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Woman behind bars, directed by Jess Franco(as Rick Deconnink)is
basically an exploitation film set in a woman's prison. The film has
several of Franco's trademarks such as lots of full frontal nudity and
woman being tortured in a number of ways. One such torture scene
involves the star Lina Romay, who in reality is the wife of Jess
Franco, having live electrodes applied to her breasts and genitals.
Because of these torture scenes the film was placed on the DPP video nasty list. Eventually the film was removed from the list but the film has never been re-released.
In the film Romay murders her boyfriend to steal his hoard of diamonds, but she winds up in prison in the hands of a sadistic warden and his guards The film would appeal to fans of Franco's directing style and also fans of exploitation films especially the woman in prison sub genre.
This is one of only two Jess Franco movies to have been banned in
Britain during the "video nasties" scandal of the early 1980's, which
only goes to show you that the BBFC (the British Board of Film Censors)
needed to see A LOT more Jess Franco movies. This movie is pretty sick,
but it is nowhere near as sick as earlier Franco WIP movies like
"Barb-Wire Dolls" or "Greta, the Wicked Warden" (another Franco WIP
movie "Women in Cellblock 9" was much more recently censored by the
modern-day BBFC for underage nudity, and is currently unavailable in
America at all).
This movie actually has a surprisingly intricate, if pretty off-the-wall, plot that kind of gets in the way of the depravity. After some diamonds are heisted from a Chinese junk, the only surviving thief is shot dead by his girlfriend "Shirley" (Lina Romay). The girlfriend is sentenced to a brutal prison, but many suspect she knows more than she's telling about the missing diamonds including the prison warden, who forces his prison snitch mistress to befriend "Shirley", and a crooked insurance investigator, who it turns out was in on what was to have been a fake heist before he and his partners were double-crossed by "Shirley" and her boyfriend.
The movie has the typical Francoesque longeurs of lesbian frolicking while the director performs the cinematic equivalent of a full body cavity search on the actresses with his beloved zoom lens. The two scenes that probably most incensed the BBFC though were the scenes of a naked woman being brutally whipped (old hat by the mid 1970's) and the scene of a naked Lina Romay receiving electroshocks in a very uncomfortable place (and I don't just mean the dank, barren cell). While this may seem the kind of incendiary mixture of violence and sex that tends to raise British censorial hackles, the violence is impossible to take seriously due to the incompetent film-making. The whip, for instance, leaves no mark on the girl in long shots but only in obviously fake close-ups, while the warden on the English-language soundtrack keeps demanding the prisoner "kneel down and beg forgiveness", despite the fact she's clearly chained to the ceiling. In the electroshock scene, Romay has her hands hand-cuffed in front of her and she could easily pull off the wire that is supposedly causing her searing pain (and as in "Barb Wire Dolls", her miming of electric convulsions is also pretty unconvincing). On the other hand, if there's anything at all "sexy" about these scenes it's simply that these women are nude at the time and have very nice bodies (especially Romay)--it has nothing to do with the ridiculous "torture" they're supposedly undergoing.
This movie didn't deserve the censorship it received, but conversely, it also doesn't deserve the fame/notoriety/whatever it has received for having been censored. It might be one of Franco's better WIP movies, but it's certainly not one of his best movies, and definitely not a great movie by any standard.
This video nastie was banned in Britain and never released.
No, it wasn't for Jesus Franco's propensity for plenty of full frontal nudity, including his own wife, Lina Romay. After all, they have made over 100 films together, and I am sure moviegoers know her as well as he does.
No, it was the application of the old "Tucker Telephone." I don't know if Franco got the idea from the Tucker prison farm in Arkansas, or from Generalissimo Franco, but the application of electrical wires to his wife's vagina and the electrical current was too much for the Brits.
Yes, there is a poorly done lesbian scene (only one), and the women in prison all slept naked, but that gets to be a bore after a while. Mostly people just smoked and talked. Pretty boring.
