The Big Bird Cage
Roger Corman’s Cult Classics
The Women in Cages Collection
In England, ‘bird,’ is a slang term for woman, kind of like a less generic ‘chick.’ The Big Bird Cage, then, is something of a double entendre. On the surface it is is a large sugar cane mill that vaguely resembles a bird cage, but it is also a figurative cage for ‘birds.’
The Big Bird Cage is the third and final movie contained in ‘The Women in Cages Collection’ from Shout Factory. Like the others, it stars Pam Grier (the BD was originally announced as ‘The Pam Grier Collection’). This time, she plays Blossom, the girlfriend of a revolutionary named Django. They decide to stage a prison break and release all the women from a work camp in order to further their revolution. I’m not sure how that was supposed to work, except that the prospect of hot women was a great motivator to Django’s followers.
Like the other two films in the set, this was filmed in the Philippines, though this one does away with the rotting old prison building and replaces it with a small, grass-hut and wicker-based compound. The setting is not nearly as confining or unsettling as the old one. The only real deterrent to escape is a pack of guard dogs. There’s actually a scene later on where Django cuts open the rattan wall of one of the cabins the girls are being held in. Why didn’t any of them think of that?
Despite her top billing, Grier is more of a secondary character. The protagonist is Terry, a famous American woman who has decided to sleep her way to the top of Philippine society (why?). She strongly believes that one of her illicit consorts will fly to her rescue as soon as they hear that she’s there, but she has sadly overestimated her value to them. That said, her naive belief in her imminent rescue helps to keep the others hopeful. Terry is played by Anita Joy, who at the time was working as a model for The Price is Right. She does fine enough in the role, but is largely overshadowed by stronger personalities.
The movie takes on a slightly more comedic tone than the previous ones. There’s still a high degree of violence, but it is not of the sado-sexual kind. The warden is a feeble old man, and the guard is gay, which is played up for comic relief, and results in the somewhat offensive tag-line on the film’s poster: ‘Men who are only half men and women who are more than all woman.’
While retaining all the exploitational elements that ‘women in prison’ fans want, including a large-scale mud wrestling match involving 8-10 women, the lighter tone of The Big Bird Cage keeps it from feeling quite as sleazy; and thus, much more enjoyable.
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.