Barely watchable ... for general audiences
(Be advised: This review contains explicit screenshots that might be offensive)
The Americans have been there, the Italians have had their fair share, and Jess Franco from Spain has single-handedly filled the quota for at least 40 countries. And what exactly am I talking about? Okay, there's no point in me keeping you in the dark - I'm referring to the WIP (Women In Prison) movies, an exploitation sub-genre that had its golden days in the 70s and died out little by little approximately by the mid-eighties. If these types of films were in fact better or worse than the related, like-minded nazi- or nunsploitation efforts from around the same period is hard to say, but the fact of the matter is that they were all basically about just one thing: Female skin, the more the better.
Surely there were a couple of films that actually distinguished themselves by having riveting plots, smart dialogs, surprisingly good performances and lots of edgy, low-budget style - by way of example Jonathan Demme, who was later to direct the critically acclaimed Silence of the Lambs, first cut his teeth on the moviemaking business by directing the hardboiled and massively entertaining B-movie Caged Heat starring the buxom Erica Gavin of Vixen fame, horror icon Barbara Steele and late screen siren Cheryl 'Rainbeaux' Smith - but more often than not they obviously weren't striving to achieve any glorified goals but were mainly aiming at the lowest possible denominator, throwing in as many cheap thrills as possible.
Which is why it's virtually impossible to honestly defend most of the contributions to this understandably and decidedly disreputable genre since they were also clearly misogynistic, relishing in unimaginable humiliation, degradation and violence, primarily of the sexual variety. Additionally, as time went by it took more to impress the increasingly demanding target audiences and gradually the movies had to push the limits of what was acceptable to show on-screen, which inevitably meant occasionally breaking into hardcore territory. Perhaps tasteless, but now and then this sort of indecency and depravity is weirdly fascinating and can strangely enough prove a cathartic experience, provided you're in the right state of mind - and not among the easily offended.
And if there's one thing Bare Behind Bars from Brazil lacks, besides just the slightest hint of coherent plot, it's restraint. Regarding the content, the horndogs can rest assured that it isn't only the title that contains the three infamous B's, the movie itself has absolutely no shortage of breasts, buns and ... OK, let's not beat around the bush - beavers, some of which are even seen hard at work. But apart from these few scenes of X-rated material the rest is business as usual and feature all of the genre's prerequisites. You've got the group showers, frequent copulations, riots, forced medical inspections and the torture scenes, here in the way of beatings and an inmate's lengthy exposure to direct sunlight, among other things. As an added bonus we're treated to a courtyard work-out in the buff.
The story, as far as I was able to decipher one, is something about a handful of prison girls, among others Cynthia and Inez - the latter is in for having killed her abusive father - who don't agree with the surrounding facilities and eventually decide to escape. The plan is that Inez has to 'ingratiate' herself with the strict, sadistic - and of course lesbian - warden Sylvia (whose disciplinary methods are so relentless the nearby, secret graveyard is rapidly running out of space) and then convince her to hold a mass for the inmates, during which the two girls have found out that the chances for escape are most favorable. In turn a third girl has to use her charms with the prison nurse Barbara (luckily she's also inclined towards girls) who's going to supply the three young jailbirds with weapons as well as help with their escape route. Yes, we're on that level.
What's to say about a film featuring a POV shot where we see a naked girl through a hole in a wall - and the camera is somehow able to move from side to side following her as she walks around in the room? Roughly all scenes seem to exist solely because of their potential for gratuitous nudity and neither of them get points for logic or relevance, the script is strictly hit-or-miss and a secondary plot concerning an eccentric matron and her virginal love slave bought from the wicked warden serves no purpose whatsoever. However, well in tune with the inept and grotesquely stupid storyline, that doesn't bother with petty details such as character motivations, are the performances that range from mediocre to outright goofy and cartoonish, and in that respect the actresses portraying Sylvia and the nurse Barbara deserve a special mention for not holding it back.