It's not at all surprising that, along with Lucio Fulci, Jess Franco
has the honour of being the director with the most films on the
official Video Nasty list: with virtually his entire filmography
consisting of exploitative trash designed to either titillate or offend
through explicit sex, torture and gore, his work was bound to be
targeted during the Draconian days of Mary Whitehouse and James Ferman.
What is surprising, though, is that given today's more relaxed attitude
to sex and violence in film, Women Behind Bars still remains
unavailable in the UK to this day.
Barring a couple of unconvincing scenes of torture (some laughable whipping and that old WIP classic, the electrodes on the genitalia), Women Behind Bars contains very little to get to get in lather about. It's chock full of full frontal female nudity of course (including Jess' trademark close-up crotch shots), and contains one lesbian tryst (between lovely Lina Romay and sexy blonde Martine Stedil), but with the director devoting more time and attention than usual to something vaguely resembling a plot, the general level of depravity is a few notches lower than your average Franco flick and nowhere near as shocking as one might expect given the film's notoriety.
This relative tameness, combined with Franco's usual lack of technical prowess (his direction and camera-work is wildly erratic; the action moves like an arthritic sloth on Xanax), atrocious dialogue and lousy acting, makes the film a real chore to get through. Maybe that's why it hasn't had a UK DVD release yet: nobody thinks it would be worth the effort.
Women Behind Bars (1975)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Jess Franco women in prison flick, which deals more with a robbery than the actual prison. A woman (Lina Romay) gets six years in prison after killing her jewel thief boyfriend. Once behind bars she has all sorts of wicked people trying to get her to tell where the boyfriend hid the diamonds before she shot him. This is a somewhat interesting film since Franco decided to concentrate more on the jewels rather than the behind the bars stuff. There's still some dirty moments including tons of nudity, a lesbian scene and a couple torture sequences but this is still fairly clear for a Franco WIP film. Romay has never been accused of being a good actress but she fits her role fine here and she's certainly cute so watching her naked isn't a problem. Franco himself plays a gangster in the film, which is a role he did quite often during this time frame. This is the movie Franco shot at the same time and on the same sets as the bigger budgeted Barbed Wire Dolls, which is one of the all time greats of the genre.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Women in Prison is infamous director Jess Franco's third, well,
"women-in-prison" movie, following 99 Women and Barbed Wire Dolls.
While it is by no means a good movie (no single film should have this
many zoom shots), it is entertaining enough and moves along fast enough
to never get boring.
Lina Romay plays a woman who's lover robs what he believes is a loot of jewels from a docked boat. When he arrives back at the restaurant they own, he discovers that the case he stole is empty. Romay shoots him, then calls the police and turns herself in.
What follows is standard W.I.P. fare. Romay has a lesbian tryst with her cellmate, nude women are whipped and tortured and the warden demands sexual favors from the prisoners. While it is strictly by-the-numbers for this type of movie, most of these scenes zip by at a good pace and there's no shortage of bare breasts and buttocks on display. Romay is slightly out of shape, which adds a touch of realism to her character, though most likely unintentionally.
Romay manages to escape and is surprised to be greeted with an unexpected getaway car (driven by director Jess Franco, in one of his many supporting roles). She finally meets up with her partner in crime and it is revealed that the whole thing was a set-up and he had the jewels all along. One thing that is never explained is why Romay's going to the prison was ever part of the plan! Regardless, logic and coherence are not things I am too worried about when watching a movie like this. It delivers what the title implies and at the compact running time of 80 minutes never really gets a chance to become tedious. Recommended for fans of the director or the subgenre. All others needn't bother.
