Ah, the good old WIP genre. What is WIP? Well any self respecting sleazy film auteur could tell you that WIP stands for Women in Prison, a self explanatory genre that most would say began in 1969 with Jess Franco's 99 Women. Roger Corman's idea to do his own WIP film came shortly after and Jack Hill was chosen to direct the film. Though originally written to take place in California, Corman chose to have it made in the Philippines to save money. Notable as being Pam Grier's film debut (not including a bit part in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), The Big Doll House became one of the highest grossing low budget films of its time and further inspired many more WIP films to come.
The Big Doll House takes place in a women's prison in some tropical, third world country. A woman named Collier (Judy Brown) is imprisoned for killing her husband. She becomes cellmates with a lesbian named Grear (Pam Grier), her junkie bitch Harrad (Brooke Mills), revolutionary Bodine (Pat Woodell) and man hungry Alcott (Roberta Collins). They are frequently tormented by crooked warden Dietrich (Christiane Schmidtmer) and plan a jail break.
The Big Doll House was a fun movie and far less serious than I was expecting. Jack Hill has a knack of not taking his subject matter too seriously, which is usually a good thing. The situations and characters are so over the top that trying to take the film seriously would be a huge mistake. Though there is lots of humor, the film has other things going for it too. There is the obvious sexuality in the film, which includes showers, cat fights, mud wrestling and S&M/torture. Exactly what you'd hope for in a WIP film. The cast really makes the film though, with Pam Grier as hot as ever. Roberta Collins and Judy Brown are also quite sexiful and can actually act (not a necessity, but a plus). As usual in many of Jack Hill's films is Sid Haig, the other usual show stealer. He does a great job playing a delivery man who sneaks goods in for the inmates. Overall, The Big Doll House is a fun exploitation film that is full of what you'd expect from a WIP film but with comedic touches to ensure the audience doesn't take the film too seriously.