Barbed Wire Dolls (1975) from Tuna

For once, the English title is cooler than the original one. Barbed Wire Dolls was originally Frauengefängnis (Women's prison), It's a Jess Franco film, and I'll bet you've already guessed the genre. In case not, it is basically about women in prison being tortured and sexually abused by sadistic male guards, the governor of the island, an evil bisexual warden (Monika Swinn), as well as a supposed doctor who killed the real doctor for a chance at the great job.

However, let's go back to the beginning. As the film opens, redhead Beni Cardosa is chained naked in a small cell, where she is kept just out of reach of a bowl of pasta, and beaten each time she tries to reach it. There is also a wire frame bed and springs in the room which will see plenty of use later. She is eventually broken, and placed into her cell with another crazy woman (Peggy Markoff) who constantly exposes her genitals, masturbates with cigarettes, and is fixated on Christopher Columbus. Also in the cell is the relatively normal Matine Stedil. Once Lina Romay undergoes her requisite torture, which includes electric shock on the bed springs, she becomes the fourth cellmate.

From here, things become pretty routine for the genre, except that there is no shower scene. Various officials force our four cellmates to have sex, they escape, etc...

A plot of sorts does eventually emerge, but is not allowed to interfere with the nudity and general nastiness. Maria (Lina Romay) is in prison for killing her father during an attempted incestous rape. The father was played by none other than director Jess Franco who made liberal use of the ol' "Vaseline on the lens" trick during the attempted rape flashback.  Well, it seems the warden was having an affair with Franco, and thought this the perfect opportunity to end it, so when Romay knocked him unconscious over a silly little rape attempt, it was the warden who actually finished the job, then arranged for Romay to come to her prison so she could kill her as well.

As this is a European WIP, the ending is not a happy one.

The WIP film is one of my favorite genres of B-movie sexploitation schlock, but this one is sub-standard, even with extra points for cigarette masturbation and for emptying a piss pot out the cell window on a guard. The plot manages the unlikely combination of minimal and far-fetched. And there's no shower scene!!! On the positive side, the DVD transfer is nothing short of superb, so you won't be disappointed by the copious nudity, but the cinematography has focus problems, especially in the small cell.

Jess Franco 8 DVD Gold Box Set


Eight great transfers of rare Jess Franco films, including this one, which is unavailable elsewhere. Click on the image for details.



Nudity is the whole point of the movie. The full monty from Peggy Markoff, Lina Romay, and Martine Stedil. Breastsand buns from Monika Swinn and Beni Cardosa. Much more nudity from unknowns in the background of many scenes.

The Critics Vote ...

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The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a D+, but the DVD transfer is outstanding, so it may be considered a C- for collectors of 70s exploitation films.

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