Well, here we go again. This is another in Jess Franco's endless
selection of exploitation movies. In this case Jess has turned his hand
to the women in prison genre. It's certainly an area that is well
suited to Mr Franco's sensibilities seeing as these are types of movies
that demand sleaze by the bucket full. Women Behind Bars is no
different seeing as it has loads of full frontal nudity and a couple of
torture scenes. The story, such that it is begins when some diamonds
are stolen from a Chinese junk. The only surviving thief is shot by his
wife and she hides the jewels. She is then sent to a tough women's
prison where abuse is the order of the day. Meanwhile, several
characters try to free her so that she can reveal the location of the
This production was another product of the infamous cheap-jack French exploitation film producers Eurociné. Its main claim to fame is easily its inclusion on the notorious Video Nasty list, which was a group of films released on home video that were regarded as obscene by the British establishment back in the early 80's. It seems pretty obvious that this one fell afoul of the censors on the basis of its two torture scenes. In them, one naked woman is viciously whipped and then another has electrodes attached to her vagina. That sort of stuff pretty much guaranteed Video Nasty status, irrespective of how unconvincing it was. Other than this there is a lesbian sex coupling and many shots where the camera zooms into female crotches. All of the depravity is overseen by a sleazy and sadistic warden who expects sexual favours from the inmates.
Franco muse Lina Romay stars in the lead role and she looks quite nice. But like any film from this director, acting performances are merely an after-thought. The film-making is very cheap and amateurish throughout. Like many Franco films it feels like it must have been shot in a couple of days. He adopts the approach of merely pointing the camera at the action and shooting (and then zooming in). The camera-work is shaky and there is little in the way of editing. But despite the Z-Grade nature of Women Behind Bars it was entertaining enough. The short running time was certainly a bonus admittedly. Franco's sledgehammer approach does have a grimy charm though and this one far from his worst.
This film has been a special target of mine for some time; not because I particularly enjoy the women in prison genre; but simply because it was the only film on the DPP's Video Nasty shopping list that I hadn't seen. Anyway, the inclusion of this film on the Video Nasty list would seem to be another huge error from the DPP. The 'women in prison' genre has no shortage of vile, exploitative efforts; and many of those would deserve a place on the Video Nasty list. This one, however, is one of the least exploitative I've ever seen and yet it's the only women in prison film on there! Furthermore, the film actually has a plot! It focuses on a diamond robbery; followed by the murder of the man that did it by his girlfriend, who is then sent to a women's prison where she is subjected to some mild exploitation. There's some lesbian sex and stuff featured; but nothing really that 'bad'. The film does feel cheap and nasty in places; but the cinematography is decent and it feels like a professional production. It has to be said that the film is a little bit dull at times; but it doesn't overstay it's welcome at less than eighty minutes and just for the fact that it has some story, I'd rate this among the better films of the genre.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Cunning and duplicitous moll Shirley Fields (Lina Romay at her most
fetching and sultry) winds up serving six years in a penitentiary after
she shoots her jewel thief boyfriend dead in what she claims to be a
crime of passion. Naturally, Shirley's brash nature doesn't go over
well with the sadistic prison staff.
