Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bare Behind Bars (Oswaldo de Oliveira, 1980)

Underwear. What purpose does it serve, and why do we wear it? These questions, and a whole lot more will no doubt be scurrying through your polluted little brains while you watch Bare Behind Bars, a nasty, filthy, totally abhorrent piece of anti-lesbian, anti-underwear propaganda from República Federativa do Brasil. What can I say? They scurried through mine, and my brain is not even close to being polluted. In fact, it's as clean as Rupaul's justifiably revered taint on laundry day. I'm intrigued. How underwear averse was this film? I mean, it couldn't have been more scant in the pantie department than any of the other films that populate this specific genre, or could it? (Don't worry, I'll get to the film's stance on lesbianism in a minute.) Taking underwear aversion to the far reaches of ungovernable insanity, writer-director Oswaldo de Oliveira (Amazon Jail), a man who should be ashamed of himself, has created a world where everything from a stiff breeze to a roving hand has been given free reign to caress your hardworking genitals. Anyone who desires to grope the crumpled patch of paradise languishing between the legs of, oh, let's say, prisoner #371, need not worry about the prospect of there being any material impasses standing in their way. The lack of a substantial fabric barrier in the vicinity of my crotch does not necessarily give you carte blanche to feel up my junk. After all, we live in a society that has laws, and one of those laws clearly states: No matter what the level of coverage, whether it be a thick swath of Bangladeshi cotton, a thin stripe of nylon, or nothing at all, a person has the right not to have his or her privates subjected to unsolicited touching or groping. It's true, unrestricted fondling is not allowed in so-called "normal society." But since when has a dingy women's prison, one with an overcrowded clandestine cemetery located somewhere out back and an insatiable lesbian/slave trader/sadist as its warden, ever been considered "normal society"? Let me jump in and tell you when it has: Never.

I'll admit, lumping lesbianism alongside something as heinous and morally repugnant as the slave trade makes my heart hurt; if anything, lesbianism is the epitome of normal. This film, however, does not view things this way. They see lesbianism as the leading cause of violence and degradation within the society I just got finished deeming normal. Nevertheless, just because I found their take on lesbianism to be totally offensive, doesn't mean I'm going to hold it against them. You have to admire the ill-conceived gusto in which it tries to besmirch lesbianism, as it is so misguided, it comes off as desperate and sad. It's almost like watching an after school special at times. Except this particular "special" has pineapple dildos and dogs eating penises at its core.

If they [society] would just treat lesbianism as just another facet of human sexuality, people like, Sylvia (Maria Stella Splendore), wouldn't have to get jobs as cruel prison wardens in order to get dates. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happens in Bare Behind Bars (a.k.a. A Prisão), a no holds barred women in prison flick that will surely satisfy even the most jaded proponents of the genre. Sitting in her office that overlooks the exercise yard, the sound of the women playing outside is causing Sylvia to feel a dull pain in her loins. Longing to rub her face against anything with a pulse (just as long as they have succulent breasts and a mossy beaver), Sylvia sits and stares at the i.d. card of an inmate named Cynthia (Danielle Ferrite), prisoner #341, and thinks to herself: I wonder what her pussy tastes like?

As they're playing handball in the yard, which was like watching five year old's play soccer (i.e. disorganized chaos), one of the girls is stabbed with a shank. In an effort to calm the situation, the guards move in with the hose. Spraying them with gallons of water (kudos to the butch guard with red hair for her top-notch nozzle work), the girls are reduced to a flailing mound of wet noodles. Determined to find out who the culprit was, Sylvia employs various means of torture to get the girls to talk. When that doesn't work, she invites #341 to her office, so that may chat in private. Who is she trying to kid? She's not interested in having a frank discussion about who killed #170, or whatever her number was, she wants to feel #341's soft, immature flesh pressed firmly against the weatherbeaten fullness of what's left of her no-nonsense femininity. It's true, she does make a somewhat feeble attempt to offer #341 a kind of package deal for her cooperation (a nicer cell, better meals), but it's rather obvious that her mind is mainly focused on attaining sexual satisfaction.

Still ticked off about the stabbing incident, Sylvia decides to punish the inmates by taking away some of their privileges. All meals from now on will be served in the prisoner's cells and exercise in the yard has been suspended. Oh, and the reason #341 is washing her coño with the water dripping from the leaky faucet in her cell is because bathing has been curtailed as well. The biggest shake up, however, occurs when she launches a prison wide inspection. Uncovering a plethora of illegal weapons, the exhaustive search for contraband, while managing to unnerve Sylvia's delicate psyche, does introduce us to the film's greatest asset, and that is, of course, Nurse Barbara (Marta Anderson), the Mamie Van Doren-esque ether-sniffer who loves, no, wait, scratch that, who adores raspberry pudding. While inspecting a prisoner's many crevices, Nurse Barbara declares that she that is in love with #241 (Marliane Gomes), and will do anything to make her happy. Okay, maybe she doesn't exactly declare that. But you could totally tell that the on the cusp of being buxom healthcare provider liked the structurally sound brunette that lay before her in the prison's infirmary. Promising to give her a massage and a bath, Nurse Barbara treats #241 like a brand new puppy.

