“Women in prison? That’s so retro,” said Papa Garis after I explained my latest work assignment. It was Sunday afternoon, and I had emerged from my room after five hours of chain-smoking and watching the new Netflix series, Orange is the New Black. Yes, for work. I am living the American dream.
He’s right, though. The concept is hardly original. In fact women-in-prison movies are practically their own genre. So in honor of the new/old trend, I've done a little research (take that at face value) and dug up some of the "gems."
Some of them are campy (okay, MOST of them are campy), some of them are graphic, some of them are just damn good, and some of them are so bad that they're good.
A warning: lots of them deal with tough subjects such as rape, abortion, and violence. I mean, as would be expected. It's prison, not Six Flags. Approach with caution.
A rough, 1974 TV movie starring baby-faced, post-Exorcist Linda Blair in juvie. Though there isn’t any green projectile vomit or head rotating action here, there are some pretty disturbing sequences.
This film pits a girl gang called the Dagger Debs (later the "Jezebels") against a bunch of rival gangs, and later each other. WACKINESS ENSUES, LOL!!!! No, it gets really brutal, and sure enough there's also some brief juvie incarceration for a portion of the movie. It's been a favorite and major influence on Quentin Tarantino (note the badass chick with the eyepatch).
Girls in Prison
There are two options here. There's the original 1956 version, which relies more on implied action save for a mud-wrestling cat-fight. Then there's the 1994 TV movie remake, where I doubt they have to imply anything:
The '50s version is great if you want to really get the authenticity of the genre. BUT - the remake is part of the Rebel Highway series, which I think was made to show that the 1950s does not translate well through Gen X goggles. Ie: they're unintentionally hilarious.
In this film, a 19-year-old girl gets sent to prison for robbery and finds out while there that she's pregnant. Which is pretty much my worst nightmare, if anyone's curious. Cue the dramatic background music.
The Big Doll House
A blatant sexploitation film set in the tropics. Super 1970s, with Pam Grier in a starring role. Lots of boobs and guns aimed at crotches, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Ladies They Talk About
A classic 1930s film starring Barbara Stanwyk. As it states in just about every description of the film, it came out before the Motion Picture Production Code, so it features a lot of subject matter that would've been considered taboo for the time. It also features some of the best-looking prison uniforms I've seen so far. Look at that lace!
Also starring Linda Blair, albeit ten years later. Less emphasis on bad girls, more emphasis on bad hair. Seems to feature the soundtrack from Terminator. A notoriously awful movie, overall. It's really difficult to make the 80's look cool. Speaking of which...
The Concrete Jungle
This one just looks generally unpleasant. Still, it's good to see that the mud-wrestling catfights that originated with Girls in Prison were still relevant 30 years later.
One more 1950s noir for the road! As classic as you can get!
Women in Prison
Remember, if you're still looking for a TV show to marathon after you've finished Orange is the New Black, you can always watch this aptly titled 1987 series.
I think we're done here.
Miss any of your favorites? Let us know in the comments!