A look at Jess Franco’s trailblazing 1969 women-in-prison film

Though we cannot fully credit director Jess Franco and his frequent producer Harry Alan Towers with inventing the horror/exploitation film subgenre known as the “women in prison” movie (or WIP for short), we can certainly credit them for defining the parameters of what people now expect from it. Since the dawn of cinema, Hollyweird has reveled in stories of lovely lasses crammed into confined spaces and confronted with dehumanization and worse (my favorite proto-WIP flick is 1950s tawdry and charming Caged), but Franco blended that barbarity with the sort of salaciousness audiences were hungering for in their downmarket cinema; the resulting opus was 1969’s 99 Women, a rough and tough and super-sexual trash classic that kicked into high gear our obsession with girls getting sent upstate and, despite the indignities they are subjected to, always finding time for a bit of sweaty, illicit same-sex coupling. Simply put, no 99 Women, no Orange Is the New Black.

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