Under Lock and Key

A creepy female guard enjoys a bit of peek-a-boo voyerism as she makes sure that cons engaged in conjugal visits are actually having sex. Now, that's makin' sure!

Copyright 2008 by Pat Powers

Under Lock and Key is perhaps the strangest women in prison flick I've ever seen. All the others generally adhere pretty much to their respective formulas -- some more creatively than others -- but Under Lock and Key has a format that's all its own.

Under Lock and Key definitely falls under the sexploitation genre of women in prison flicks. It's the story of a young macguffin (Sarah, played by babelicious Stephanie Ann Smith) whose boyfriend Carlos is a drug lord. She gets locked up in jail on various charges, and everybody is sure she has some dirt on the drug lord in the form of a little black book, so everybody wants a piece of her.

Here's Sarah being subjected to a prison medical exam which consists entirely of turning full circle while naked. Who need stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs? It's quite evident that Sarah is a hottie, and that's all any doctor in a women in prison flick ever needs to know.

A nice bit of combining nudity with humiliation.

Sarah herself is using the book as insurance to keep Carlos from having her whacked while she's in prison.

The story is told from the viewpoint of a female FBI agent (Danielle, played by Wendi Westbrook) who's sent into the jail to protect Sarah and to see if she can winkle the dirt on Carlos out of Sarah.

Instead of finding Sarah a hardened con, she turns out to be a dewy young thing who definitely needs protecting. Because some of the other cons and some corrupt guards are interesting in getting the dirt for themselves or for the drug kingpin.

Here's Sarah getting beaten and stripped before being subjected to lesbian rape by cons who want her drug kingpin dirt. Fortunately for her, Danielle rescues her before she can get beaten too badly or raped. Fortunately for us, she does get stripped.

Complicating things still further is one guard who's a tough, by-the-book straight arrow who takes guff from no one and gives guff to everyone. Complicating things even furtherer is another female guard who's corrupt and who also really, really, really likes to cavity search the prisoners, supervise them during shower time, etc.

And let's talk about those shower scenes. There are a LOT of them. For the first 30-45 minutes or so, this is the nakedest women in prison flick I've ever seen. Because not only do the prisoners get naked in the showers, they also strip down in their cells. Their open-barred cells, in plain view of the male guards. The lesbians sleep naked together in the same cot. It's all very cozy and naked.

Here Sarah (right) and Danielle (left) conspire while in the shower. An excellent example of naked acting by Westbrook and Smith.

And it's not just the nudity. In my article on making the perfect women in prison film, I describe the perfect garb for the perfect women in prison film -- a very short dress that threatens at any moment to reveal the wearer's butt. This film is clearly where I got that idea.

Here the women fight in shifts so short that pretty much all of their underwear is exposed when they do so. And that's what the prison staff did wrong, of course -- gave them underwear. What were they thinking?

But then, about halfway through (and this is where the weirdness comes in) there's a definite shift where the film stops being a Skinamax prison flick and turns into a straight out cops and drug kingpins action flick. This occurs at the point where Sarah (and, thanks to some fiddling from her FBI friends on the outside) Danielle are transferred to another prison.

The only real bondage in the film, unless there's something in the first five minutes (which my machine didn't record somehow). Still, very nice and dwelt on at length in this section of the film..

It's also the only point where there's any bondage in the film to speak of: Sarah and Danielle and the other prisoner riding with them are cuffed and shackled throughout this very long scene.

Carlos' agents set an ambush for the van transporting Sarah and Danielle, in hopes of getting their hands on her so they can torture the location of the little black book out of her. Unfortunately for them, Tina (played by Barbara Niven) the tough-girl straight arrow guard is driving the prison van, and rather than surrender her prisoners to the bad guys who have them boxed in and are shooting at them, she starts shooting back.

During the shootout Danielle gets her still-cuffed hands on a gun dropped by an ambusher and lays in some covering fire to help drive off the ambushers (it's an all-girl ambush squad, quite rare in real life, I believe).

Danielle demonstrates that having one's hands cuffed in front of one is absolutely no hindrance to using a revolver. Which I imagine is part of the reason real prisons use waist chains as well as cuffs.

The bad girls are surprisingly willing to risk killing Sarah, because in the course of the shootout, they do just that. They also kill the other prisoner that isn't Danielle. They apparently like killing.

After the shootout the prison van conks out and they exit the van, at which point Tina FINALLY realizes that her only surviving prisoner (a still cuffed and shackled Tina) is carrying a gun, and so she immediately points her rifle at Danielle and forces her to surrender her gun.

Here's a con hanging around her cell, viewable by all including male guards and lesbian guards and lesbian prisoners, naked. She must quite confident that no one will bother her, something there is absolutely no justification for in a sexploitation women in prison flick like Under Lock and Key. But almost all of the prisoners share her confidence, to judge by the amount of in-cell nudity in this film.

This is clearly over-reacting. Danielle has had a gun all along, she has been using it to shoot at the ambushers, not Tina, and for a short while she was walking behind Tina with the gun, so if she had wanted to spatter Tina's brains about, she had every opportunity to do so. Given that Danielle had not already used the gun on Tina, it seems reasonable that simply asking for the gun would have been enough.

