Barbed Wire Dolls/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Having perhaps learned not to repeat any of the "tameness" that was last seen in 99 Women, director Jess Franco would make sure that his next foray(s) into the Women-In-Prison genre would climb into higher elevations of the ever-increasing world of exploitation cinema.
The opening scene of Barbed Wire Dolls surely proves this theory correct as inmate, Rosa (Beni Cardoso) is seen, chained and naked, desperately crying and reaching for a bowl of food as chief guard, Nestor (Eric Falk, who I know best as one of the bikers in Mad Foxes) torments and tortures her. Ah, we already know that we are in a prison unlike any ever seen before. This jailhouse (which resembles something that was left over from Roman times) is run by a sadistic, masochistic female warden (Monica Swinn). You just can't have a perfect WiP flick without one of these characters, right? We then get introduced to one of the cellrooms currently housing the aforementioned Rosa (who's now been reduced to an "idiot" thanks to the obligatory reform treatment), joining her is a delusional nymphomaniac named Ingrid (Peggy Markoff), a character who imagines herself as Queen Isabella. There's also Bertha (Martine Stedil), a convicted killer who has sneaky plans of eventual escape. And lastly, there's the new chick in town, Marie (Lina Romay, looking youthful as ever), also convicted of murder---which we later found out wasn't committed by her. Soon enough, Marie will be forced to become a victim of the un-popular rehabilition tactics that will have her joining forces with Bertha for an escape. Proof of Bertha's rebellious desire has already been evident when she wrote a letter of distress that was directed to the governor (Ronald Weiss), but was intercepted by the guards. But sadly, none of the inmates seems to be aware that the governor, who resides near the prison, is just as corrupt as the warden and (most of) her staff.
Barbed Wire Dolls has it's share of good and bad things. Since I'm a traditionalist, bad things first. The film almost fills the void in the "throwing-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" vibe that you would expect to see in a WiP film. All is here except for three complaints: no shower sequence, a clearly-evident low budget, and a curious conclusion. "No shower scene?," you say? That's correct. But what seems to make up for the obligatory shower scene is a much more honestly blunt approach for nudity. Where as Franco's future WiP film, Sadomania would seem to have all the inmates topless, here in Barbed Wire Dolls, they're bottomless. Often causing (on one too many occasions) for the camera to venture down south for an up-close encounter. Hey, if you want it, you got it! It should also be noted that the uncut versions of this movie include more extra footage of the female genitalia being groped, violated, and....smoking a cigarette.
One of the other "Bad" elements is the lack of a budget. Apparently, not even a drop of blood could be afforded for this film. So, when you see someone get their deserved comeuppance, you'll have to deal with the sound of offscreen gun-fire and a placid death reaction from the character.
And finally, there's the ending. Now I don't want to give too much away here, but it's highly likely that you, the viewer, are bound to say "Is that it?" outloud when all is said and done.
But I'd like to step back a bit and remind you that you're still in for somewhat of a treat with this film. For starters, I can't recall being so responsive to an abundance of characters that were seen in a Jess Franco film. There's Monica Swinn's engagingly nasty Warden character, complete with a menacing monocle (which she only loses for about 20 seconds in the entire movie). Another Franco regular, Paul Muller (playing the penitentary physician) is, at times, a conflicted personality. One moment, his despair on backing out from collaborating with the Warden is on display. But in the next moment, the audience turns on him when they find out about his sickness of being "aroused" by the screams of the inmates. Then there's the four main jailbirds. Romay and Stedil seem to take turns at being the main characters (and looking ever so lovely all the way), Beni Cardoso's demented smirk and gaze always manages to be a scene-stealer and Markoff...well, all I have to do is bring up that cigarette sequence again, I guess.
But perhaps the most famous, or perhaps infamous, scene in the entire movie has to do with a dream/flashback sequence involving Marie's crime. We see Marie's father (played by Franco) acting out a scene of dastardly passion towards his daughter. The scene was meant to be presented in slow-motion, but (again, possibly due to budget constraints) slo-mo wasn't available. So, both Romay and Franco are in action doing their best slo-mo impressions. I'd say that the movie would be worth the look just for this scene alone, but I have to admit (now having watched the movie a couple of times) that the film seems to get a little bit better and better with each viewing.
So, despite the fact that the unsatisfactory conclusion remains prevalent, the journey getting there is highly worth your "Exploitive time".
Reviewed by Laydback