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Red Reformatory: Old Friends

Lupus Pictures
Prisoners: Niki Flynn (Pauline), Adele Haze (Oksana), Alena Podhajska, Nikol Kralova Vaclav Josef Rejnek - Warden Scheitel
Pavel Stastny - StB agent Vesely
Katerina Schubertova - Headmistresses
Terza Tomaskova - Warden
Directed by Zbysek Podhajsky
Czech with English Subtitles
Running Time: 56 minutes (plus DVD bonus scenes)
Guest Review by: JBI - Posted 12/7/07

Once again Lupus goes back to the '50s to stick it to the Soviets. This is set in Prague in 1952, near the end of the Stalinist era. Nice use of stock World War II footage in the intro as the narrator explains how the occupying Germans were replaced by the equally brutal Russians. Former Nazi collaborators and thugs simply went to work for the Communist secret police.

SETTING: The Red Reformatory is a cruel prison-like center for re-educating the children of political dissidents into the wonderful ways of Stalinism (with much ironic, satirical dialog tossed in). And it comes as no surprise that our four lovely inmates suffer severe canings. These are: American Niki Flynn (as Paulina), Adele Haze (as the Russian Oksana), and two gorgeous Czechs, Alena Podhajska and newcomer Nikol Kralova.

STORY: In terms of CP action, this is a typical Lupus four-girls-get-caned video with the same punishment bench from the Headmaster's Study series. But it's presented within a much longer, more complex and cinematic story than ever before. This is both good and bad depending on what you enjoy watching. Thankfully, after only a few minutes of opening dialog we jump-cut to Alena, already naked, strapped in, and ready to blubber. Warden Scheitel gives the beautiful brunette 50 hard cane strokes. He lays it on at a nice fast pace without pausing. Very good, but there are no face-reaction shots of Alena (see Technical Notes below).

SUBPLOTS: Unfortunately, we have to wait till the 32 minute mark before we get to the rest of the canings. In between are so many story elements, flashbacks, characters, and exposition that it feels like a daytime soap opera. The main story concerns Scheitel's hidden past as a Nazi SS officer. There are artfully constructed flashbacks of him bullying a prisoner (Vesely), forcing him to be an informer. Scheitel and the headmistress panic when Vesely, who is now a sinister StB agent, shows up. Will he expose his "old friend" Scheitel? (And, do we really care about these characters?)

Oddly enough, the parallel story with the remaining three girls is less developed. There's some humiliating nudity and Niki/Pauline gets an all-too-brief 12 stroke belt-smacking from an angry female warden. Are they saving her for the eventual caning? Niki can certainly take much more. That's why we love her. This should have been a long, intense hairbrush or paddling scene. She deserves more (and so do we) than a throwaway teaser.

CANINGS: Finally, after much anti-Communist jibber-jabber and a very dull escape attempt, it's naked caning time for Niki, Adele, and Nikol. First-timer Nikol Kralova is an intensely beautiful blond with cute pigtails. Strapped to the familiar bench, the stern headmistress delivers 40 pretty hard cane strokes in quick succession. The anguished cries seem quite real. Vesely, who is overseeing the proceedings, wants the canings to be even more severe. He takes over, giving Niki 40 hard and fast strokes, pausing briefly in the middle. She cries and carrys on a bit too loudly, but the cane does cut into her skin in several places. Another first-timer, Adele Haze, goes over the bench. She's a bit chunky and Vesely admires the wider, rounder target before letting loose with 40 fast cracks of the rattan. She makes some very convincing sounds -- no acting required, it really hurt. This also causes some bleeding on one cheek.

EVEN MORE PLOT!: That should have been the end, but instead we go back to the Scheitel-Vesely story for another 12 minutes or so. No more girls, but plenty of extraneous scenes and characters (including a nutjob who lurks in a storage room talking to suitcases), another flashback, a shooting, an investigation, and so on. Ambitious, but a bit too much. This has two different stories competing against each other. It would have been better with the girls worked into the story of the ex-Nazi character (a la The Night Porter for example).

Suggestions: It would be a blast to see Lupus do another World War II-era story set in a female concentration camp, etc. (Their main rival, Mood Pictures, has already done two exciting "Gestapo" films with simple stories.) Lupus, with its more sophisticated approach, could do a bang-up job with that subject. Also, the caning scenes, albeit severe, are getting tiresome after seeing the same formula repeated in 20-odd films. Ironic that the least creative aspect of their plot-heavy films are the CP scenes. One wishes they would mix it up a bit and give some other implements the same intensive workout.

TECHNICAL NOTES: The smooth integration of (mostly Russian) background music and black and white footage is excellent. All the canings are hard, fast-paced and exciting -- but none include face reaction shots, which are sorely lacking. They're using a new two-camera technique. One is for the ass closeup while the other swings around on a dolly from a wide three-quarter to side view. This makes it nearly impossible to set up a face angle camera out of frame (as the canings are shot in real time with no cuts). But a few face shots could (and should) be staged afterwards and edited in.

TECHNICAL FLUBS: There is a pivotal shooting scene but no gun sound effect -- just a pathetic, barely audible thud. And, as usual, the broken-English subtitles are distracting. They should have given Niki a few dollars extra to proofread them first. Will they ever lean?

BONUS FEATURES: Both camera views (closeup and 3/4 pan) are shown complete and unedited for the four caning scenes. Excellent idea. Also, a short interview with Niki, Adele, and Nikol.

Niki Flynn Tribute: This is her 5th Lupus feature. She made Exchange Student, Crime and Punishment, and Stalin 2 & 3 must-see films. Is it too soon to dub her Queen of the Scene? Not since Kiri Kelly (who exuded a Goldie Hawn-like sweetness) in the '80s & '90s has there been a Sub-performer with such star potential. This cute brunette has that adorable girl-next-door charm backed up with intelligence and above-average acting skills. Naked and about to be punished, her body language, big brown eyes, and quavering voice projects a genuine girlish vulnerability that makes us care about her. (Making her inevitable CP scenes all the more electric.) Like an accessible "Mary Ann" standing out in a crowd of prettier, sexier generic Gingers, she draws us in and makes us love her. She's the Sandra Bullock of whup-ass cinema. One only hopes she stays in the business for many years to come and uplifts the industry by making bigger and better films.

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