Time Served

Here's Catherine Oxenberg's breasts. Time Served serves them up nicely in the strip club scenes. Too bad about certain other aspects of the movie...

Copyright 2008 by Pat Powers

OK, the amazing thing, the TRULY amazing thing about the women in prison film Time Served is that it is a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the no-bondage zone. Despite the fact that it is full of sexy naked women writhing sexily, it does not have a BIT of bondage in the movie. Not even a blinkie, hands-in-front cuff scene.

To put the amazing awfulness in perspective, I should point out that this is the ONLY women in prison flick that I know of that contains NO bondage scenes, and that INCLUDES Lifetime women in prison flicks.

This is the only bondage you see in the film -- chain link fencing. Hell, your average grade school has that. Well, maybe not on the buses. Yet.

Granted, the only bondage in some Lifetime women in prison flicks is the aforementioned blinkie hands-in-front cuff scene -- but it at least it's THERE. (And to be honest, a lot of Lifetime women in prison flicks play up the cuffs and shackles for their pathos factor.)

But Time Served didn't do diddly with the bondage imagery, even though it had a transportation scene AND a check-in scene, both used widely in women in prison films to slide in a little bondage imagery.

So is Time Served a total loser as a women in prison film? Hardly. It is in some respects an innovative flick that contains ideas so brilliant that even a supergenius like myself might borrow them.

Time Served starts out in true Lifetime women in prison flick fashion with an abusive husband beating up on his kid Billy (played by Larry Manetti) and then his wife Sara McKinney (played by Catherine Oxenberg). When Billy sees Dad beating up on Mom, he gets the family revolver from what we can assume is its not-so-secret hiding place and shoots Dad to save Mom.

Woman, child, gun. This will work out well.

Sarah, being really, really stupid, takes the rap for Billy. (Why stupid? Because the kid had just about EVERY concievable defense imaginable going for him: juvenile, self-defense and diminished capacity due to recently having been beaten up. It's unlikely anyone would have said so much as a harsh word to him -- worst he could possibly have gotten is a few hours of listening to a therapist prattle on about stuff).

In addition to being a really student defendant herself, Sarah's court-appointed attorney, Patrick Berlington (ably played by Jeff Fahey) is the stupidest attorney in the county and possibly the stupidest attorney in the Milky Way galaxy. And to top THAT off, she's tried by the local hanging judge, Judge William T. Edgerton III, henceforth known as Judge Hanging, who also has very particular reasons for seeing that hotties in his jurisdiction get convicted.

Jeff Fahey plays Patrick Berlington, the stupidest lawyer ever. Fahey does a great job here, his "just not getting it" expression is unmatched. He looks half asleep even when he's not. The loose tie and unbuttoned shirt brings it all together. Also, he tends to forget his briefcase when visiting clients.

That's why she winds up getting convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to eight years in prison for shooting a man who was clearly beating the snot out of her and her kid at the time (both had extensive visible injuries as a result of their beatings, in fact, the kid winds up in the hospital, not talking to anyone).

And thus we wind up with Suffering Mom in Prison, a staple of Lifetime women in prison flicks, and this is where the innovation begins. In fact, this is the first movie I've reviewed (and thus, paid attention to ... let's face it, most women in prison flicks aren't worthy of anyone's full attention just for watching) that is an exploitation flick that fully incorporates a Lifetime women in prison element into the story in order to pump up the drama.

And as I have always predicted, it works very nicely.

After the courtroom conviction scene (no cuffs, of course) we see Sarah and other prisoners being processed into prison after being driven there in a cuff-and-chain-free bus, and we see that some of the women who are stripping at check-in (at least they got THAT right) have worn thong panties to prison, which means they've probably been to THIS particular prison before.

Experienced cons know to wear their very best thongs to this particular prison ... they're gonna need 'em.

Oxie's cellmate Rosie (played by Lourdes Colon) is a genial Latina who has adjusted well to prison life -- she has her own personal TV and other decidedly non-austere amenities. Rosie is quick to tell Sarah that her jail life is relatively sweet because she dances at Mr. D's, a local strip club, and that Sarah could probably do well dancing there, too. (She does not tell Sarah that is so because she is hot, because, well, Catherine Oxenberg, c'mon.)

Prison life can have its rewards for inmates who dance at Mr. Ds.

But Sarah, a former nurse, is not interested in dancing, she wants to put her nursing skills to good use.

Unfortunately Warden Reinecke (played by Louise Fletcher, the actress who made Nurse Ratched so deliciously vile in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) has other plans for Sarah. Warden Reinecke meets with Sarah the next day and talks to her about her work-release options. Reinecke informs Sarah that they are situated in a very small town (must be a very small prison, too, with the warden doing career counseling for the inmates) and that opportunities for work-release are very limited. Sarah's options include dancing at Mr. D's gentleman's club, dancing at Mr. D's gentleman's club and, of course, dancing at Mr. D's gentleman's club.

Warden Reinecke tells Sarah about her career options at prison.

