Woman in prison films, or as they are known WiP, is a subgenre of the exploitation movie genre that allegedly started with the relaxation of censorship laws in the 1960’s. I’m sure you have sampled the genre if not then these are best described as films that involve women locked up in penile institution’s and left at the mercy of various rather unsavoury prison staff and inmates.
One of the better-known WiP movies is Jonathan Demme’s debut feature film that he wrote and directed for Roger Gorman’s New World Pictures. Caged Heat (1974) has developed a cult following over the years mainly because of its humorous approach to the subject and elements of feminism and social consciousness not always found in WiP movies. Certainly a lot of the credit must go to its director who went on to direct films which included The Silence of the Lambs (1991), The Manchurian Candidate (2004) and the recent Ricki and the Flash (2015) which stars Meryl Streep.
This 1974 grindhouse movie has all the ingredients that made up this genre including a sexually repressed prison superintendent, this time in a wheelchair and played by horror icon Barbara Steele. It also includes any excuse to rip the clothes of the female prisoners; lots of naked shower scenes, and an overriding hint of lesbian sex and of cause a doctor who is a perverted maniac who performs various nasty ‘things’ on the prisoners. And we must not forget a large and bloody dose of violence, prison breakouts and good-looking sexy women. There you have it, the actual story is not really important, in this case as with most of these films we have women locked up for various reasons, they fight the system, battle unfair treatment and hope to escape.
The movie also stars Erica Gavin who had the title role in Russ Meyers Vixen (1968), Roberta Collins who appeared in Jack Hills The Big Dolls House (1968) another cult WiP movie and the wonderfully named Rainbeaux Smith. John Cale, founding member of The Velvet Underground wrote and performed on the soundtrack, which also featured the guitar playing of Mike Bloomfield an original member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.