Women Behind Bars feels like a movie you may have seen before and that’s probably due to the fact that Jess Franco seemed to make the same movie over and over. Diamond theft? Women going to jail? More to the point, Lina Romay thrown in jail? Yes, I’ve seen it, you may have seen it, but I’m going to keep watching these movies because in a world that makes no sense, the movies of Jess Franco that make no sense make sense.
In “Stop Making Sense,” David Byrne sang “Don’t touch me I’m a real live wire,” and hey, Lina kind of lives that in this movie, Lina doesn’t just the zoom in with the camera nearly so deep into her private parts that you can see her soul, she also has them zapped with electro shock therapy. I mean, you always hurt the ones you love, and Jess Franco should have invented a new word for love for how he felt about Lina, and still here we are watching her body shake and shiver as she approximates what it had to feel like to get some volts up her lady business.
I mean, is this movie Jess Franco makes Swamp Diamonds? Sure, maybe. Yet even Roger Corman would say, “Maybe this needs some budget,” and Jess wouldn’t be listening because he’d be shooting an endless image of a sunset.
Speaking of hurt, Jess plays a gangster that wants those diamonds and so he roughs up Lina to the point that you’re sure that the camera went off and they had really great sex after. And hey — the man that Lina kills is her Ramon Ardid, who was her husband at the time and man, awkward. You ever had an emotional relationship with someone that ends up becoming real and want to shut the rest of the world out and only have your reality exist of just the two of you? Ramon’s been on the wrong side of that.
I mean, outside of a few sapphic scenes and that electrocution, this movie is more a crime film than a women in prison movie, so leave it to Jess Franco to take a movie that seems to promise sleaze* and edging you.
*To be fair, it’s still sleazy enough to be a section 2 video nasty.