A movie poster for the 1986 film ‘Reform School Girls’ with Wendy O. Williams, Sybil Danning and Andy Warhol pal Pat Ast (pictured prominently above).
The “WIP” (“women in prison”) film genre has several sub-genres ranging from nuns in prison to an interpretation favored mostly by European filmmakers who loved to include Nazis in their chick-centric prison flicks. Italy, Germany, and France put out quite a few WIP films back in the 70s and 80s, as did the U.S. of A. and the Philippines. When the first women in prison films made their way to the big screen they were more dramatically inclined. One of the very first films to tell the tale of a girl behind bars is Hold Your Man starring the profitable on-screen power couple of Jean Harlow and Clark Gable. The film is full of some pretty salacious stuff. Thankfully, this was 1933 and Hollywood films were still getting away with more on screen prior to the enforcement of rules laid out in the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 being widely adopted within the industry as it wasn’t really wasn’t policed until late in 1934. Which made a film like Hold Your Man—whose plotline involved a gorgeous blonde getting stuck behind bars while she’s knocked up with her lover’s baby—possible.
You can find WIP films in every decade but because both the 1970s and 1980s are so near and dear to my heart—and because I’d quite frankly love the opportunity to do another one of these posts—we’re going to stay put in those two consecutive decades. The genre can be pretty strange and runs anywhere from girl-heavy drama which would generally fall into the “redemption” film category to straight-up pornography. In the 1950s WIP films were heavily influenced by pulp fiction novels but it wouldn’t take long for the films to evolve (or devolve perhaps) into exploitation flicks with lots of nudity, sex, violence, rape, and notably deviant plotlines.
The popularity of the genre and its many sub-genres soared during the 70s and 80s which would bring us , Chained Heat starring teen queen Linda Blair and Wendy O. Williams’s prison warden in Reform School Girls. So now that I think I’ve given you more than a few compelling reasons to take a deep dive into this strangely complex film genre, I’ve posted a large selection of WIP movie posters that are mostly NSFW as you would expect them to be.
‘The Big Bird Cage’ with Pam Grier and Sid Haig
A German movie poster for ‘99 Women.’
‘Women in Cages,’ 1971.’
‘Big Doll House,’ 1971.
‘Women in Cell Block 7,’ 1973.
‘Caged Heat,’ 1974.
One of a few great posters for the 1974 film ‘Fugitive Girls.’
‘Barbed Wire Dolls,’ 1977.
‘Escape from Womens Prison,’ 1978.
‘Bare Behind Bars,’ 1980.
‘The Concrete Jungle,’ 1982.
‘Women in Prison Massacre,’ 1983.
‘Chained Heat’ starring Linda Blair, 1983.
‘Slammer Girls,’ 1987.
The trailer for 1971’s ‘The Big Doll House.’ NSFW.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Female Convict Scorpion’: The Japanese women-in-prison movie that elevated exploitation to high art
‘Sacred Love’: The Bad Brains song that was recorded over the phone from prison
Carl Sagan writes to Timothy Leary in prison, 1974