JESS FRANCO MONTH: Barbed Wire Dolls (1976)

You know how you know this is a Jess Franco movie? Because he plays the father of Maria (Lina Romay), a man that has been trying to assault her, so she kills him and ends up in the prison that forms the setting for this film, a place where The Wardress (Monica Swinn, Female VampireHitler’s Last Train and a woman who said of Franco’s movies, “I’d mull over the previous scenes and think to myself, “This can’t be the same character. How many films am I really making here?”) rules with a velvet glove cast in iron, a woman who reads Third Reich books for fun.

The real boss is Dr. Carlos Costa (Paul Muller) who is not really a doctor and just a man trying to make a living by creating a living hell on earth for his female inmates. He’s an innovator, a man who creates metal beds that electrically shock prisoners, so I guess he’d do well in today’s America where 0.7% of our population is behind the wall.

Look, this is pretty much a scumfest, so you’re either going to get offended or learn how to wallow. It’s also the kind of movie that has a budget so low that a slow motion scene has to be acted out at actual speed, meaning that everyone has to pretend that it’s in slow motion and if you don’t love that, why are you even watching movies like this?

At one point, audiences had to pay to see Mom and Dad in a tent or a four-walled theater just so they could see a woman’s lady business, albeit one with a baby coming out of it. Thirty years later and there’s Jess Franco repeatedly zooming his camera and jump cutting right to mossy clefts like it’s nothing and I guess that’s progress.

Look for Martine Stedil (who Franco put in prison once before in Women Behind Bars), Peggy Markoff (who went to the big house twice for Franco in Ilsa the Wicked Warden and Wicked Women), Beni Cardoso (whose career took her from Franco’s The Girl from Rio to the krimi Der Todesrächer von Soho, the Conan ripoff The Throne of Fire, the double Bruno Mattei Western madness of White Apache and Scalps and then the Umberto Lenzi TV movie House of Lost Souls) and a few other ladies who had one Franco movie and then never did a film again.

If you want to watch it for yourself, it’s on the Internet Archive.

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