrates the violence with operatic fervor but never gives the audience the false hope of an escape. It is telling that our heroine never steps out from behind the prison bars for the film’s entire running time. She only enjoys freedom in her flashbacks (and those all end tragically, too).
The cast plays the film’s morbid tone in a straightfaced manner. Lead actress Hitomi towers over them all, gorgeous yet dour as she quietly bears witness to endless cruelty. She has the look of someone who is lost and knows she’ll never be found and her glum acceptance of this state of affairs suggests it’s the only way to survive in world where justice is hopelessly corrupt. To the credit of True Story Of A Woman In Jail: Continues, it sells that sleazy, hopeless atmosphere with great skill.