Sarah informs Reinecke that she doesn't want to dance at Mr. D's gentleman's club. Reinecke says, "Very well, maybe I can get you a job in nursing ... oh, that's right, you aren't a nurse any more ... I could try for a job at a bank ... but no, they're kind of particular about their money." And with those words she leaves.

This is an idea I have borrowed. The idea of having female prison inmates pimped out as part of an official work release program is central to my story "Doin' Time In the Blue Shadows." It's a neat idea because it puts her in the same category as a slave -- she is part of an official work release program, there's no "authority" she can go to for relief, the authorities have decided to prostitute her. Unfortunately, Time Served doesn't follow this logic to its full conclusion, but it is a step in the right direction.

Sarah's "no" goes over about as well as "no" from a prisoner ever does in a women in prison movie. The corrupt guard who escorts her from her meeting with the warden talks up dancing at Mr. D's as a career option and when Sarah continues to express disinterest, sends her into the nurse's office ... for a full cavity search.

She's putting on the latex gloves, and that can only mean one thing in a women in prison movie -- it's cavity search time.

Sarah tries to interest the nurse in her skills as an assistant, but the nurse is having none of it. The nurse responds, as she puts on her latex gloves, "You are in here for a full cavity search. this is prison, you do what you're told, when you're told. Now, take off your clothes." It's a very nice domination moment.

Sarah exits the nurse's office and hitching up her pants as if she feels really invaded, something she will do a lot in this movie. When the corrupt guard asks her if she's changed her mind about dancing at Mr. D's club, Sarah remains resolute.

The guard then puts Sarah on the most wretched, non-fun duties in prison, scrubbing floors and such, but that has little or no effect on her resolve.

This is as explicit as the lesbian rape scene gets, though it's made clear that Sarah does get, um, fully raped.

The guard's next step is a cell occupied by two women. Two large women. They claim they have to measure her for a new outfit. But the new outfit turns out to be "lesbian rape victim -- with extra added beating!" There is a great line here, though. When it becomes apparent to Sarah that she's the victim du jour on the lesbian rape menu, she says, "I'm not attracted to women." The larger of the two lesbian rapists says, "I don't like being rejected," and starts beating on Sarah. Soon they have her down on the bunk, still hitting her, and it's real evident what's coming, but we don't get to see it.

Instead we see Sarah returning to her cell, hitching up her pants as if she feels really invaded, and looking unhappy.

Now, here's the thing about the lesbian rape scene: I do think it would have been better if it had been more sexually explicit, but given that there was no explicitness with regard to the rape, there could have been a LOT more explicitness with regard to the domination of Sarah.

Note that in this image from sponsor Sex and Submission (click on the pic to see more) there are no naughty bits visible but it's perfectly obvious what's going on.

The quick, crude beating she gets before the scene ending was hardly enough to make the audience FEEL how violated she was. Scenes of her being fondled while being slapped or spanked or choked, or being forced to suck a finger as if it were a clit while kneeling before her captors, or seeing a profile shot of her clothed body writhing helplessly while a pantsless but not shirtless lesbian kneels over her, clearly sitting on her face though you can't see anything that would make the scene explicit -- THAT would make Sarah's pronouncement in the next scene a lot more understandable.

Rosie looks at Sarah as she enters the cell, still hitching up her pants nervously, and figures out what's gone down.

"I told you it would be hard for you if you went against them," Rosie says.

I like this part -- the Department of Corrections pulls up right to the front door of Mr D's to disgorge its load of stripper/inmates. Just business as usual.

"I'm going to dance at Mr. D's," Sarah tells Rosie. Sarah has clearly figured out that her choice isn't to dance or not dance, it's to dance or get beaten up and raped a lot. And the thing is, the choice really IS between dancing in a thong and rape: Rosie has made it very clear that although there are opportunities for any dancer who's willing to give customers some nookie on the side, all that's really asked of the prison dancers is that they dance. OK, in thongs and nothing else and sometimes in a guy's lap, but still, just dancing.

In the next scene it's late afternoon, and the Mr. D's work release bus is headed for the prison. Now, here's the really cool thing about this scene: the gals on the bus are clearly happy as larks, anticipating the fun they are going to have dancing around naked in the club, so excited in fact that one or two of them are already stripping. This makes a lot of sense: the environment at Mr. D's is a lot nicer than prison, they probably get to drink between dances (in fact, we see Sarah downing a stiff one before going out to dance) and being bawdy wenches, they're in their element.

Inmate/strippers whoop it up on the way to Mr. D's.

Sarah sits in a seat by herself, staring dolefully ahead of her. She looks like they are planning to shoot her when they arrive. The shot of her glum face reminded me of the song The Lap Dance is Always Better if the Stripper is Crying.

After some initial reluctance, Sarah finally does go onstage and proves to be pretty good at hanging onto a pole and waggling her butt, though at first she clings to the pole as if she might keel over if she didn't have it there. Nice touch.

Sarah looks as if it weren't for that pole to hang on to, she might collapse from sheer nervousness.

