Dec 11, 2017

Barbed Wire Dolls (1976)

 Jesús Franco does the Women in Prison genre - so, you know you're in for gobs of nudity and precious little plot.  Let's press play...

Maria da Guerra (Lina Romay) is being imprisoned for the murder of her incestuous father (who will later be played by Franco himself).  Like any WIP film, we've got to have the bizarre S&M queen wardress, here played by Monica Swinn.

Also in prison is the blonde Bertha Contrini, played by Martine Stedil.  Unlike all the other inmates, she's not batshit insane or a rabid lesbian nympho.  This chick is just plain miserable - mistreated by the corrections staff, and molested by her crazy cellmates, Bertha is one unhappy gal.

The warden informs the wardress that there's been an infraction.  He's found a letter written by an inmate which implicates the prison staff, claiming they are mistreating the inmates.  This will have to be dealt with.

Maria is introduced to her new roomies.  Bertha can't keep her mouth shut and spouts off to the wardress, so she's taken away.

Later she's brought to the wardress' quarters.

The wardress has sex with Bertha, and tries unsuccessfully to find out if she's the one who sent that letter.  Of course, the wardress will blame her for it anyway.

Actress Martine Stedil as Bertha is a stone cold fox.  Stedil appeared in several Franco films including Die Marquise von Sade (1975) Downtown (1975), Swedish Nympho Slaves (1977) and another WIP flick, Women Behind Bars (1975).  She has no credits past '77; so, it was a prolific two years, and then gone.

Bertha is sent to a cell where a guard administering sleep deprivation torture.  Every time she tries to lay down, he lifts her up with a stick.

Next, Bertha is given a shot by the doctor, Carlos Costa (Paul Muller), which will put her brain out into the stratosphere.

As if things couldn't get worse for Bertha, she's brought to the warden's posh quarters and made to play with herself while he watches creepily.

Actress Martine Stedil delivers a pretty graphic masturbation scene that should win an award of some kind.  It's performed to Franco's trademark psyche-jazz rumba.

Lina Romay as Maria - lobby card
But what about Maria?  Wasn't she supposed to be the central figure in this film?  We're over halfway through and we've barely seen her---

Oh shit!  We've literally gone from one crotch view to another.  For no reason other than to deliver the bush, Franco shows us Maria having trouble sleeping.

She's dreaming about being molested by her father. This is troublesome on several levels, namely the fact that Franco is Romay's husband in real life.

This is the cringyest shit you will ever see in your entire life.  Maria's dad (Romay's actual husband, the film's director) attacks her in slow motion... and I don't mean the film speed is slowed down.... I mean the actors pretend they're in slow motion!

So, they pretend to move and scream in slow motion, but it's clearly not (Romay's boobs jiggle in real time, for instance).  It just has to be seen to be believed.

Doctor Costa has never really been down with the way the inmates are treated.  He tells Maria that he will be her ally.... but she has to have sex with him first, of course.

Finally, Bertha and Maria meet.  We're three-fourths through this picture and they have barely laid eyes on each other.  The two girls plan to break out, utilizing the prison's weakest link - the doctor.

The girls pretend to be sick and get admitted to the infirmary.

Then, when the doctor is distracted, Maria grabs a pair of scissors and straight-up murders his ass.

The girls use a rope and escape over the prison wall.  Franco, clearly never willing to let a bush shot go to waste, films Romay getting her prison uniform caught in the branches.  Glad that didn't get cut during editing.

The girls wearily make their way through the South American jungle (actually filmed in Honduras). Note that they've brought along Rose (Beni Cardoso) who seems to be dead weight.

Of course, the wardress' crew are in hot pursuit.  In the end (SPOILER) Maria and Rose are f***ed, but Bertha is befriended by a guard named Jose, and she manages to escape. THE END

This being a Franco film, there is bush for days. Unfortunately, the bush comes at a price: it's during rape and torture scenes. So, even if you could bring yourself to enjoy it, you'll feel guilty afterwards. If it was campy like Reform School Girls and many other WIP flicks, the nudity seems a lot less grimy. That being said, Romay and Stedil are hot, and more than willing to deliver the nudity on the regular. 

In terms of storytelling, Franco is at his worst. Yes, he can sure as hell zoom in on some bush, but it'd be nice if he used the other tools in his belt for this film. It also would have been a better picture with some of the WIP tropes we know and love. But it's worth a watch just for the slow motion incest scene.  It is truly one of the most unintentionally funny scenes you're likely to ever see.

For a list of all the Women In Prison (WIP) films covered on Video Zeta One, click the image. The page is updated regularly.