Home Video | Review by Dan Taylor
As most of you well know,
the "women in prison" (or WIP)
film is one of the most popular and profitable
genres in all of exploitation. In the mid-70s,
a few new elements were added to the basic
WIP formula namely degradation, humiliation,
With flicks like ILSA: SHE
WOLF OF THE SS, ILSA:
TIGRESS OF SIBERIA and LOVE CAMP NUMBER
#27 (aka LIVING NIGHTMARE), the genre entered
a whole new spectrum. Instead of simply
hosing the inmates down with water or subjecting
them to mental torture, the wardens included
electrocutions, starvation, forced lesbianism,
surgery and the like. Definitely fun stuff
for the 42nd Street crowd.
Into this low-rent sub-genre
stepped one man capable of offending even
the staunchest exploitation fan. That man
was Jess Franco, and this is considered
one of his classic works one viewing
illustrates why he enjoys the sordid reputation
he so richly deserves.
The flick (released in 1972,
76 or 79 depending on who you believe) concerns
the goings-on at a women's prison located
somewhere, I'm guessing South America or
Spain. We open with an uncomfortably long
sequence in which a guard named "Nesther"
tortures an inmate by placing a bowl of
food just out of her reach. Do I have to
mention that the woman is nude throughout
the entire ordeal? I didn't think so. This
scene, like all the torture scenes in the
flick, is carried out far too long. Unlike
the classic BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, which at
least has a dark streak of macabre humor
running through it, BARBED WIRE DOLLS is
basically played straight. The flick leaves
a thick film on your body after watching
it ... a shower is advised.
The main prisoners (in other
words, the only ones we see in anything
but the two "crowd" sequences)
are: Rosa, a babbling idiot who sings to
herself; Bertha, a pretty blonde who killed
her brother out of jealousy; Ingrid, a nymphomaniac
who drones on and on about Christopher Columbus
and Queen Isabella while fondling herself;
and Maria, the new fish on the block who
is in for murdering her father.
Our warden is a domineering,
but masochistic, lesbian who walks around
wearing a monacle, knee-high leather boots,
black panties and a safari shirt. Obviously
a woman who got the job because of her professionalism
and desire to exact social change.
BARBED WIRE DOLLS is borderline
pornographic, with several scenes of lesbianism,
masturbation (one involving a cigarette
is fairly unnerving), fondling by the male
guards and torture. The inmates are almost
always unclothed, or at least exposed from
the waist down, and Franco has zero shame
about exploiting them to the utmost.
While the pic is extremely
base in its treatment of women (what do
you expect from a title like BARBED WIRE
DOLLS?) and is quite uncomfortable at times,
there IS one scene that's so immensely entertaining
that it ALONE is worth two stars. Due to
the miniscule budget or perhaps insanity,
Franco didn't have a camera capable of slow
motion. In order to achieve the proper mood
for the Vaseline-lensed dream sequence,
he has the actors portraying Maria and her
incestuously-inclined Papa FAKE slow-motion
movement! Simply put, it's one of the funniest
scenes in motion picture history.
BEST LINE: "These are
your roommates ... an idiot, a murderess
and a sex slut. You should be very cozy."
Or how about this exchange?
MARIA: "I found a mouse on my plate!"
GUARD: "So what? It adds protein to
With dialogue like that,
the aforementioned slo-mo scene, the nihilistic
"ending-out-of-nowhere" and Franco's
attention to sheer audacity, I'll give BARBED
WIRE DOLLS a grudging recommendation.