Women in Cages
Roger Corman’s Cult Classics
The Women in Cages Collection
Women in Cages is a polemical documentary from the feminist literary critic, Anne McClintock. It’s about the constraints that women tend to put on themselves. She uses the word ‘cage,’ because it keeps women contained, but still visible; seen but not heard, so to speak.
It’s kind of an unofficial sequel to Big Doll House, as it has the same premise, a lot of the same cast, and I think the same setting too, a run-down prison in the Philippines. It is a nice setting. The dilapidated building adds to the sense of despair that permeates the movie. It’s surrounded by a dense, but beautiful rain forest, the contrast of which just makes the prison feel more isolated and lifeless.
Pam Grier returns, but is promoted from the role of prisoner in Doll House, to that of ‘matron’ in this one (in Doll House, the sadistic leader was called the ‘wardoness,’ which I don’t think is a word). Grier isn’t as menacing a villain as Kathryn Loder’s Lucian was. Grier is essentially just a bully. They tried to humanize her with a sad history, but that only served to weaken the character.
Loder probably has 50% of the body mass of Grier, and yet she came off as more imposing, because of the way she carried her authority. A sadistic psychopath is scarier than someone who is just hurting.
Also returning from the earlier film is the fiery redhead Judy Brown. She played the lead of new-girl Collier in Doll House, but now is the seasoned inmate Sandy. The same year she starred in this movie, she made her first appearance on Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, as Judy, the owner of The Brown Marionette Theater, which according to IMDB, she did for four years. Of all the actresses in the film, she seems to throw herself into it the most. She’s a little too melodramatic for me to call it a realistic performance, but I think ‘passionate’ is fair.
The star of Women in Cages is Jennifer Gan, playing ‘Jeff.’ (Gan died in 2000). She’s tricked by her no-good boyfriend into carrying drugs for him, and remains confident throughout the movie that he will one day save her. Unbeknownst to her, the boyfriend is secretly trying to bribe her cellmates into killing her. He also runs a brothel/casino boat called the Zulu Queen. For the star of the movie, she’s actually pretty forgettable. I kept getting her confused with the also-blond heroine addict.
The cellmates hatch a plan to escape, though each of them have secret plans of their own.
There’s a few shower scenes, bondage/torture scenes, and cat fights, though nothing gets too graphic (as if anything could be too graphic). If you liked Big Doll House, you’d like this one as well, as it’s more of the same.
The Blu Ray from Shout Factory has three movies across two discs. The video is excellent. It is very clear and sharp, despite its low budget and early ’70s production date.