** ½ Out of 5
Release Date- 1975
Running Time- 80-Minutes
Screenplay- R. Marceignac
Director- Jesùs Franco (as Rick Deconnink)
Starring- Lina Romay, Roger Darton, Martine Steed, Nathalie Chape, Denis Torre
Released in 1975 Women Behind Bars is a women in prison film by Jess Franco and its the typical subpar film that he made throughout his career. Jess Franco is quite a frustrating filmmaker as he’s made some good films such as A Virgin Among the Living Dead and Nightmares Come at Night and made quite a good film with the Awful Dr. Orlof, but a good bulk of his work was quite atrocious and Women Behind Bars isn’t really an exception. I was hoping for some trashy fun like Sadomania, but this film isn’t nearly as sleazy despite being on the infamous video nasty list. Women Behind Bars is a little more plot driven than one might be used to in a Jess Franco film, but that really isn’t a good thing since the film isn’t so much bad as it is quite boring.
In 1969 Jess Franco directed 99 Women, which is the film many cite as the one that changed the direction of the women in prison movie however I’d say it was the Roger Corman productions of the early 70s that really shaped the WIP film and served as the main influence for these films while at the peak of their popularity, which isn’t meant to discredit Jess Franco, but while 99 Women came first I think most filmmakers and fans of the WIP genre would cite the Corman films as the most influential.
The screenplay was written by R. Marceignac though the IMDb credits Marius Lesoeur under the name Marius Lefrere. Marceignac’s script is very much driven by plot, but it just isn’t strong enough to carry the film. After 3 men pull off a heist, two of the men are shot by 1 of the thieves. He than is later shot by his girlfriend Shirley Fields (Romay) who than turns herself in and claims she shot him because he was cheating on her, but others suspect it was for the jewels and once in prison she’s subjected to torture to make her talk and give up the location of the jewels. The script is quite bland with boring characters and a straight forward plot with very little else added in and while decently plotted the script is quite boring.
Jess Franco under the name Rick Deconnink (IMDb credits it to him under the name A.M. Frank) makes one of his more plot driven films, but that isn’t such a good thing at all. Women Behind Bars was a little better made than most of Jess Franco’s films as more often than not his films were a bit shoddy and even his better films were rough around the edges. Of all the films I’ve seen by Franco from a pure filmmaking side of things I’d say Bloody Moon was his best, but he was pretty much a director for hire and best way to describe it is when an indie filmmaker makes a studio film with no control. Women Behind Bars isn’t exactly good filmmaking, but it is a bit better put together than a lot of Franco’s work, but where it might be better made in some regard it lacks the fun factor. The pace of the film is quite sluggish and even at only 80-minutes the film feels overly long. It isn’t until roughly the midway mark any action really happens and even than the pace never picks up. There is some girl on girl action and while you see every part of their bodies if you catch my meaning, but in typical Franco fashion its poorly shot, which makes it difficult to see much outside of a couple of shots and add in the dark lighting what should be a great scene isn’t very erotic and quite boring. Any scenes of torture, which are only a couple is too shoddy to take serious. Jess Franco delivers a very subpar and sluggishly paced film that lacks the fun and sleaze often found in these films. Really the only good news is the film is only 80-minutes, but even with that brief running time it can be a chore to sit through.
Overall I didn’t exactly hate Women Behind Bars, but I often found myself checking to see how much time left as its more boring than just bad. From a technical side Women Behind Bars isn’t exactly well made, but its not as shoddy as some of Franco’s other films. The only reason to really see this is if you’re a fan of Franco and Lina Romay or you like the WIP film, but in that case you can find better films by Franco and Romay and can find far better WIP films as this lacks the fun in others of its type. I’m not a huge Jess Franco fan, but I am more into his films than I used to be, but I think most will feel as I did in regards to Women Behind Bars.
Jess Franco appears in the film as Bill who is after the jewels. IMDb credits him using the alias Clifford Brown, but I didn’t notice the name in the credits so Jess was either uncredited or he used a different name as all the info on IMDb is pretty much incorrect.