WHAT’S IT ABOUT?: Daisy (Starina Johnson) is a good hard-working gal who cares deeply for her invalid mother. But when mom decides to off herself with a revolver, Daisy gets the wrap and ends up in a women’s prison alongside wise-cracking Dutch (Pleasant Gehman), black widow MeMe (Susan Traylor), catatonic Princess (Jane Wiedlin), and religious nut Esther (John Waters’s star Mink Stole). Will the sadistic prison guard (Stacy Cunningham) break poor Daisy or will the caged women figure out a way to fly the coop and make tracks?
WHO’S IN IT?: Mink Stole is not only John Waters’ muse, she’s also been in a handful of queer-pop films like Hairspray, Eating Out, But I’m A Cheerleader, Splendor, and Another Gay Movie. She really plays up the camp of her ultra-religious character in a way that’s believable yet bent. Starina Johnson undoubtedly steals the film as Daisy, who changes from a stepped-on goodie-goodie to a hard-bitten jailbird. She develops a close relationship with the delectable Dutch who — along with Traylor and Cunningham — really gives the prison is rusty, shiv-like edge.
IS IT ANY GOOD?: Not really. While director Steve Balderson puts a positive lesbian twist on the women-in-prison genre, his film is too serious to be camp and too campy to be serious. The film begins well with histrionics from Daisy’s suicidal mom and her ultra-nervous neighbor. But the film starts to lag behind bars when we’re asked to take these characters seriously. Also, all the prisoners get along so well that there’s none of the back-stabbing, cafeteria fighting, or kitten stomping we’ve come to expect from other women in prison send-ups like Reform School Girls, Vendetta, and Sugar Boxx.
WHAT’S BAD ABOUT IT?: Balderson’s low-budget prison has more guards then it does convicts and the movie doesn’t find its edge until the mid-point when Daisy has a breakdown and lets loose all her pent-up guilt, fear, and anger. Daisy’s newfound badness and her relationship with Dutch form the heart of the film, but Balderson keeps going back to the mundane world with a subplot about Daisy’s nervous neighbor (Karen Black) who morbidly obsesses over Daisy’s imminent hanging. Did she really see Daisy kill her mom? Will she call the warden and save Daisy’s life? Will either make the film end any faster?
FUN FACT: Despite the film’s oblong and plodding pace, the film’s beautifully shot in black-and-white with genuinely creepy and affecting scenes — including a heartfelt sex scene and a nightmarish moment with a music box. Also the film features a snazzy jazz score by composer Rob Kleiner that keeps the heat on behind bars.
RATING: Two out of five sharpened toothbrushes: If you simply have to see a women in prison movie, rent one of the three others mentioned above or play this film on the background while you and your girlfriend play good cop-bad cop.