1/2/13

Viva VHS #13: WIP films


Ah, yes.  It was only a matter of time before Retrospace touched one of the most reviled and rejected genres of cinema - the Women In Prison (WIP) films.  Why was there no love for WIP? Well, let's just say that masochism became politically incorrect.  But, once upon a time, the WIP flick was quite popular in grindhouses and in the early days of VHS - so much so, that there is no accounting for how many were actually released.  Suffice it to say, there are plenty to keep you occupied.





This is is a VHS post, so I've got plenty of cover scans to share with you.  But before I do, let me explain the basics of the WIP flick for the uninitiated.

Basically, they all follow a basic template, and it's really amazing how rarely these films violate the 'guidelines". The sacred tropes of the WIP film are as follows:
  1. The main character is unjustly thrown into a prison.  She has been framed, committed a justifiable crime for the greater good (i.e. killing her rapist) or sometimes she enters the prison under false pretense to infiltrate the system. We'll call her The Final Girl (FG)
  2. There is always at least one group shower scene.
  3. There is always a wicked warden.  Often it is a dominatrix styled female.
  4. There is generally a butch assistant to the warden who does his or her dirty work.
  5. The FG befriends a poor weak girl (who often cradles a teddy bear and cries a lot).  This weak character is summarily offed by rival inmates or the wicked warden. 
  6. The FG becomes a special interest to the warden when she steps into trouble one too many times.  The FG is usually sequestered to an isolation tank after a beating.
  7. An inmate is brutally tortured by the wicked warden.  It is generally the film's most graphic scene, so it's played by a no-name actor willing to do anything onscreen to make a buck.
  8. The FG always has a rival inmate.  Typically this animosity will erupt into violence in the mess hall or the prison yard.
  9. There is always a male prison guard who is ridiculously sleazy.  Typically he will provide favors to the FG for a price.
  10. The movie always ends in large scale rioting.  The warden and her assistant die horrible deaths. The FG (and sometimes her arch rival) escape.
If anyone out there would like to fill in the gaps with any other tropes, please do so.  Otherwise, on with the video covers. (You'll note that a lot of these are not domestic VHS tapes. Make no mistake, there were US WIP tapes a plenty, I just don't have them.)



















 















 

 



17 comments:

  1. Supposedly this article has "1970s films" as a tag, but where are the Jack Hill masterpieces "The Big Doll House" and "The Big Bird Cage"? Now there would be an Anitra Ford tribute!

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  2. Wow Mickey Rooney and Ted 'Lurch' Cassidy! I got to find a copy of Convict Women

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  3. A couple of these have just come up on Netflix instant today: Women in Cages and Caged Heat.

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    1. Thanks for the heads up! My queue floweth over.

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  4. Among all of their other troubles, I never knew that female inmates were forced to wear such inferior shirts. The shirts apparently shred as soon as the buxom ladies take their first deep breath.

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    1. Flimsy shirts, but its made up for by nice showers. The girls can take long hot showers as long and as often as they like. It's a trade off.

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  5. Seems that the prisons in the films have very small clothing budgets...

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    1. Small clothing budget to offset high water bill (lots and lots of showers)

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  6. These bring back some memories. And some great actresses, such as the incomparable Sybil Danning. I only wish Stevie Nicks had made a WIP film!

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    1. With Christine McVie as the wicked warden.

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  7. I see Linda Blair in at least three of these.

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    1. And you'll seen A LOT of Linda in at least three of these.

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    2. I see Penn Jillette, of all people, is in Linda's "Prison Island". Does he play the sleazy guard? :p

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    3. Savage Island - the movie. Penn shows up briefly in there, just before Linda caps him.

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  8. My favorite was Reform School Girls, made in 1986. "FG" Linda Carol had a rocking body ... and according to imdb was born in 1970. o_0

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  9. I thought it was "Sybil DANNING", not "Danning", plural

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  10. Need to check out "Machete Maidens" on Netflix streaming. It is a documentary about the phillipines movie industry in the 70s and 80s. Many of these WIP were made there on budgets as small as the actresses' costumes!

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