This is one of the most memorable, and sleaziest of the women in prison films of all time. It was also the first one I ever saw, although it’s definitely not the sleaziest (that title would belong to Sadomania). It stars Erica Gavin (of Russ Meyer’s Vixen) as Jacqueline, a young drug dealer who gets arrested and sent to one insane prison. There she meets all kinds of walking clichés, from the bully to the actress and her lesbian lover, and the sensitive blonde. Although there is much animosity between them, they band together to escape and take down the corrupt warden and her Mengele-esque doctor.
This was Jonathan Demme’s first film. He would go on to direct blockbusters like Married To The Mob, Silence Of The Lambs and Philadelphia (and a personal favorite, the documentary Stop Making Sense), but a lot of talent is not very clear in this film. It’s definitely well made, but you wouldn’t think it would come from a future Oscar winner. This is definitely a comic book jail, with the inmates wearing street clothes. There is a lot of nice nudity and violence, but what keeps the film interesting is the casting. Erica Gavin was never a great actress, but she was beautiful and had a lot of on-screen charisma, as you know if you’ve seen Vixen, and here is no different. Then there’s Juanita Brown aka Maggie, who’s saucy and bitchy and hot, in a very exotic way. The rest of the cast sounds like a B-movie convention from the 70’s, with Ella Reid, who never did another movie which sucks because she’s very good, Roberta Collins (Death Race 2000, Eaten Alive), one of my favorites, and porn star Desiree Cousteau in a small role, and the beautiful and tragic Cheryl Rainbeaux Smith (Lemora, Swinging Cheerleaders). Also is the Queen of Italian horror, Barbara Steele, as a sexually repressed warden. So if you like women in prison films, this will definitely be up your alley.