Women Behind Bars
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Sultan of sleaze Jess Franco (VENUS IN FURS, SUCCUBUS) directs this depraved delicacy destined to delight connoisseurs of crime and perverted punishment. Raven-haired beauty Lina Romay (FEMALE VAMPIRE, MACUMBA SEXUAL) and blonde bombshell Martine Stedil (BARBED WIRE DOLLS) lead an exotic cast of curvaceous criminals in this uncut, uncensored entry in the women-in-prison genre.
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Another Jess Franco foray into the women in prison genre. All the usual ingredients- female nudity, zooms, lesbianism and some slightly dubious writing add up to a not so wonderful 70's Euro WIP exploitation. The plot at least starts off for a Franco film quite well, a somewhat intriguing diamond robbery were most of the culprits seem to be getting murdered, but this is quickly thrown away when we reach the prison in favour of the usual Franco scenes although at the end when she escapes (with the help of Billy played by the man himself) the diamond robbery plot comes back into the fray, it's a shame as this could have been quite an interesting story but it does play second fiddle. Lina Romay is a beautiful woman and plays the lead role well, in fact for a Franco film the acting is actually not bad, pacing at the beginning and the last 10-15mins is again not bad for Franco however the large majority of the picture is at the prison and it suffers at points becoming so slow most will consider switching it off. There are a couple of scenes that must have contributed it to becoming a video nasty including a whipping sequence and an uncomfortable scene where Romay gets her bits shocked by electricity and the camera zooms in (good old Jess).
By no means the worst of the nasties or of Franco's films in some respects it's actually more watchable than quite a few of his others, but this is not a film for the general horror audience it's just too slow and alienating for most.
Martine and Shirley spend most of their time swapping cigarettes and smoking them whilst naked. Jess himself makes one of his regular appearances as thug overlord Bill. Ronald Weiss is another cast-member of note, playing the seedy Carlo de Bries. There’s a moment of prison sex when Martine and Shirley suddenly become lesbians. It takes a special skill to make lesbian love scenes between these two beautiful women entirely un-erotic, but ‘Women Behind Bars’ manages it. As far as torture – something Women In Prison dramas pride themselves in – there is some whipping, and some particularly invasive punishment for our Shirley.
The downside of the production is, unsurprisingly, the dubbing, with lines being spat out staccato style, and often two characters will talk over each other. Daniel White, musician veteran of so many Franco films, turns in a lacklustre score here. Shades of lounge/jazz music, often sounding as if it comes from a single keyboard. The story itself is fairly thin and, although this is only Franco third ‘Women in Prison’ film, his directorship seems only occasionally inspired this time round.
The upside is that Romay carries the film well. Shirley is required to suffer a lot throughout, seemingly at the hands of whomever she meets. It could only be discreetly suggested that she enjoys it. And in a SPOILER, it works out for her in the end, giving the ‘heroine’ (if that is what she is) a refreshingly happy ending. Whilst the ‘prison’ looks a little too much like a hotel, the darkened tunnel leading to and fro (possibly filmed somewhere else entirely) looks suitably drab and austere. More of a crime caper than the more standard WIP piece, this emerges as enjoyable, but pretty mild Franco fare.