Friday, April 27, 2007


Roger Corman’s existence is a mixed blessing on the human race. On the downside, he made some of the cheapest, stupidest, most ridiculous movies ever committed to film. On the upside, however, he made some of the cheapest, stupidest, most ridiculous movies ever committed to film. Mystery Science Theater 3000 could never have existed without him.

In addition, few men can boast that they invented an entire subgenre of film, especially one which has provided countless men with innumerable hours of shameful, pervy enjoyment. I speak, of course, of the Women in Prison movies.

Naturally films about women in prison had existed long before Roger Corman popped his reprehensible little head up. But none of them had properly appreciated the potential for exploitation that this niche genre could provide. They foolishly expended precious celluloid on character development and reasonable narrative coherence, whereas Roger said to himself, “Hmmm… they’re women, and they’re in prison. There are no men and they have a lot of free time on their hands. Where can we go with this?”

The best thing about his ground-breaking 1971 production ‘The Big Doll House’ is that it could include all the classic Women in Prison clichés without self-consciousness, because they weren’t clichés yet. There was no need to be embarrassed about it because this was all fresh, new, and so delightfully low.

Do we have a sadistic lesbian prison warden? Check. Do we have a sadistic lesbian prison governor? Check. Do we have a tough lesbian inmate with a heart of gold? Check… and she was played by Pam Grier, thus covering blaxploitation and sexploitation in a single character - there’s Roger’s famous budget-consciousness for you.

Do we have a soft core shower scene? Check. Does one woman ask another “Could you soap my back, please?” in a husky voice? Check. Do we have everybody, from the guards to the inmates to people who just happen to be wandering past the prison wearing light, flimsy minidresses? Check. Do we have every single female character sporting long, lustrous hair, as if this prison were home to an international gang of Pantene thieves? Check.

But Roger was all about pushing the envelope, and he also managed to include something that no one else could have worked into a Women in Prison movie: a hot girl-on-girl mud wrestling scene. The naïve reader may be demanding, “What? How? How do you have mud wrestling in a prison? Where would the mud even come from?” Such a reader simply underestimates both the magnitude of Roger Corman’s genius and the lengths to which the average man will suspend disbelief in order to witness Pam Grier and Roberta Collins fighting in mud while not wearing bras.


Roger Corman, we salute you. This more than makes up for 1959’s ‘Attack of the Giant Leeches’.


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