Viva VHS #13: WIP films
Ah, yes. It was only a matter of time before Retrospace touched one of the most reviled and rejected genres of cinema - the Women In Prison (WIP) films. Why was there no love for WIP? Well, let's just say that masochism became politically incorrect. But, once upon a time, the WIP flick was quite popular in grindhouses and in the early days of VHS - so much so, that there is no accounting for how many were actually released. Suffice it to say, there are plenty to keep you occupied.
This is is a VHS post, so I've got plenty of cover scans to share with you. But before I do, let me explain the basics of the WIP flick for the uninitiated.
Basically, they all follow a basic template, and it's really amazing how rarely these films violate the 'guidelines". The sacred tropes of the WIP film are as follows:
- The main character is unjustly thrown into a prison. She has been framed, committed a justifiable crime for the greater good (i.e. killing her rapist) or sometimes she enters the prison under false pretense to infiltrate the system. We'll call her The Final Girl (FG)
- There is always at least one group shower scene.
- There is always a wicked warden. Often it is a dominatrix styled female.
- There is generally a butch assistant to the warden who does his or her dirty work.
- The FG befriends a poor weak girl (who often cradles a teddy bear and cries a lot). This weak character is summarily offed by rival inmates or the wicked warden.
- The FG becomes a special interest to the warden when she steps into trouble one too many times. The FG is usually sequestered to an isolation tank after a beating.
- An inmate is brutally tortured by the wicked warden. It is generally the film's most graphic scene, so it's played by a no-name actor willing to do anything onscreen to make a buck.
- The FG always has a rival inmate. Typically this animosity will erupt into violence in the mess hall or the prison yard.
- There is always a male prison guard who is ridiculously sleazy. Typically he will provide favors to the FG for a price.
- The movie always ends in large scale rioting. The warden and her assistant die horrible deaths. The FG (and sometimes her arch rival) escape.