It's a "women in prison" movie. Jacqueline Wilson (Erica Gavin) goes to prison, evidently on a narcotics charge. She makes friends with two other very good-looking prisoners: Belle, a gorgeous blonde, and Pandora, a tall, curvaceous black woman. Jacqueline makes an enemy out of a mean, tough prisoner named Maggie. Unfortunately the prison they are all locked up in is a cruel and savage place ruled by an evil warden, McQueen (Barbara Steele, known as a scream queen of European horror films).
An argument in the prison kitchen leads to Maggie grabbing a gun, shooting a guard, and going on an abortive escape attempt. Jacqueline had nothing to do with the escape attempt but she was in the kitchen, so both she and Maggie go through brutal Electric Torture at the hands of the perverted (male) prison doctor, Dr. Randolph. Soon after, Jacqueline and Maggie escape for real.
Jonathan Demme's first film.
- Air-Vent Passageway: You wouldn't think a prison would have easily accessible air vent passageways but this one does. Belle uses just such a passageway, not to escape, but to sneak food to Pandora in solitary confinement. This eventually gets Belle in a lot of trouble.
- Catapult Nightmare: Belle's Erotic Dream of sex with a man through the prison turns to a nightmare when, in her dream, she gets a very long knife (closer to a mini-sword, really) and starts stabbing at him. She then wakes up Catapult Nightmare style.
- Cat Fight: Jacqueline and Pandora get into a hair-pulling cat fight. Surely mandatory in a women-in-prison movie.
- Colliding Criminal Conspiracies: Maggie and Jacqueline, now out free, elect to commit armed robbery of a currency exchange business. Hilariously, they show up there only to find a completely different robbery underway. Maggie shoots one of the other robbers and they get away when the first set of robbers run off and the cops go after them.
- Downer Beginning: Poor Jackie, arrested for accessory in a drug bust where a cop got shot.
- Electric Torture: CPT or "corrective prisoner therapy" is what McQueen calls the jail's practice of punishing inmates by electric torture via an electroshock therapy device. It's a terrifying scene in which Maggie and Jacqueline are tortured, with Jacqueline begging for mercy ("please don't hurt me anymore") between shocks until Dr. Randolph gags her.
- Erotic Dream: Both Belle and Jacqueline have erotic dreams of sex with men, and McQueen the warden has an erotic dream about performing in the talent show for the inmates.
- Evil Cripple: McQueen the evil warden uses a wheelchair.
- For the Evulz: Just to be a bitch, one of the guards takes a dead roach and throws it into the soup Maggie is preparing in the prison kitchen. This triggers the confrontation that ends in a shootout and Maggie's first, abortive escape attempt.
- A Friend in Need: Belle makes risky trips through the Air-Vent Passageway and into the guards' break room in order to steal food that she then delivers to Pandora in solitary confinement.
- Girls Behind Bars: A women-in-prison movie with lots of Shower Scenes and perverted guards and Fanservice nudity.
- Great Escape: Jacqueline and Maggie overpower a guard in the orchard, steal the prison van, and then make an escape. Apparently nobody's in all that much of a hurry to catch them, as they are casually chatting at a gas station, still in the van, when a cop arrives and they wind up stealing his car.
- Happy Ending: Maggie, Jacqueline, and Maggie's friend "Crazy" from the outside all work together to stage a raid where they break in to the prison, free Belle and Pandora, and then break back out. All five get away together and are free at the end.
- Impairment Shot: Belle's drugged-up impairment as Dr. Randolph gets her to sign the release for her lobotomy is represented by an out-of-focus POV shot.
- Laser-Guided Karma: The prison guards open fire with rifles on the van that our heroines drive out of the jail at the end. The only people they manage to shoot are McQueen and Randolph. (Randolph is clearly dead but the warden appears to still be alive when Pinter finds her at the end.)
- Last-Name Basis: A peculiar variant on this. All the prison staff refers to the prisoners with their full names, last name first ("Wilson, Jacqueline"). They do this even when talking amongst themselves with no prisoner present.
- Lobotomy: A prisoner named Bonnie was lobotomized by Dr. Randolph and now lives in a permanent zombie-like state. When Jacqueline finds out that Dr. Randolph will soon do the same to Belle, she springs into action.
- Mysterious Past: A single picture on the wall of McQueen's office shows that not only was she once able-bodied, she was part of a happy family. What led her to be an evil paraplegic prison warden is unexplained.
- The Old Con: Among all the young, gorgeous, curvy, frequently naked prisoners is one old lady who doesn't do much more than spit her dentures out when she's bored. One of Belle's trips to the guards' break room ends in disaster when she accidentally surprises the old con, who has a heart attack and dies on the spot.
- Precision F-Strike: The confrontation between Maggie and the prison guard in the kitchen climaxes with Maggie saying "Can you read lips?", and then, with the sound muted, very clearly saying "FUCK YOU!"
- Rape as Drama: Dr. Randolph takes Polaroids of an unconscious Belle, and then rapes her.
- Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: McQueen is revealed to be a deeply closeted lesbian. She has an Erotic Dream where she performs for all the prisoners in spangly tights. But later, when a search of Pandora's cell reveals a nude photo of Pandora, an enraged McQueen has her thrown into solitary confinement.
- Shameful Strip: Jacqueline and all the other new inmates have to submit to a strip search on arrival. It's a Girls Behind Bars movie, after all.
- Shot in the Ass: A little gross humor in the end has one of the women shoot a fat guard in the butt, causing him to break wind as he falls over.
- Shower Scene: Three different times we see the very good-looking naked inmates cycling through the shower.
- Wardens Are Evil: McQueen the closeted lesbian warden, who throws her prisoners in solitary confinement at the drop of a hat and orders brutal Electric Torture.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: In the raid on the prison at the end, the three women hijack the prison van by having Crazy pretend to faint by the side of the road as the van approaches.