Seems kinda harsh for jaywalking, but don't cross the street if you can't do the time. Another image from our sponsors at Sex and Submission.

I mean, suppose Tina HAD shot Danielle after pointing the rifle at her. Can you imagine the inquiry?

Inquierer: So, Tina, according to your testimony, the people who ambushed your van killed two out of three of your prisoners, and also the guard who was riding with you.

Tina: Yes, sir.

Inquierer: And you killed the last surviving prisoner?

Tina: Yes, sir.

Inquierer: Because she had a gun and did not surrender it promptly when you ordered her to?

Tina: Yes, sir.

Inquierer: A gun which she had had for some time and had used to shoot at the ambushers, not you?

Tina: Yes, sir.

Inquierer: And which she had for a brief time afterwards without in any way threatening you with it?

Tina: Yes, sir.

Inquierer: Don't you think your actions were, shall we say, a mite harsh?

Tina: Rules are rules, sir. Prisoners are not supposed to have guns.

I don't care how by-the-book you are. Pulling the trigger at this point might have taken a WEEEE bit of explaining.

Danielle, not wanting to be the corpse over which an official inquiry presides, hands over the gun and then tries to persuade Tina that she's not a con, she's an FBI agent, that's why she was shooting at the bad girls instead of, say, Tina. So Tina is left with hiking down a hot, deserted California desert highway (I guess that's why they call 'em "deserts") with her only charge, a cuffed and shackled inmate who just won't shut up about how she's an FBI agent on an undercover operation and they have to find a phone immediately so she can report to her bosses, or the guard will be impeding a Federal investigation.

Well, eventually they get this stuff sorted out and the rest of the movie resolves into a standard shoot-'em-up abut facing down the drug kingpin. Who has complicated things by kidnapping Danielle's adorable young daughter.

I won't tell you how it ends except that it involves a series of 120-pound actresses outfighting a bunch of 200-plus pound goons with a flurry of spin kicks and karate chops. (The goons have their usual fighting problem of attacking the women's fists and feet with their faces. Never works out for them, but just try and stop a movie goon from doing it when faced with a wimpy opponent.)

Damn! I keep hitting her foot with my face and HITTING her foot with my face, but she just won't go down!

The weird thing about Under Lock and Key of course is the strange bifurcation between Skinamax women in prison flick to not-nearly-so-Skinamax shoot-'em-up at about the halfway point. There are still a few bits of nudity past the halfway point, but nothing like the Naked Hottie Prisonerfest that constituted the first half of the show (which nevertheless managed to develop a very complex plot.) What it reminded me of most in the world was the classic 70s exploitation flick The Abductors. The Abductors also worked well as a cops'n'robbers shoot 'em up while having lots and lots of nudity and sex (and, unlike Under Lock and Key, bondage).

Also unlike Under Lock and Key, the sex, nudity and bondage are evenly distributed in The Abductors' story -- even in the final shootout, bad guys are grabbing naked, bound hotties and using them as shields.

One of the few bits of post-prison-van-ambush nudity is provided by this gorgeous babe, an FBI agent who poses as a model so they can get into Carlos' estate, because he's a fashion designer having a show there. This is from the photo shoot that introduces her as a character.

Because The Abductors keeps its nudity, sex and bondage evenly distributed throughout the film, it works much better than Under Lock and Key, and functions pretty much as a cops n robbers actioner even though it is chock full of nudity, bondage and sex.

That's why I think The Abductors such a wonderful film. I would have a similarly high opinion of Under Lock and Key if it had just kept things going within the prison, continuing with all the nudity and sex and throwing in a lot more bondage. It wouldn't have been hard at all, because as soon as you've established the concept of prisoners sleeping naked in their cells (thank you, Under Lock and Key!) you've got an excuse for HORDES of nudity, not just in Under Lock and Key, but in EVERY women in prison film. For that reason alone, Under Lock and Key must loom large in the pantheon of women in prison movies.

A naked, bound Jennifer Brooks is handgagged in the final shootout in The Abductors. That's doin' it right!

But what apparently happened was that somewhere along the halfway point in the making of Under Lock and Key, someone said, "Hey, this is a great Skinamax softcore film we're making, but didn't our contract call for an action flick?" And someone else said, "Yes, it does! We'd better drop everything we're doing and get started on that right away!"

And that combined with the lack of attention to bondage and dominance issues is what keeps Under Lock and Key from being the perfect mainstream women in prison film. Because women in prison films aren't really about escaping from prison. They're about living in prison. When the prisoner gets out, the story is over. The people who made Under Lock and Key didn't understand that, and as a result we got half a women in prison flick and half an action flick, and neither half, however excellent, can make up for that.

"We've GOT to keep meeting like this!" In a nice little bit of subplottery, Danielle exchanges information with her boss during fake conjugal visits, but to make it look good for the guards they have to get naked and, at the very least, dry hump under the blankets while Danielle squeals on the other prisoners. Now, that's information-gathering!

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