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Director: Jess Franco
Cast: Lina Romay, Paul Muller, Monica Swinn, Roger Darton, Ronald Weiss, Martine Stedil, Eric Falk, Peggy Markoff
Length: 81 min
Rating: FSK: 18
Region: Region Free
Label: Ascot Elite Home Entertainment
Release Date: Feb 25, 2014
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: German, English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French: Dolby Digital 2.0
Subtitles: English, Japanese
- Interviews with Lina Romay, Erwin C. Dietrich and Jess Franco
- Photo Gallery
- Jess Franco, Audio Interview
- Falks Frauen – A featurette with actor Eric Falk and producer Erwin C. Dietrich
Ascot Elite Home Entertainment, a German film studio, has released The Jess Franco Golden Goya Collection—a series of films that Spanish exploitation maestro Jess Franco made with producer Erwin C. Dietrich and Elite Film during the 1970’s. Most of these can be classified as sexploitation, with the possible exception of Jack the Ripper, the first film in the series we reviewed. Now we come to Barbed Wire Dolls (a.k.a. Frauengefängnis – 1976), a notorious “women in prison” film that is as far removed from the refined period world of Jack the Ripper as one can get—a testament to Franco’s unique versatility.
The premise of Barbed Wire Dolls is a simple one. A group of nubile women are imprisoned in an island fortress, run by a sadomasochistic female warden (Monica Swinn) who wears a monocle and walks around in see-through dresses. When not torturing and starving the prisoners as part of her job, she uses them for personal gratification in her private quarters and, in her spare time, lounges around in a black negligee while reading the autobiography of Albert Speer. The prisoners are sexually abused much of the time, for reasons that are mostly unclear, and when they are not being abused, they pass the time by pleasuring themselves in their cells—and Franco give us many gratuitous close-ups of this. Once in a while, one of the prisoners is sent to see the corrupt governor of the island to satisfy him as well. The always-delightful Lina Romay plays a young woman incarcerated for killing her lecherous father (Jess Franco), who chases after her like a beast in heat, in a thoroughly unconvincing dream sequence done in faux-slow motion.The plot, (as such), is almost nonexistent, although at one point, several of the women, (lead by Romay), stage a prison break, and that’s when things get sort of exciting. But Escape from Alcatraz this is not, and what one remembers most about the film are nude bodies, screaming, torture, rim jobs, fingering, and masturbation—in other words, one of the sleaziest films in Jess Franco’s prolific cannon.
When producer Erwin C. Dietrich saw the finished film that Franco had shot for him, he seriously thought whether to release it or not. In order to save money, Franco got the cheapest equipment possible, and shot most of the film himself. The result was rough, to say the least, even by the standards of German sexploitation. But Franco, being a consummate salesman, convinced Dietrich that the film’s roughness made it closer to real life and that this is what film-goers are hungry for. While I personally see nothing remotely close to real life about Barbed Wire Dolls, Dietrich was convinced, and did release the film to great financial success. The producer/director team went on to make at least 10 more films together, and there is no question that devoted Franco fans will be delighted by this unabashedly sleazy piece of cinema.
If I had minor reservations about Jack the Ripper being a bit overly beautified to the point where it didn’t quite look like a 1970’s film anymore, I have no such reservations about Barbed Wire Dolls. This presentation fully preserves the naturally rough look of this ultra-low-budget film, while being very nicely cleaned up from any obvious damage. Film grain has been left intact, and the image has not been artificially sharpened. Colors and contrast are stable and natural-looking. Surely, this is the best that Barbed Wire Dolls has ever looked.
As with their other titles in The Jess Franco Golden Goya Collection, Ascot gives us audio tracks in multiple languages which are all supposed to be from the original dubs. For Barbed Wire Dolls, we are given German and English in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; and French in Dolby Digital 2.0. Technically speaking, all the tracks get the job done well, and there are no problems with the sound being over-scrubbed. Best news of all, Ascot provides both English and Japanese subtitles which makes it possible for English-speaking viewers to enjoy the original German audio track.
The extra features here are not quite as generous as on the Jack the Ripper release, but still very interesting and worth watching for those with an interest in Jess Franco and his exploits. First up is a 12-minute interview video, featuring producer Erwin C. Dietrich, Jess Franco, and Lina Romay. In it we learn how Franco came to collaborate with Dietrich, and how Barbed Wire Dolls became the first film they made together. Next, we have an 18-minute interview with actor Eric Falk, who seems like a very nice fellow, but reminds me of an aging porn star. As he watches his younger self on a monitor, abusing a naked woman in Barbed Wire Dolls, he exclaims, “Beautiful image, this pussy, this ass, complete madness.” Erwin C. Dietrich joins him as well. Next we have a 42-minute audio interview with Jess Franco, conducted in 1976. This, unfortunately, is in French with no English subtitles. Next, we are given a photo gallery and 11 German sexploitation trailers, mostly from other Jess Franco films, which are quite entertaining in their own right.
Those who run the other way at the mere mention of Franco’s name will find plenty to hate about Barbed Wire Dolls. Fans of Jess Franco’s more notorious exploitation films, however, can count their blessings that Ascot Elite Home Entertainment has released such a nice collection of them on Blu-Ray, in such superb transfers, and have made them English-friendly to boot. So, if you are a fan of these types of films, Ascot’s Jess Franco Golden Goya Collection is a treasure trove indeed.