Human Experiments (1980)
AKA: Beyond the Gate (Alternate English Title)
AKA: Women In Prison (VHS Title)
AKA: Morderczy eksperyment (Poland)
AKA: Experimentos humanos (Spain)
AKA: Elńvien kuolleiden talo (Finland)

(Release Date: January 1980 [Miami, Florida])

Can you wash a Dog's brain?

Dirty Thoughts? Time to WASH THAT BRAIN!

J.C. Mašek III... 

Video Nasty Critic!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!!!






One thing about the Video Nasties is that many of them were banned in more countries than just the UK. However, none of them were actually banned in the United States. Some were re-edited or cut for content to avoid an X Rating, some were cut to obtain US distribution and some versions that were cut for release in other countries may have been the versions that made their way to the US, however, none of them were actually banned here per se. Still, there are a good many of these that ended up on my "Red List", being incredibly hard to find.

Why?
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Well, it's not that these have been banned, censored or otherwise actually denied to the public... many of these movies quite simply suck pimply butt. Meaning... there are very few distributors that have detected sufficient public demand, interest or even knowledge in these films to warrant a DVD release. This caused me to dig deep in a lot of cases, buying decades old VHS tapes and even pirated videos to complete the list. Luckily, most of the 74 films have made it to DVD, some in pristine formats with extras, bells, whistles, bags of chips, shooting matches and balls of wax. Human Experiments is in the former category.

Human Experiments, when it's talked about at all, has been called many things, from "Women In Prison Movie" to "Horror" to "Thriller" to "Drama" to "Scientologist Propaganda". Circumstantial (if that) as the last one might be, Human Experiments is a bit of a Women's prison movie that attempts to horrify and thrill while maintaining a certain level of quality with its drama. The operative word here is, of course, "attempts". Human Experiments is really more of an experiment in doing very little.

Director Gregory Goodell (who also wrote the script along with Richard Rothstein) introduces us to Rachel Foster (Linda Haynes), a really quite hot aspiring singer on a crappy tour around some crappy dives. We're soon shown why things are so crappy when she takes the stage and poorly sings a song she wrote about herself. She does get applause, though, probably because some of the lyrics include descriptions of her "running naked" in the rain.

She'll have plenty of time for that soon.

After two stand offs with a sleazy club and hotel owner (Aldo Ray), Rachel hits the road again and almost hits something else, running herself into the ditch. This is why she has to enter a nearby house to use the phone.

I can't say this film is devoid of surprises, though, seeing as how the odds of me predicting that she would walk in to find some kid going all Ronnie DeFeo on his family are about as slim as me predicting the next president of Pakistan. That's what happens, though, and she is forced to shoot the Amityville Wannabe in self defense. If that's not random enough for you, she's convicted of the murders that home-douche committed and is sent to prison for them.

Uh huh.

So the logic the prosecution was going for here is that she woke up, collected her slim-ass pay for her terrible show, pulled over and decided to kill whomever she found on the side of the road? Well, I guess it's not all that much more outlandish than the logic of the Director of Public Prosecutions adding this one to the Video Nasty list!

But I digress. Rachel soon finds herself in a woman's prison run by Warden Weber (Mercedes Shirley). The warden starts this chapter when she reads the rules of the prison over the loud speaker, which essentially boils down to "No Lesbian Sex!"

Here, make your own decision, this is what she says:

"Red Lines are your boundary lines. Prisoners are not allowed behind any red line. Any prisoner found behind a red line will be given a 115. All mail will be inspected. Each letter is limited to 4 pages written on one side only. Do not, repeat, do not write in the margins. It is mandatory at gate 3 that prisoners do shower once a day. Personal Contact is not permitted. This includes playing, wrestling, massaging, plucking eyebrows and so forth!"

This is the first Women's Prison movie I've ever seen in which such a thing was taken seriously. By the way, I'm not sure what "a 115" is, but I know what it's not! It's not a 69!!!

By the way, this was all said during Linda Haynes first and longest nude scene, which both explains how I memorized the above quote and serves as a warning for those watching this movie who were just about to get excited. "I know what you're thinking," the subtext seems to read "and it's not going to happen!" There is a pretty interesting masturbation scene for Haynes' character later on but I... okay, sorry, back to the plot.

While Rachel is facing a hell she's never dreamed of, just getting to know the other prisoners (a group which includes Ellen Travolta as well as the only other woman we see naked, Marie O'Henry), she's about to meet someone worse than any of them, worse than the guard (Cherie Franklin) and worse even than the Warden... the prison Doctor. He's a sadistic jackass named Kline who was actually played by acclaimed character actor and storyteller Geoffrey Lewis. His Mengele-like experiments in complete brainwashing as a source of "rehabilitation" have met with the approximate success of Chris Dodd's Presidential Bid. His luck may change, though, as his sights are now set on Rachel.

Why doesn't she just sing? That would be a pretty good defense against the drugging and the nightmares and the psychological torture. That's how bad she is! Really, that would be just her giving back! He'd be smart just to let her out, actually.

Things go from bad to boring to worse to boring to hot to boring to nightmarishly surreal and back to boring as the movie progresses. There are a few surprises here, but most of these feel less like planned dominoes falling than they do random ideas Goodell and Rothstein thought up on the fly, surprising themselves as much as us. Further, as Rachel begins to go insane, there are some very creepy moments to be seen. They aren't terribly skillfully executed or logical, but they are there.

It's probable that the reason the DPP removed this film from the shelf was a weak suggestion of eroticism in torturous situations. This, too, is mild however, the sick sight of Linda Haynes being covered in large insects while her breasts are falling out of her prison uniform is right on that edge that the DPP balanced upon in their interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act. It should be noted, though, that Human Experiments is among the "Secondary" Video Nasties, those films added to the list after the original 39. Many of these were only briefly on the list and were considered to be almost "knee jerk" in their inclusion. Still, Human Experiments did require twenty-six seconds of cuts before the BBFC allowed it to be released again in 1994. That may not seem like much (especially in a slow movie like this one) but next time you watch a movie, any movie, and you come to a point of any intensity at all, count to twenty-six and imagine those seconds being cut. Better yet, assuming that all twenty-six seconds didn't all come from the same feet of film, count to ten during an intense scene. Seconds amount to a lot.

Human Experiments, with all of its 4,920 seconds, doesn't end up amounting to all that much, though. The talents of Geoffrey Lewis and Linda Haynes (who has since retired to the private sector) are wasted in this film that might have been good with the right do-overs and a lot more coherence. It's definitely not the worst film I've ever seen, but it's still a DOG! It's for completists only, though the sole grouping I could put this thing in for completion would be the Video Nasty List. Women's Prison Movie buffs probably wouldn't consider this much of a women's prison movie, Geoffrey Lewis probably isn't clamoring for its release either, nor is the Church of Scientology, supposing they even know it exists. We'll see, I guess.

Don't worry, folks, all the Video Nasties will eventually be released on DVD, including this one. A company called Code Red is working on the upcoming 2007 DVD release of Human Experiments as I type this... but seeing as how I'm typing this on December 15, 2007 and the DVD is still unavailable, all you completists might need to hold out for a bit longer. Until then, I'll see you in the next scary, bug infested, naked reel and I'll be thinking of Linda Haynes as I do. She's not really singing as I picture her, though.

Here's an experiment for you...
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You won't be brainwashed and you can still have Lesbian Sex afterward!
I don't mind at all.


Human Experiments (1980) reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
Who alone is responsible for the content of this site
And for the fact that his mind is too dirty to be brainwashed!
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