If you're like me, you're probably also wondering how Sylvia manages keep her hair looking so silky smooth on a prison warden's salary. Well, it turns out that Sylvia has quite the money-making venture on the side. On top of being a sadist and a lonely lesbian, Sylvia sells prisoners to her fellow lonely lesbians for a hefty price. And today is the day when a lonely lesbian dressed head-to-toe in yellow has arrived to pick up #514, a.k.a. Betty (Nadia Destro), a prisoner Sylvia has been "grooming" for the past several weeks. Happy with what she sees through the peephole (Sylvia keeps all potential lesbian life partners in a private room), the lonely lesbian pays Sylvia a large amount of money for the right to take Betty home with her.

While the majority of the action transpires within the walls of the prison itself, we're periodically given updates regarding the status of the lonely lesbian and Betty's relationship throughout the film. In addition to keeping us filled in as to the development of their imposed courtship (Betty is essentially a sex slave), this subplot, which usually takes place on a yacht or at the beach, gives the audience a much needed break from the drudgery of prison life. However, I wouldn't call what #241 endures "drudgery." Sure, she's picked on from time to time by the other inmates, but the pampering she receives at the hands of Nurse Barbara was overindulgence run amok. Lying naked on her examination table, her hair adorned with daisies, Nurse Barbara has a present for #241: a strap-on ready dildo. I know what you're thinking. A dildo? Big Deal. It's true, a single dildo might not seem like much in today's booming dildo economy. But back then, the dildo was a symbol of power and strength. There's a reason, "She who controls the dildo, controls the universe," was West Germany's on and off motto for most of 1974.

Accepting her gift, #241 shares the dildo with the rest of the prison population. If you look closely, you'll occasionally catch a glimpse of the dildo being transported from one cell to another via a crude clothesline-based dildo delivery system. The women have obviously devised a schedule that determines when a certain cellblock can use the much sought after sex toy, or else it would been anarchy. My favourite instance of this glorified dildo outreach program comes during the scene where a guard and a prisoner in solitary confinement give one another handjobs through a small hole in the cell door. The way the dildo cable car sneaks into frame as the guard and the isolated prisoner are vigorously rubbing the consecrated viscosity out of their swollen pussies was strangely beautiful.

Since the lonely lesbian in yellow is off cavorting with Betty, that means there's a vacancy in Sylvia's private lesbian life partner grooming room. Who's gonna be a next lucky girl to be the indentured girlfriend of a rich lesbian? A new prisoner named Annette (Sonia Regina) might just be what Sylvia's been looking for. While things get off to a rocky start (Sylvia slaps Annette when she refuses to be called #578), they gradually improve once Nurse Barbara examines her. With her muscular calves rest in her trusty stirrups, Barbara, after testing the dampness of her sex, declares #578's box to be so clean, that you could literally eat off it.

As Nurse Barbara is sitting on the corner of her desk extolling the virtues of raspberry pudding, Sylvia is getting ready to implement her plan to transform #578 into the ultimate lesbian sex slave. Meanwhile, out in the yard (exercise and bathing privileges have been reinstated), #578 is way ahead of Sylvia, and has started do calisthenics, along with #241, #341, and #218, in the nude. The idea is get Sylvia's attention, and you know what? The plan works like a charm, as #578 is quickly summoned to Sylvia office. Staring at her with a fiery intensity, Sylvia tells #578 to take off her gown. The "gown" is basically a sea green coat with the prisoner's number written on the front and back in black. Anyway, Sylvia's stare grows even more intense after #578 does a little spin for her (making sure the warden gets a look at every nook and cranny her exciting body has to offer).

Even though she doesn't communicate it with words, the expression on Sylvia's face as #578 spun for her sums up how she felt at that particular moment. Screw those the other lonely lesbians, she probably thought to herself, this lonely lesbian has found a slice of womanly perfection, and has no intention of sharing her with anyone else. Yeah, that's right. Her name is #578, and her ass belongs to me. After she's finished inspecting "the goods," Sylvia takes #578 for a test drive by grinding her body against hers in a highly erotic manner. And judging from the cunnilingual bruises that dot her inner thighs the following day, there's no way Sylvia's letting some dried up hosebeat intertwine her scabby legs with the robust stems that jut from #578's taut torso.

