This entry in Mehrdad Oskouei’s trilogy on Iranian youth in their nation’s justice system – following It’s Always Late for Freedom (2007) and The Last Days of Winter (2011) – focuses on teenage girls at a rehabilitation and correction center. This facility looks nothing like the stereotypical Iranian prison: the girls enjoy pizza parties, play Truth or Dare and engage in playful snowball fights. Indeed, at times the facility feels like a happy sorority rather than a hijab-clad version of Orange is the New Black.
Henri Charr’s “Cellblock Sisters: Banished Behind Bars” (aka “Banished Behind Bars”) is one of the most nineties straight to video movies ever released. It’s a rip off of “Bad Boys” that pits nothing but gorgeous blond women against one another in a women’s prison and forces them to fight it out for control and petty grudges. Henri Charr’s crime thriller is surprisingly convoluted, but one that also gets a free pass for being one of the last of its kind before the early aughts indie resurgence of women in prison films. As children April and May were sold off by their drug addicted stepfather Sam, to strangers in exchange for drug money.
Carol Jeffries was just set up by her boyfriend, a drug dealer who makes her take the wrap for a massive drug deal he was involved in during an illegal cock fight. Carol, a vulnerable and innocent woman, has just found herself in a women’s pen in the middle of nowhere with vicious female criminals. And she has nowhere to go but down, baby. She’s forced to endure the tribulations of prison life involving psychotic roommates, horrible living conditions, and a violent matron named Alabama (Ms. Pam Grier, herself) who sleeps with all the prisoners, and punishes them with “The Playpen” when they refuse to abide by her sexual favors. Did I mention the drug dealers on the outside are trying to assassinate Carol to keep her mouth shut?
Gone is David Edmonds, gone is the original storyline, and in remains the shameless exploitation. Also, there’s Dyanne Thorne. How could you possibly dislike her? You can’t. Ilsa, who yet again hasn’t aged a day, nor does she resemble corpse, is now a brunette warden for a cruel prison. Hey, I don’t ask questions, I just go where the boobies are. This prison is being touted as a clinic, yet it is being operated as a concentration camp treating “disorders” such as lesbianism, nymphomania or prostitution.
I have no aversion to women in prison movies. No, sir, I do not. I happen to enjoy good schlock when it’s done well, and I happen to enjoy flicks like “Cellblock Sisters.” When I caught wind of “Prison A-Go-Go!”, I was utterly intrigued. It’s not often you get a movie that’s intended to be schlock these days. Some directors just make bad movies and pretend its schlock, and many attempt schlock but fail miserably. “Prison A-Go-Go!” gets it right most of the time. “