Terminal Island (Stephanie Rothman / U.S., 1973):

The battle of the sexes and the sexes of the battle, "let 'em fight among themselves, if that's what they wanna do!" A future unsettled like the present (cp. Petri's The 10th Victim), a chunk of rock off the California coast becomes a dumping ground for murderers once the death penalty is abolished. "No walls, no guards, no rules," the newest prisoner (Ena Hartman) sails in while some ersatz-Johnny Cash shit-kicker groans on the soundtrack ("Well it's too damn bad what they made of her, cuz now she's too damn bad for her own good"). Power hierarchies are swiftly re-erected amid the exiles, the muddy camp is lorded over by a petty tyrant (Sean Kenney) with a muscular enforcer (Roger E. Mosley) and women pull plows and are placed on nightly rape regimen. The bank bomber (Marta Kristen), the poison-tipped hausfrau (Phyllis Davis) and the parricidal mute (Barbara Leigh), sisterly concubines in denim short-shorts, have had enough: "I'm gonna smash his balls till they turn to jello!" Stephanie Rothman understands the balance between feminist allegory and drive-in shenanigans, her reflexive prelude introduces the cast via news broadcast and acknowledges the need for sex, "gotta keep it commercial." In a stripped-down order that crystallizes gender struggles, the only path to equality lies in tussling side by side with the rugged renegade (Don Marshall) and the hunky disgraced doctor (Tom Selleck). The offending phallus that goes for honey and gets a swarm of bees, the silent waif who regains her voice, "a great little firecracker." Suzy McKee Charnas is contemporaneous with Walk to the End of the World, John Carpenter in Escape from New York takes a nihilistic view. With Randy Boone, Clyde Ventura, and James Whitworth.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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