Are you a middle-aged lesbian who likes to fornicate with girls who are more than half your age? Of course you are. Don't you just hate it when their enthusiasm for eating out your expensive pussy causes your crotch to become parched, sluggish and barely recognizable to the microscopic lickspittles that live on the outskirts your infrequently manicured bush? Well, the next time your fanny region is itching like an underpaid motherfucker, just fill your bathtub with lukewarm water, add a tablespoon of radioactive oregano, keep the affected area submerged for at least five to six hours, and voilà, watch those pesky blemishes go the way of the daguerreotype.

As the bubbles and the radioactive oregano are soothing Sylvia's aching minge, a vision of loveliness sporting a volumizing scrunchie is busy laying the groundwork for her inevitable downfall. Wait. Did you just say, "volumizing scrunchie"? You bet I did. Okay, just checking. The prison's assistant warden, Sandra (Neide Ribeiro), disapproves of Sylvia's methods (she thinks she's a sadist who's letting her thirst for underage cooter cloud her correctional conviction), and wants to put an end to her reign of sapphic terror.

If it seems like #241 and #578 are enjoying their time as lesbian playthings, think again. Tired of playing horsy (Nurse Barbara likes it when #241 rides her bareback while eating watermelon) and performing all-night oral stimulation, #241 and #578 decide it's time start planning their escape from this hellhole. Along with prisoners #341 and #218, the girls hope to use their connections with Sylvia and Nurse Barbara to help speed up the process. Of course, while Sylvia is completely in the dark as to what #578 is up to, Nurse Barbara has no qualms about aiding the unruly foursome.

In terms of exposing skin, all the principal players do their part to titillate the unwashed rabble sitting in the audience. Even the gorgeous Neide Ribeiro gets with the program near the end of the film, as she appears naked while getting dressed in her bedroom. Despite the shortage of fastened buttons on her prison issue blouse, Sandra has been a model of modesty for most the film. All that changes on the day mass is scheduled to be performed in the prison's chapel, when we see her brushing her hair sans clothing in front of a mirror. Numbed by the sheer amount of bare bums, butts, and asses that are barefacedly exposed to throughout this talking picture, I thought to myself: Yawn. Not another unclothed behind. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the oomph of Neide's well-oiled backside when it finally decides to badonk its way onscreen. It not only boasted a pleasing shape, but it also had a certain twinkle about it.

Flashing the contents of your bodacious Brazilian booty is nothing compared to what #241 and #341 get up during the film's final third. Just a second, I'm trying to figure who made the bigger sacrifice. Okay, I'm gonna say #241 took the greater risk. You see, while #341 performs authentic sexual intercourse (squalid slum sex), shot a couple of people, and participates in the gang rape of a minor, #341 cuts off two penises (the first was a flaccid penis that she fed to a noisy dog, while the second was a fully erect penis that she fed to the man who used to be attached to the fully erect penis), participates in the gang rape of a minor, walks around with a razor in her vagina, and is forced to lick a pineapple dildo. So, it's rather obvious who the "winner" is when it comes to championing debasement.

My biggest complaint in relation to watching films like Bare Behind Bars has nothing to do with the torture or the degradation, it's the implausible tan lines. This particular film, like others in the genre, seem to make a concerted effort to point out that the prisoners are wearing no undergarments whatsoever. Yet when it comes time to film the obligatory shower scene, all I see are tan lines in the shape of bikini bottoms and tops These women are supposedly living in an underwear scarce universe, and have been for years, but you wouldn't know it judging by lines of pale skin that cover the bodies of some of the inmates. I know, it's difficult to find women who hate going to the beach, especially in a country as beach-friendly as Brazil, to appear in borderline pornographic women in prison flicks on such short notice. But can't we find away to persuade the actresses not to go to the beach before principal photography begins? I don't ask for much.



  1. You've been on such a tear with women-in-prison films lately, I've been wondering if you've seen the ultimate, 女囚701号 さそり (Joshuu 701-go Sasori, "Female Prisoner #701 SCORPION) starring the divine Kaji Mieko and directed by Ito Shunya. Its psychedelic and sadistic bliss.

  2. No, I haven't seen "Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion," but thanks for the recommendation; it looks amazing.

  3. List of cult films you may enjoy:

    My FB friends and I were like "WTF?" at those darn Lord of the Rings movies, but the rest of the list is decent. Heck, even Café Flesh made the cut, two spots up from Casablanca. :P I don't know if there are any chicks-in-prison films. :)

    Found this funny Pizza Pizza ad from the 80s.

  4. All right, Café Flesh. That's what I'm talking about. Woo-hoo! Lady Terminator!

    I've always wanted to see Behind the Green Door.

    The Sound of Music?!?

    I don't see any "chicks-in-prison" films. :(

    Holy crap! That's probably the first time I've seen that Pizza Pizza ad in twenty-five years. Look at Yonge Street, it's so innocent. Record stores, video arcades... porn.