DVD Review: Chain Gang Girls

chain-gang-girls-switchblade-picturesWomen in prison movies are pretty much all the same.  The protagonist is sent to prison (after being framed or otherwise wrongly accused).  She doesn’t get along with her cellmates at first, but they eventually band together to fight the sadistic warden.  And in the end, they escape; or at least some of them do (there’s always a few deaths).

The really (really) low budget Japanese exploitation film Chain Gang Girls sticks to the formula fairly closely.  The biggest deviation is that it’s a lot less exploitative than the norm; I mean, there isn’t a group shower scene!  Even the sadistic warden isn’t that bad.  His ultimate torture consists of locking a women in a windowless room with the lights turned off (this results in a five minute night vision scene of a prisoner wandering around in the dark).

But don’t let the lack of sleaze trick you into thinking that thisScreen Shot 2014-01-06 at 6.26.27 AM is a serious movie.  The plot and characters are shallow and cliched, the production values are low (to say the least), and the acting is best not talked about.  And to be sure, there are some sleazy scenes, just not many of them.  Maybe the producers couldn’t think of more ways to get the women to take their clothes off, or maybe they were just too shy to ask the actors?  I don’t know.

Chain Gang Girls is an exploitation movie that doesn’t exploit its premise.  It has all the ingredients of an acceptable women in prison movie, but doesn’t know what to do with them.

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 6.26.40 AMThe video quality is bad.  Switchblade presents the film in non-anamorphic widescreen, which right away limits the effective resolution of the video; but to make matters worse, the source material wasn’t very good to begin with (it was clearly shot on a consumer-grade video camera).  There are no extras, not even a menu.

Blu Ray Review: The Big Bird Cage

The Big Bird Cage

Roger Corman’s Cult Classics

The Women in Cages Collection

Shout Factory

 

 

 

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.’ Continue reading

Blu Ray Review: Women In Cages

Women in Cages

Roger Corman’s Cult Classics

The Women in Cages Collection

Shout Factory

 

 

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.

Just kidding, Women in Cages is about hot women in their underwear who engage in bondage/torture sessions and group showers.

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.

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