Director Jess Franco, working from a sordid script by Marius Lesoeur, keeps the usually complex, yet still entertainingly trashy story moving along at a steady pace, maintains a gloomy tone throughout, and pulls off a neat surprise ending. Moreover, Franco not only delivers a satisfying smattering of tasty gratuitous female nudity (the inmates all sleep in the nude!), but also further treats the audience to leering zoom-in close-ups of hairy distaff nether regions, a scorching lesbian make-out session, and even some brutal torture set pieces that include a bloody whipping and Shirley receiving electric shocks to her breasts and groin. Buxom blonde babe Martine Stedil lends sturdy support as Shirley's chummy cell mate Martine, Ronald Weiss makes for a suitably hateful villain as strict and vicious warden Carlos de Bries, and Franco acquits himself well in a sizable role as ruthless mobster Bill. Franco's sharp widescreen cinematography and Daniel White's groovy jazz score are both up to par. Fans of Franco's sleazefests should dig this one.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Des Diamants Pour L'Enfer, or as the copy I saw was titled Women Behind
Bars, starts on the 15th May, 1975 in a small Central American port
where 3 masked bandits raid a boat named the 'Ding Hao' owned by
eccentric millionaire Rufus Hackerman to steal a load of uncut
diamonds, as the three make their getaway one of them named Perry
Mendoza (Raymond Hardy) betrays the other two & shoots them dead. Perry
then heads for a small nearby town called Santos where he owns a
nightclub with his mistress Shirley Fields (Lina Romay), once there he
discovers that the box he has stolen is empty & to add to his problems
Shirley pulls a gun out & shoots him dead. Shirley then surrenders to
her conscience, phones the police & admits everything. The courts go
easy on Shirley because they feel it was a 'crime of passion' &
sentence her to a mere 6 years in prison. Meanwhile Milton Warren
(Roger Darton) who works for an insurance company is investigating the
theft of the diamonds which were never recovered, he feels there is a
connection between the missing diamonds & Shirley. However he is not
the only one who thinks Shirley might know more than she's letting on
with Warden Colonel Carlo de Bries (Ronald White) abusing his power to
try & obtain the whereabouts of the valuable diamonds & uses his bit on
the side Martine (Martine Stedil as Martine Steed) to befriend Shirley
& extract the required information out of her & if that doesn't work he
might have to resort to more drastic measures...
This French Belgium co-production according to the IMDb was supposedly photographed (on my version the 'director of photography' credit goes to Gerard Brissaud) & directed by Jesus Franco (again according to the IMDb under the pseudonym A.M. Frank but my in my version the 'directed by credit' goes to Rick Deconnink) & is as dull & amateurish as most of Franco's output is. The only real claim to fame that Des Diamants Pour L'Enfer has is that it was banned in Britain & placed on the 'Video Nasties' list which probably gives it some notoriety it most certainly doesn't deserve. The script is by Marius Lesoeur (my version says 'screenplay and adaptation by R.Marceignac' not that these mixed up credits matter but the IMDb isn't usually wrong but they are in this case) & is a real chore to sit through, while it actually tries to have a story it's so bland, dull & predictable that you end up wishing for Franco's trademark nudity of which there is very little in Des Diamants Pour L'Enfer. The film concentrates on the diamonds side of things & Shirley's attempts to escape more than the usual women in prison film themes like lesbianism, torture, sex, nudity & the exploitation of the female prisoners for our viewing pleasure. In fact Des Diamants Pour L'Enfer contains very little in the way of the smutty exploitation that Franco is notorious for, there are no proper sex scenes, there is not one single instance of lesbianism either, no lesbianism in a women in prison film? The only real nudity comes from the fact that the female inmates sleep naked & without the use of blankets while the violence & torture consists of one scene where a naked female prisoner is brutally whipped & when Shirley has her genital area electrocuted, that's it just two lame torture scenes during the entire 75 minute duration, disappointing. The so-called twist ending is so obvious you can tell it's coming as soon as Shirley turns herself in within the first 5 minutes, Milton conducts his entire investigation from his hotel room to save on location expenses & he also narrates several passages which Franco just uses as a cheap way of explaining what's happening, the prison doesn't even look like a prison more of a holiday resort or large Villa & those flimsy fences wouldn't even stop my Mother from escaping. To add the the general tedium of the film & story Franco proves yet again he should be directing traffic rather than films with lots of pointless establishing shots of houses, mountains, people's faces & lingers on them for what seems like ages occasionally adding the odd jerky pan across a landscape & his usual uneven zooms in & out, all these scenes just feel like padding & add nothing to the film, yawn. There is no action to speak of & as a whole Les Diamants Pour L'Enfer is a real waste of time & film stock. The music sucks as well. This is typical Franco crap that seems to be pretty obscure & after you've had to endure it for 75 minutes you'll understand why, all I can say is be thankful that Des Diamants Pour L'Enfer is so hard to get a copy of. Total crap & the only reason I give it 2 stars instead of 1 is because I've sat through even worse films than this, unbelievable as that sounds.
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