Jesus Franco, commonly referred to as Jess Franco, has the honor of being tied with Lucio Fulci for having the most films to originally appear on the DPP created “Video Nasties” list. Franco, as well as Fulci, created three films deemed to incite potential “moral panic” in the viewing public. Franco’s, unlike Fulci’s, contributions are interesting in that they don’t conform to one specific genre, or even sub-genre at that, which is not all that surprising as Franco’s work ran the gamut of exploitation cinema with ample amounts of sleaze consistently present.
Franco’s DPP listed films consist of the saw-blade laden slasher BLOODY MOON, the bizarrely sexual cannibal/jungle opus THE DEVIL HUNTER and, of course, the subject of this article: WOMEN BEHIND BARS, one of Franco’s few women-in-prison features. Surprisingly enough, the women-in-prison genre is really under-represented on the Video Nasties list, considering their penchant for being sleaze and violence ridden. Not to mention, there were plenty of similar films to choose from, and may of which were much more graphic than this film, including Franco’s own 99 WOMEN.
WOMEN BEHIND BARS is a simple film, in both plot and form. Basically, the story (what there is of it) concerns a woman (Lina Romay) who gets arrested for murdering her boyfriend who happens to have stolen a large amount of diamonds. Once this woman is behind bars, she is continuously interrogated and even tortured by people who want to know where the diamonds are. It functions as a serviceable excuse to get Romay naked for a large portion of the films run time and to throw in some torture scenes that are more than likely what caused the film to be on the DPP list.
As far as the content in the film which could cause “moral panic” – which is seemingly a term that is irritatingly without definition or any true standard – there is really not much. As mentioned above, there are a couple torture scenes, mainly of the “shock therapy” variety including Romay getting her vagina zapped. Outside of that there is some beating and slapping, but it is all rather harmless when compared to other films of the genre. One would think that without the vag-zap scene, this would have been completely ignored by the DPP. However, to my surprise, this is still without DVD release in the UK, so apparently someone is still panicking over fried vagina. Se la vie.
WOMEN BEHIND BARS is a strange film to write about in this context. It has the honor of being one of three films from Franco that appear on the list as well as, from what I can tell, being the sole traditional women-in-prison film to be prosecuted by the DPP. However, the film has not aged well, it is far from shocking and there are much better films to be seen within Franco’s oeuvre, from the women-in-prison genre or from the Video Nasties list. Completists or vagina torture connoisseurs need only apply.