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Bare Behind Bars (1980)

1 rating: 3.0
Art House & International movie directed by Oswaldo de Oliveira

Banned in U.K. and X-rated in the U.S.,Bare Behind Barsis a horrible-but-great film about a sadistic warden (Maria Stella Splendore) who tortures her lesbian prison inmates until her fantasies of ruling the jail come crashing down around her. Brazilian … see full wiki

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1 review about Bare Behind Bars (1980)

Must I even call this a film?

  • Feb 6, 2008
I'm very familiar with WIP flicks because I know Pam Grier has done a few of them herself. In no way have I heard of writer/director Oswaldo de Oliveira before. As the title would entail, Bare Behind Bars is a women's prison movie, but as it would further entail, it's also one of the smuttiest women's prison movies I've ever seen. Not satisfied with mere sexploitation, Bare Behind Bars goes so far as to make the occasional brief foray into hardcore porn. That alone should tell you that coherence of plot is not exactly this movie's strong suit. In fact, you probably won't notice that there's a plot at all except in retrospect, after it's all over.

For the most part "Bare Behind Bars" is just one long, constant parade of casual nudity, lesbianism, and sadistically sexualized degradation, with the occasional hardcore hetero coupling to break things up a little. It's also one long, constant parade of absurdities. Some of the latter are plainly both deliberate and parodic, as with practically every scene involving Nurse Barbara. Others just as obviously owe their existence to Oliveira's treatment of Bare Behind Bars as a porno movie; in the proud skin-flick tradition, nearly any interaction between two characters can turn sexual at any time, whether or not it makes the slightest bit of sense for it to do so. But by far the most entertaining are those times when the movie lapses into ridiculousness simply because Oliveira is apparently completely untroubled by either illogic or inanity.

This film is at its most childish whenever the scene shifts to the exercise yard and if you pay attention to the extras in the background. You'll swear you're watching recess at a girls' school for the mentally handicapped-- I'd love to have been there to hear the direction Oliveira gave to all those young women running around in circles and wordlessly squealing at the top of their lungs without pause or apparent pattern. The several shower scenes are mostly similar in character, except there the girls are naked and eventually lay off the splashing and gamboling in favor of pawing each other and rolling around together on the filthy floor. Note that they don't stop squealing, however. It's a wonder the staff manages to settle them down for the Carnival mass! The final phase of the movie is by far the most shocking, for in marked contrast to the norm in such films, I'm honestly not sure what to make of it. One naturally hesitates to attribute any sort of editorial agenda to a women's prison movie, let alone one that is not just resolutely pornographic, but occasionally even hardcore about it. But throughout Bare Behind Bars, Oswaldo Oliveira makes it perfectly plain that he's sending up the genre by carrying it several steps beyond its logical extreme

Other then that this film could have used more focus but it's a rare treat to stumble upon a movie that can be so vapidly sleazy and so unsettlingly mean-spirited at the same time. Recommended highly to those who are interested in WIP flicks.

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