You couldn’t make them today with the expectation of seeing it on the screen (outside of four-walling the goods). They are too rough, too violent, and too politaclly incorrect to get traction with the theater going public. Though Hollywood has been busting out Women in Prison films since 1930s, it was Jesús Franco’s 99 WOMEN that launched the genre of sleaze and tease into overdrive. After that, the floodgates were open and the popular tropes you know and love started to spring up and establish themselves as a necessity of the genre. Cat fights, hose downs, shower scenes, the sadistic warden, the kinked out guards, they were all there.
The genre launched some of the icons of grindhouse like Jack Hill and Pam Grier, created memorable characters like Ilsa and Matsu the Scorpion. After a powerhouse run in the early to mid 70s, the WiP films splintered into different hybrids. Countries adopted their own formats and seasoned to taste (some of the best and most bizarre came out of Japan), but after a long run it reached the end of the road in the mid-80s. It’s all fun and tits until somebody gets bored and fans had enough, deciding to stay home and rent instead hitting the theater. REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS is often looked at as the swan song to the imprisoned beauties, but it’s more of a lampoon than a love letter.
Though the films continue to get made today they are, in general, a poor example of what it was. You can only burn through so many CAGED HEAT sequels before you’re stretching for ideas and eventually sending the cast into space (CAGED HEAT 3000). The films were sometimes fun, sometimes tough, and always momentarily brutal, but always a cool fucking trip. As token of our appreciation (and in no particular order of release)…
DAILY GRINDHOUSE PRESENTS
CAGED HEAT: THE WOMEN IN PRISON
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