This is one hell of a blatant mess, but for the most part an immensely and absurdly funny mess at that since it so consistently discards all that's commonly considered good taste. Even the torture on display occasionally made me smile as you could clearly see how the actresses were pulling their punches or just patting their victims, but despite the abundance of silliness, one detail in particular made me doubt whether director Osvaldo de Oliveira was truly playing for laughs or actually wanted this yarn partly to be taken seriously. In the last reel the three escaped female convicts break into a house and force a young boy to witness them kill his mother and castrate his father - a monstrous, fairly explicit and grotesque scene that's totally unnecessary and doesn't exactly evoke sympathy for the already unlikable escapees.
No, then it's arguably much more meaningful and edifying to see the stunning prison guard Sandra (Neide Ribeiro, playing the only character who's the least bit likable) getting ready for work, watch nubile female inmates engage in ferocious catfights for no apparent reason and get it on with one another wherever and whenever opportunity knocks, taking turns using the prison's only available 'joystick'. Share and share alike, as they say. With determination Bare Behind Bars dives head-first into the sleaze-pool from the get-go and stays there at the bottom for the complete duration of 91 minutes, - it's so base and unashamedly primitive it's practically (to put it into a fitting metaphor) down on all fours, pleading for a massive kick in the b*** - and then, if the film could speak up for itself, it would likely be asking for more. So if you love stupendously bad and smutty cinema it simply doesn't come filthier than this.
René Pedersen, March 5th, 2006
I believe it's fair to say that this feature falls into the more obscure category, which is why I wasn't expecting much in terms of picture quality. So I was actually quite surprised when this turned out to be a pretty decent transfer. The source print seems to have been in good condition as there's very little in the way of wear and tear apart from the odd minor scratch, there's a fine layer of grain throughout that never becomes distracting, and although not super sharp like most contemporary productions, the image maintains a fairly high level of detail - save for a couple of scenes (the castration segment and some hardcore footage near the end of the movie) that most likely have been censored in other versions and which XT Video have probably had to take from some video source in order to present the movie fully uncut. They're somewhat smudgy, but don't look so bad (they look far, far better than the battered video inserts seen on Witchfinder General, for instance). While contrasts are solid the colors occasionally appear a bit muted, but for the most part they are well saturated and the skin tones look very nice indeed. Hardly worth mentioning are a few instances of line shimmering as well as some slight edge enhancement, and there were no apparent signs of compression artifacts. Definitely an above-average job, especially considering the low-budget origins of the movie - such a shame, though, that the image, presented here in an 1.63:1 aspect ratio, isn't anamorphically enhanced.
Four audio options are made available here, two German and two English, with only the latter two being of interest. You might as well forget about the one mixed in Dolby Digital 5.1 - it's merely the same Mono signal split out on 5 channels, and it doesn't sound good, as it only amplifies the shortcomings on the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track. The dialog on that track, although flat, comes through clear enough and is fairly easy to make out for the most part, sometimes, however, words and sentences are made unintelligible due to some constant, distracting hissing which is even more distinct during the quieter moments. Some very faint trembling was occasionally noticeable in the background. Serviceable, but that's about it.
Unless you think a picture gallery of poster artwork and movie stills totaling 11 images is absolutely the best thing in the world, this is pretty unexciting stuff.
By any artistic measure a complete disaster, which should serve as a recommendation for all the (presumedly male) thrill seekers who'll absolutely delight in this craptastic, nonsensical excursion into vulgarity, that succeeds in presenting not one single respectable frame of celluloid - quite a feat. When a film recklessly throws all caution to the wind and just goes for broke, the end result is often unlike anything else, and with regards to Bare Behind Bars - I hate to admit it, but I do find it perversely funny. And personally I wouldn't be without this type of experience to contrast, and at the same time enhance, the more accomplished titles I really praise and admire - it's diversity that makes watching movies truly enjoyable. And XT Video has to be complimented for unearthing such a fine looking print and creating a transfer that admirably brings all of the lurid details into light.