It's Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and oil prospector Bob Matthews (Mike Connors) is romancing his latest squeeze, Marie (Susan Cummings), who seems more interested in his money than anything else. Nevertheless, Bob good humouredly tolerates her as they watch the carnival go by and after a while they head off, but walking down a side street they are accosted by a drunk (Jonathan Haze) who asks for cash. Bob offers a note, but when they bump into him later on and the drunk is still using the same act, Bob realises his pocket has been picked and the thief is escorted back to the police station where a policewoman, Lee Hampton (Carole Mathews) is being briefed by her superior. She and Bob will cross paths soon...
Swamp Women was historical for being Roger Corman's first film, scripted here by David Stern, but not necessarily one of his most memorable efforts. The twist is that this is not a gang of hardboiled male criminals we are dealing with, but a trio of hardbitten women who the policewoman joins undercover. This feminine twist supposedly made the film popular with lesbians, as the girls - with the exception of the useless Marie - are all tough talking and more than a match for any men who might be unlucky enough to get in their way, which might be why the situation needs another woman to take them down. Naturally, catfights ensue - it's like a Russ Meyer film that hasn't found its feet yet.
But even with that subtext, there's an awful lot of padding, this despite the running time being around seventy minutes. In the early scenes, presumably to appease the town councillors who gave Corman permission to film in New Orleans there are about five minutes too many of the Mardi Gras, adding nothing to the story and actually holding it up just when you want to grow absorbed in it. Our heroine first has to join up with the girl gang in prison and assist them in breaking out, and it's a sign of how impoverished the budget was that the jail consists of one cell and a wall to climb over. Once they reach the bayou, of course there's no need to find expensive locations and the swamps and forests provide a decent backdrop.
How the ostensible leader Josie (Marie Windsor, who always looked like Edmond O'Brien's sister) knows precisely how to reach the stash of diamonds is the story's biggest mystery as she carries no map or compass and one patch of the landscape looks very much like another, to these eyes at any rate. But she appears to know where she's going and when they meet up with Bob and Marie on a day trip, they shoot the guide dead and comandeer their boat. Nobody has any time for the blubbing Marie, but each of the four express an interest in strapping Bob, and it's no surprise who gets the man by the end. Swamp Women is of most interest for its example of fifties tough girl acting, with a red-haired Beverly Garland standing out as an adept exponent of the art. Other than that, it's fairly unspectacular. Music by Willis Holman.