Film and TV

Midnite Movie Mamacita's "Top Five Women in Prison Films"

Last week, we introduced a "Top Five Films" list from Madcap Theaters director Andrea Beasley-Brown, a.k.a. the Midnite Movie Mamacita. While her first list focused on the five most disgusting movies she's ever seen, this week's list gives props to babes behind bars.

Beasley-Brown admits most movies about women in prison "blend together because the story lines are the same": a woman is falsely condemned for some crime; sent to a prison where everybody's horny, violent, and corrupt; and must fight her way out. But there are a few incarceration exploitation films that stand above the rest.

Here is the Midnite Movie Mamacita's list of the "Top Five Women in Prison Movies," two of which will screen at Madcap Theaters this weekend. We've included some trailers. Be advised they all include shots of bare breasts. Apparently, you can't make a movie about women in prison without everybody losing their shirts.

Chained Heat (Heat GBR, 1983):
This one stars Linda Blair and Sybil Danning, who was the queen of exploitation movies in the '70s and '80s. The lead character, played by Linda Blair, is mistakenly sent to prison for killing someone, and when she gets in there, there's all kinds of racial tension between blacks and whites, which is a common theme in these prison movies. The warden is male, and he's filming the prisoners and exploiting them any way he can.

Caged Heat (Artists Entertainment Complex, 1974):
This was directed by Jonathan Demme, who went on to make some very successful films, like The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia. This is basically his first film, and it has a great cast, including Roberta Collins and Juanita Brown. It's quite cheesy, and has slightly lower production values than Chained Heat, but the escape scene at the end is quite entertaining. You're really rooting for the girls to get away.

Women's Prison Massacre (Beatrice Film, 1983):
The director of this movie, Bruno Mattei, made a lot of cheap and nasty knockoffs. Any film that was popular in the American market, he made his own Italian version. That goes for the "women in prison" film trend, too. Common themes in this one are rape, exploitation, woman-on-woman violence, and woman-on-woman love scenes. I love the tag line: "Makes Scarface looks like a Sunday school picnic."

99 Women (Cinematografica Associati, 1969):
This was one of the early women in prison films. The director, Jesus Franco, did over 150 exploitation films. This one stands out because it's beautifully shot, with some very exotic scenes. The exteriors were filmed in Brazil, and it's so colorful. The cinema quality is great, even for the period. The film is quite notorious and popular among lesbians for the women-on-women scenes. Apparently, some people like to watch that, especially with all the beautiful Italian and Brazilian women. I remember it had a really good soundtrack.

Big Doll House (New World Pictures, 1971):
This is my favorite of the women in prison films. It was produced by
Roger Corman, so it came under his label and production values. A lot
of exploitation films were made in the Philippines, and this was one of
the first done there. It stars Pam Grier, who is completely awesome in
this film. Sid Haig plays a sleazy guy who comes around, and if the
girls do him favors, he'll give them stuff, like cigarettes. There are
mud fights, an escape scene, shoot-outs in the Philippine jungle -- all
sorts of crazy stuff.

Chained Heat and Women's Prison Massacre screen Friday and Saturday,
June 11 and 12, at Madcap Theaters in Tempe. Admission costs $8. Visit for more information.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea