I wouldn’t want the impression from my insane asylum post that the women-in-prison precedent was unimportant in creating the grim storyline of the State Home for Wayward Girls. In fact, it was. And unsurprisingly, too. The prison of the sexploitationeer’s imagination might not be the voluptuous setting that a harem might be, but it certainly has the potential as a modern setting for “women beyond the reach of normal rules.” It’s an ideal setting for shower scenes, sadism, and all the girl-on-girl action you can imagine. Consequently, it’s something of an irresistable subject, and has given rise to its own genre of movies.
One could point to any number of films as an antecedent. Possibly the best of them was Caged Heat (1974), which was written and directed by Jonathan Demme (a product of the illustrious film school known as “working for Roger Corman“) who would later go on to cinematic glory as the director of Silence of the Lambs (1991), thus circling from sexploitative prison movie to truly scary insane-asylum movie.
But much as I admire Caged Heat’s extraordinary energy and anti-authoritarian spirit, perhaps a more direct women-in-prison movie is the Brazilian A Prisão, which has been released in English as Bare Behind Bars, a movie I knew I would be destined to see when I read the first sentence of El Santo’s review: “…I picked up Bare Behind Bars because I was in the mood for something sleazy, but seriously— holy living fuck!“
It takes a truly heroic filmmaking effort to bring a reviewer like El Santo to the point of “holy living fuck,” believe me. And A Prisão does not disappoint.
Abuse of medical practice for sexual gratification? Check.
Helpless prisoners used in white slavery ring? Check.
Gratuitous shower scenes? Check.
Brutal and sexually humiliating punishments? Check.
And something that I would not normally check, but which ends up here anyway (perhaps predictably in this movie) are ventures right out of the normal boundaries of the genre into straight-up hardcore.
Wow. Definitely something to make us of.