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Barbed Wire Dolls (1976)

Frauengefängnis (original title)
Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Horror | 1977 (USA)
Women's prison tale, with Lina Romay as Maria who is jailed after killing her father, played by director Jess Franco, who tries to rape her. Lesbian wardens, torture, nudity, sex, insanity and conspiracy round out the formula.


Jesús Franco (as Jess Franco)


Connie Grau (script), Christine Lembach (dialogue) (as Christine Lambach) | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
Lina Romay ... Maria
Paul Muller ... Dr. Moore / Carlos Costa (as Paul Müller)
Monica Swinn ... Prison Director (as Monika Swinn)
Roger Darton Roger Darton ... Governor Milton
Ronald Weiss Ronald Weiss ... Warden
Martine Stedil ... Bertha Contrini
Eric Falk ... Guard Nestor
Peggy Markoff Peggy Markoff ... Ingrid / Pompadour (as Peggy Markhoff)
Nathalie Mann Nathalie Mann
Denis Torre Denis Torre
Raymond Hardy Raymond Hardy ... Guard José (as Ray Hardy)
Beni Cardoso ... Rosaria Cortina


A prison in an isolated island is run by spineless and equally sadistic Dr. Carlos Costaa. In fact, he is a killer who murdered the actual doctor of that name, whose name he then assumed. Assisting him is a monocled lesbian woman known only as The Wardress who regulates the prison with an iron fist - for example, via chaining them naked to a wall just out of reach of food, or placing them naked on a wire-frame bed where they receive electric shocks. She reads Nazi volumes such as Albert Speer's history of the Third Reich as leisure reading. Due to these torturing several prisoners in the past have died. The current authorities in charge of the prison have concealed this by claiming these prisoners died of heart failure. Maria is sentenced to life in prison for the murder of her sexually abusive father. Upon her arrival at the prison, she meets this cold-blooded, sadistic wardress and Dr. Costa. Some time later Maria organizes a plan to rebel and escape.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Girl Inmates Learn Quickly, You Give in to the Sex-Mad Warden ... Or Die ... See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Producer Erwin C. Dietrich put his faith in director Jesús Franco and left him to make the film in peace, he did not see any footage until the film was finished. When Franco screened the completed film to him, he was horrified by the quality. The shots were too blurry and no movie lighting was used, it was rough and raw. Franco defended the film and explained it was the style he was going for. Still dissatisfied, Dietrich told Franco it was a terrible film and wasn't sure if he would be able to sell it to theaters. However, much to Dietrich's surprise, he managed to sell it to numerous European cinemas and the film was a decent success at the box office and received several good reviews at the time. Many years later, in an interview, Dietrich thought more highly of the film and said it was the first film to use the Dogme 95 style before Lars von Trier. Franco went on to make 16 more films for Dietrich over a three year period, and he told Dietrich they were the best years of his life. See more »


[Maria finds a dead mouse under the food on her plate]
Maria da Guerra: Ah! A mouse!
Guard: What's wrong?
Maria da Guerra: I found a mouse here on my plate. Look at it!
Guard: So what? It adds protein to your diet.
[Guard pushes Maria's face onto the plate]
See more »

Alternate Versions

The film was rejected for cinema (as "Caged Women") by the BBFC in 1976 and then passed with heavy cuts under the same title the following year. The 2004 Anchor Bay DVD release (as "Barbed Wire Dolls") was cut by 41 secs to remove shots of explicit sexual penetration. See more »


Referenced in Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore (2010) See more »

User Reviews

More sleaze from the master!
20 September 2006 | by The_VoidSee all my reviews

Well, I didn't go into this film expecting anything over and above the usual sleaze from prolific director Jess Franco, and while I've certainly seen worse films from the director; this isn't exactly a highlight for him either. Barbed Wire Dolls is another one of those sleazy 'women in prison' in films, and aside from the obvious implications of this sort of film; Franco has seen fit to make things even sleazier by way of things such as a lesbian warden and a whole host of sadistic torture sequences. There's basically no plot in this film, although there is a little slither involving a young woman and her father, whom she is believed to have murdered. This plot never takes centre focus, however, and Franco seems keener to continually show filth, which is no bad thing if you ask me. However, there's only really so far a film like this can go with no plot to speak of, and the fact that Franco didn't care at all about telling a story is shown best at the end, when it just 'ends' without any resolution. Still, sleaze fans are likely to get a lot out of this film as there's naked chicks, violence, lesbians, sadism etc, and while I don't rate this too highly; I can at least say I enjoyed watching it. What?

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Release Date:

1977 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Barbed Wire Dolls See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Elite Film See more »
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Technical Specs


| (cut) | (cut)

Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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