Women Behind Bars (1975)

Director:Jesús Franco  Writter:Marius Lesoeur  Running time:75 min  Country:Belgium  Language:French  

Genre:Crime | Drama | Thriller   Subtitle: Enlish Starring:Lina Romay, Martine Stedil, Nathalie Chape



Banned in Britain! (ho-hum)

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.