Now, here's the thing about Time Served -- it is very generous with the scenes of women clad in nothing but thongs dancing. And it's obvious they've hired some women who know how to dance exotically, perhaps even professional strippers. The back end of the film is sexploitation-licious with all the thong dancing. In fact, without all the sexy naked dancing scenes, I would have called this one a full-bore Lifetime women in prison flick -- but all that sexy nudity on the back end justdoesn't jibe with the Lifetime approach to women in prison flicks.

One way to tell if real strippers or pretend strippers are dancing -- do they really bend over and hang their butt out there for the audience and spread 'em? Most actresses tend to be unwilling to be so sexy. Real strippers on the other hand, know what they are doing ... dancing for a male audience, who want to see the strippers present sexually as they dance.

While all the stripping is going on, the plot is actually rolling right along. Sarah has figured out that her lawyer is an idiot, and her lawyer, despite being an idiot, has figured out that Sarah is an idiot and that she's covering up the fact that it was her kid that did the shooting.

Real strippers are generous with their breasts as well, but then, so are many actresses. It's not so blatant a form of presenting, I guess.

On her first night of dancing, Sarah discovers an important clue -- Judge Hanging visits the club, and it's clear he's a VIP at Mr. D's, with the dancers regularly sent to him in the VIP room for some very personal entertaining (which we never get to see -- there's no actual sex in view anywhere in this flick, another Lifetime movie touch). Judge Hanging even sits in a booth with Mr. D for quite a while so even the densest dancer will get the idea that he and Mr. D are in cahoots.

This is why this cannot be a Lifetime movie. These dancers are presenting like baboons in heat. Just the way men like them to. Not gonna happen on Lifetime.

Yes, when Judge Hanging sees a dancer he thinks is attractive and sexy, the words "Guilty As Charged" come rolling off his lips every time. (Judge Hanging isn't really that farfetched. Real-life judges have been exposed for using a penis pump on themselves during trials, and for forcing female subordinates to play bondage games with them.)

Sarah gets a good look at Judge Hanging, and Judge Hanging gets a really good look at her in Mr. D's club.

Eventually, Sarah figures it out. She sets up a meeting with Berlington and passes him a matchbook with the address of Mr. D's written on it. Eventually, lawyer dumbass figures out that he needs to go to the address written on the matchbook that Sarah gave him, and he does so.

What does Berlington see when he walks in the door but Sarah wearing nothing but a thong and shaking her moneymakers and her tat-tas for the clients at Mr. D's.

Nice little submission/presenting move here.

He also sees Judge Hanging and the corrupt guard who escorts the gals to Mr. D's. They spot Berlington, too, and in short order, he's tossed out of the club. But as you see him looking bewildered after being tossed from the club, you know that Berlington dimly realizes that Something Is Going On, and in a few weeks or months he may just develop a vague idea what it is.

Meanwhile, the corrupt guard has figured out that Sarah is trying to stir things up, and he figures to calm her down with a relaxing session of rape, with extra added beating.

This is as much as we see of Sarah's rape by the male guard. He's trying to pull her pants down, she's trying to keep them up. We are left to figure out who wins, the 120-pound inmate or the 200+ pound guard.

Once again, all we see is the initial hitting, Sarah being wrestled to the floor, a bit of tussling, then the scene is over before any clothes are shed or body parts are groped. And once again, the next scene shows Sarah going back to her room, beaten up and nervously tucking her shirt into her pants.

Rosie has gotten wind of Sarah's intent too (she must have been blabbing about it to everyone) and she tells her not to upset the apple cart, that she really likes her life of dancing for men and then coming back to her cozy prison cell and getting raped by the corrupt guard. (The corrupt guard is an equal opportunity rapist, he rapes all the female inmates, even the large lesbian ones.) I thought that was once again an original touch ... having the inmates feel that being pimped out as dancers was an improvement over washing dishes and scrubbing floors. In real life, it probably would be, for some of them.

I can't say more without revealing how this mess is resolved, and given that the movie has bothered to set up a plot, it seems unfair to spoil its outcome.

I do have to reveal that the outcome of the story involves exposure of the activities at Mr. D's which means that it was not a completely legitimate work release program as the scene with the warden would indicate. The warden was just in on the plot, too. Which means that the movie wasn't really hip to the idea of an OFFICIAL work-release program involving sex making the worker a sex slave to the state, which creates whole new levels of helplessness and vulnerabilty. That, at least, I can claim originality for.

I gotta say, though, Time Served is a completely original women in prison movie. Well before I ever started nattering about combining Lifetime womein in prison themes with exploitation women in prison themes, the people who made Time Served had thought about it and done it, and done it reasonably well. Kudoes to them.

Did I mention that the strippers in this movie were really, really presenting for the audience? Too bad Catherine Oxenberg doesn't do anything like this. Oh, and the dots on the stripper's skin ... artifacts of the Photoshop filters I used to clean up these images, which were shot in the usual "darkly lit strip club" light.

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