Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WIP Wednesday: "Women Behind Bars" (Jesus Franco, 1975)

This entry in Jess Franco's Women in Prison films is rather odd. It follows most of the WIP rules:

  • A woman who is not a hardened criminal goes to prison and is out of her element.
  • Woman is befriended by inmate who is down with the warden or head matron. Said inmate is played against her.
  • Short blouses and no pants.
  • A rapey warden
  • Sadistic guards
  • Catfights
  • Everyone sleeps naked
  • Whippings
  • Genital torture

All is well so far.

The odd part is that there are very few inmates, and no cliques. Also, most disheartening, no shower scene. That's not to say it was not oozing with nudity, but the shower scene fight which pits the heroine against her main adversary is to WIP films as inexplicable explosions are to Michael Bay's.

At its heart, this film is a spy/thief movie. There are double crosses, and double-double crosses. The prison is just a plot devise. It could have been several women being held prisoner by a drug lord or arms dealer. Making it a prison just lets the screenwriter glaze over the why of the incarceration, and it lets the producers enter their film into the more lucrative WIP market. Audiences know what they are getting from WIP, and most of them want to see a lot of naked chicks, and at least a few of them getting beaten or tortured.

All in all I liked this one. It isn't great, but I never lost interest in it. Franco leaves another staple out, the sadistic matron, who appears in the film and looks like hell on wheels, but really gets about two minutes of screen time.

Lina Romay and Martine Stedil are both very good in it. When they are in their cell, they look like they are just resting as a normal person might, albeit naked, instead of their cell looking like a spread in Hustler. If the Women in Prison genre turns you off, this is likely a good entry. It is not overly gory. There is no serious sadism, a la Ilsa. The women are not ritualistically degraded (another staple).

Oh, and for those of you who like to keep track, Franco's voice is dubbed with some sort of deep Tennessee accent that is totally inappropriate, which for a Franco film is totally appropriate. Also there is an odd WIP fashion statement. Rather than the typical barefoot, Keds, or be-flip-flopped girls, in this prison all inmates where stack heels.


Yum-Yum said...

Yeah, hi. I couldn't but help but notice that this particular film hasn't been affixed with the "Perfectly Sensible Leg Fixation" label. Was this an oversight on your part, or is Jess Franco's Women Behind Bars just not that sensible when it comes to being fixated with legs?

Darius Whiteplume said...

Hmm... I may have to revisit it. I often get lazy with tags, but there is none more important than the #PSLF. :-)

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